Tughlaq Returns to Delhi After 40 Years

Kunal Dutt/New Delhi
Tughlaq Returns to Delhi After 40 Years
The historic ruins of Firoz Shah Kotla, prepares itself to embrace theatrical opulence, as it plays host to the monumental saga of Tughlaq, which returns to the national capital after 40 years.

After the iconic production by theatre veteran Ebrahim Alkazi in 1973, at the historic ruins of Purana Quila, playwright Girish Karnad's magnum opus of a Delhi Sultanate emperor is set to be retold, more so at a place that was built by his cousin and successor, over 600 years ago.

Director, Bhanu Bharati says that after the success of his Andha Yug it was only a natural progression to reclaim Tughlaq from obscurity and reflect the parallel contemporary reality through the life and times of the character from medieval history.

"The legend of Tughlaq is intriguing and is still very much relevant. It is a story of a man of great potential wasting away in the wilderness of self-pity. It is a reflection of human predicament. And, the fact that 'Tughlaqi farman' and 'Tughlaqi sanad' are still in parlance, only lends currency to its relevancy," said Bhanu Bharati in an interview.

Tughlaq is a semi-biographical account of the 14th century Delhi Sultanate emperor Mohammed-bin Tughlaq, a brilliant man and an intelligent ruler who was a progressive thinker and who strove for a secular society where he wanted religion to be separate from politics but who "died disillusioned, consumed by his own pity."

"He was a brilliant man with knowledge of art, science, medicine and architecture and was far ahead of his time. So, he challenged the status quo but died disillusioned, consumed by his own pity,” Bharati tells of the man and the character.

"When they say history repeats itself, it is not history which is repeating but the mistakes of eras gone by. We never learn from our history and that is why despite so much of scientific and technological progress, what are we doing today. And, this character is one of the follies of human history,” he says.

Conventional forces and contemporary times collide in this monumental biopic of sorts says the noted director.

The play surpasses its predecessor in terms of chronology and grandiosity of scale, spanning over two decades and oscillates between Delhi and Daulatabad, the two capitals instituted by Mohammed-bin Tughlaq, much like the mind of the mercurial emperor himself.

"Andha Yug was about one day, the last day of the Mahabharata. But, the span and the scale of Tughlaq are too huge. And, the play like its principal character has so many aspects and shades, it needs that monumental grandeur which the ruins of Kotla offer so aptly," says Bharati.

The revival of the historic play, is a "dream role for any actor."

"This character has so many shades and his physical and philosophical vacillation between the two capitals, coupled with his complex character makes its one of the most demanding and challenging roles. In fact, I admit that it is a dream role for any actor, theatre film or otherwise," said actor Yashpal Sharma, who takes pride in playing the eponymous ruler.

"At first when they called me, I said no. But, when I later read the play with the consciousness of having to play 'him', I was hooked. I couldn't stop. And, for me playing this is a lifetime experience, more than my film or TV career and I’m very proud of it, so giving my best so far," says Sharma.

The actor said that though people have known him largely through his films like Gangajal, Aarakshan, among others, he has kept his love and dedication for theatre alive, and doing Tughlaq is only a crowning achievement.

Well-known actress Himani Shivpuri of Ham Aapke Hain Kaun and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge fame, who essays the role of step-mother, "Sauteli Ma", is ecstatic to return to theatre after decades of life in films and television.

"I immediately said yes. I have been dying to return to theatre. And this is brave attempt to revive a grand play, which is etched in history," Shivpuri, a 1982 National School of Drama graduate, told PTI.

The director has employed Turkish music of unknown source Tughlaq, now a legend in the sphere of theatres was originally written in Kannada by noted thespian Girish Karnad in 1964.

After its Hindustani translation by B V Karanth, the play assumed its iconic status only after Alkazi's production of 1973.

The eponymous Kotla was built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, Mohammed-bin Tughlaq’s cousin and successor. The historic play Andha Yug was also revived by Bhanu Bharati, recently at the Kotla.

Organised by Delhi government's Department of Art, Culture and Languages, and Sahitya Kala Parishad, the two-and -half hours play, comprising 50 odd cast and close to 100 crew, inclusive of the cast, will be performed at the heritage site from October 28 to November 2.
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