Ahmed Shah (left) and Abu Bakr on stage as Mughals at the reading festival in Sharjah on Sunday Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: Pakistani boy Ahmed Shah and his brother Abu Bakr, who have garnered millions of followers and views online for their viral videos, made their stage debut at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival yesterday in the comedy production Akbar the Great Nahi Rahe (Akbar is no more ‘The Great’).

The rendition of the play by the Bazm-e-Urdu group saw Ahmed as the Mughal emperor Akbar and Abu Bakr as the emperor’s brother Mirza Mohammed Hakim – and director Dr M Sayeed Alam of the Pierrot’s Troupe from India raising the bar with their comic timing.

The play, that revolves around an afterlife crisis faced by Akbar in his utopian abode called Burj Al Swarg (Tower of Heaven) and the dilemma by those around him whether to continue addressing him as The Great, has entertained thousands over the years with hundreds of stagings since its debut in India in 2019.

The narrative – specially curated in Hindi, Urdu and traces of English for the audience at SCRF – takes a satirical approach to many ideologies that reflect contemporary India in the 21st century, over 400 years after Akbar’s reign.

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Plot thickens

The play opens with Akbar meeting emperors Ashoka and Alexander with the suffix of ‘The Great’ firmly established for all three. But as they assess, along with Alauddin Khalji who ruled the Delhi sultanate in the 13th, whether Akbar indeed is worthy of his title, the plot thickens. A character playing India’s former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee also adds to the unfolding drama with his characteristic take on the whole situation. Akbar then spends most of the time trying to fight eviction from Burj Al Swarg by holding on to his ‘greatness’ with references from Bollywood and Mughal history.

The 90-minute show also saw Ahmed and Abu Bakr – dressed in regal attire – take the stage twice, introducing Akbar to the audience with pop quizzes on the emperor.

The show is part of a programme for children and families throughout the 12-day SCRF being organised by the Sharjah Book Authority under the theme ‘Train Your Mind’ at the Sharjah Expo Centre until May 14.