Source: Kolkata Mirror
The volatile political scenario in Indian subcontinent has often provoked a discourse on whether religion may become a primary mainstay of the nation-state. Such notion of desired integrity and coherence of a nation through the anxious binding thread of religion has spawned violence, despotism and death; and it’s not only the recent political turmoil that corroborates it but also history stands as a proof— Aurangzeb, the recent historical play by Rangapat traces its relevance in this religio-political discourse that shape our future, as it formed the past.
Indira Parthasarathi wrote the original play in Tamil, later it was adapted in Bengali by Satya Bhaduri. Mohit Chattopadhyay, inspired by both the plays, reinterpreted the annals of late Mughal period drawing parallel of contemporary political, religious events and depicted the historical Aurangzeb in curious sheds of gray rather than stark black and white.
The dialectics between the notion of a theocratic state and a secular state, in the backdrop of the waning years of the Mughal Empire, engage Aurangzeb and Dara Shikoh in rhetoric of religion, state and governance; while Dara, expectedly remains a harbinger of secularism and tolerance, questioning essentialist interpretations of Islam, as well as Hindu religion. The play traces the transformational journey of self-realisation, which alters Aurangzeb’s concern of building a nation founded on despotic theocratic regime.
The play is centred more on familial rather than war-torn annals of history. Liberal use of Farsi and Arabic phrases lends the play an interesting bygone Mughal milieu. Director, Harimadav Mukhopadhyay, stirred up the right mélange of melodrama and naturalism; although the play seems a little too long, perhaps because of its focus on dialectics rather than the dramatic narratives, expected from a historical play.
The cast comprised of some of the most eminent actors— Debshankar Halder in the role of Aurangazeb, Harimadhav Mukhpadhyay as frail, old Shah Jahan, Bijoylkhshmi Barman as Jahanara and Rita Dutta Choudhury as cunning Roshanara, turn in an admirable performance. Tapanjyoti Das, playing Dara Shikoh deserves special mention for his mellowed yet intense performance.
Aurangazeb is one of the most expensive productions of recent time, and the set design, costume and art direction testify that. Set designed by Sanchayan Ghosh, art direction by veteran artist Samir Aich and costumes designed by Sushanta Pal charmingly recreate the medieval Mughal grandeur. Joy Sen’s light arrangements, along with Dev Choudhury’s music aesthetically commensurate with the changing temper of the narrative; making full use of the elaborate set.
The play confronts us not only with a merciless, fanatical monarch that our history books tell us rather a tragic hero, who initially turns out to be a casualty of his own flawed faith but at the end concedes the obligation of defending a more tolerant, secular and pluralist society.