When was the last time you walked out of a musical rooting for ever-lasting love and fervently hoping that a pair of defiant star-crossed lovers will get their utopian ending?
Take a bow, director Feroz Khan and the stellar cast of Mughal-E-Azam who sang their way to our jaded hearts with a spectacular musical that saw actors sing live on stage with rip-roaring robustness.
The screen-to-stage adaptation of K.Asif’s 1960 cult classic film starring Dilip Kumar and the late luminous beauty Madhubala, which made its international debut in Dubai at Ductac on Thursday, was a visual spectacle that was seamless in the way it played out.
The majority of audiences knew the iconic dialogues and the lyrics of this doomed love story between a valiant prince and his unconditional love for his courtesan. But the credit has to go to Khan and his team for injecting a newness into a familiar storyline set against the Mughal era. Two rebellious lovers — one a prince and another a woman beneath his station — who take on Emperor Akbar who resisted their union, was like poetry in motion. The period details and the near-perfect way in which the sets changed to transport us into the Mughal Era was a crash course in how you can blend soul into lavish sets.
The first act depicted the first flush of love between the supremely gorgeous prince and his courtesan. Here it was actress Priyanka Bharve, who played Anarkali, who stole the show as she sang Mohe Pangat Me. It wasn’t just Prince Salim who was smitten here, judging by the thunderous claps that followed her rendition of that song.
Unlike our current reality of breaking up on social media, this play celebrated the sanctity of pure love. And the audiences — no matter how cynical we are — felt ourselves buy into their love story.
Choreographer Mayuri Upadhaya has done a splendid job of making this musical come alive with their dance steps.
It’s no mean feat to condense the epic movie Mughal-E-Azam into a play that’s soul-stirring but Khan has culled out the important scenes and weaved together a rich, colourful tapestry of ideas that touched upon class-wars and love in the face of rebellion.
While the first act is life-affirming, the second act moves into a bleak space. A sense of urgency and the impending gloom and doom is wonderfully brought out. The battle scenes between the prince and his father, Emperor Akbar, who swears to kill his own son for loving irresponsibly, are a sight to behold. It’s the victory of the scenic lighting and projection design here as it lures the spectators to re-imagine the Mughal era.
While the actors and the dancers are in top form and perform with a studied ease (they have performed 140 shows in India), they never come across as monotonous. It’s not often that you get to watch musicals where the cast sings live and are matched equally by every other department. Designer Manish Malhotra’s costumes are spot-on with its classy cuts and prints. It’s never gaudy even though it’s a tale of rich kings and queens.
It wasn’t Prince Salim and Anarkali who were love-struck that night. The audiences who watched Mughal-E-Azam: The Musical on Thursday were also under their magical spell.
Mughal-E-Azam: The Musical runs at Ductac until May 7. Tickets, starting at Dh250, are available at ductac.com.