The Haaye Akhtari celebrating 100 years of Begum Akhtars at Madinat Theatre. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

With exemplary singing, sound and light effects and able acting, Dubai-based theatre group and choir Malhaar’s Haaye Akhtari was a pleasure to watch on Friday at Madinat Jumeirah.

The high point of the production was not the story of Begum Akhtar, the legendary Indian singer, but the narration and depiction of it. With Somdutta Basu, the music composer, and Jogiraj Sikidar, the director of the musical, leading the singers, events from Akhtar’s life were presented through her original compositions. Her famous ghazals, or songs, such as Aalam Hai Tanhai Ka, Deewana Banana Hai, Mere Humnafas Mere Humnavan and Ulti Ho Gayi Sab Tadbeeren — to name a few — were rendered beautifully.

Needless to say, in a musical, it is the music that is most important and Malhaar Choir delivered. The talented orchestra comprising traditional Indian instruments tabla [percussion], flute, harmonium and keyboard — all by Dubai-based-musicians — were ably supported by the singers with only one addition from India: the well-known sarangi [a traditional stringed instrument] player Ghulam Ali. No doubt, the sarangi took the musical to a different level, giving it the authentic feeling of a darbar [court] singing and dancing. Kathak dancer and show choreographer Vaishali Maisarkar and dancers brought to life the emotions of the three songs they performed to.

When it came to acting, Arif Bhaldar, the narrator and male lead, was the star. He switched seamlessly between multiple characters, often from one dialogue to the next without a scene change. Disha Joseph and TV actress Svetlana Mishra played Akhtar and her mother effectively. Special mention must be made for the singing of Suchismita Majumdar, the 11-year-old who played Bibbi. And what I would have really liked to hear more of was the ethereal voice of Chhabi Sahai who gave voice to the thoughts of Bibbi and Akhtari. In certain scenes it would have worked better to hear Akhtar’s anguish in the voice over than being narrated by Bhaldar.

Don’t miss it!

Malhaar Choir’s celebration of the Mallika-E-Ghazal [Queen of Ghazal], the title bestowed on Akhtar, was worth a watch. If you missed it on Friday, Haaye Akhtari will be staged again on Saturday, September 19, at 8pm at Madinat Jumeirah. Tickets are priced Dh75 (bronze), Dh100 (silver), Dh200 (gold) and Dh350 (platinum). Call 04-3666546 or 055-1013652.