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Emperor in tension!

DIWAN SINGH BAJELI

"Khamosh! Akbar Tension Mein Hai", which was presented by Art Lovers this past week at the Shri Ram Centre auditorium, offers powerful comment on the commodification of love.



BOTH TRAGIC AND COMIC A scene from "Khamosh! Akbar Tension Mein Hai"

Moghul Prince Saleem lands in the Capital of India of the 21st Century to find out his sweetheart, Anarkali. Flabbergasted, the Prince discovers everything is topsy-turvy. A character in "Khamosh! Akbar Tension Mein Hai", which was presented by Art Lovers this past week at the Sri Ram Centre auditorium, the Prince's life is full of uncertainty and tribulations. In the modern Capital city he confronts his parents - Emperor Akbar and Jodhabai - who are searching for their own identity.

Comic situations

Written by Rajesh Hans, the play is directed by Vashisth Upadhyay. Through the confrontations of these characters from history with dramatic personae drawn from contemporary life, the director creates comic situations, evoking laughter - loud and long. These confrontations are also used as satirical comments on prevailing corruption, rank opportunism and criminalisation of politics.

There is a character called Vasco da Gama who leads our protagonists to various places, tries to make them understand the contemporary lifestyle and values, persuading them to come to terms with a decadent system where such noble human instincts like love have no place, where everything is judged by market forces. Here is the kind of world in which separation from one's beloved is not considered a misfortune. Saleem's search for his beloved in this world seems to be both tragic and farcical. Over the centuries, the intensity of his love has not whittled away a bit. Now he wants the fulfilment of his true love.

Guided by Vasco da Gama, an explorer, Saleem finally is able to see his sweetheart - Anarkali. Now she has become a film star in great demand in Bollywood. She has no time to meet and talk to Saleem.

As he wanders through the city, he comes across an underworld don, a politician who has no qualms to resort to the most unethical and inhuman means to rise in the political hierarchy and a street prostitute who forces him to marry her. Finally, he meets his parents, defeated and humiliated in their effort to discover their identity in a landscape that is morally sick.

Director Vashisth is able to treat these serious issues with a light touch. Some witty comments here and there enhance the comic flavour of the production. Since the three protagonists are in costumes that project them as royal personages of great power, their rivals take them for actors and make fun of them.

Some of the scenes like the one that depicts Emperor Akbar's visit to an office where he mistakes a lady officer for Jodhabai and tries to express his love for her, only to be landed in a police station, and the encounter between the corrupt politician and the don are simply hilarious.

We have already seen plays of this genre based on Ghalib and mythological characters to comment on the spiritually crippled contemporary society, but "Khamosh! Akbar Tension Mein Hai" offers a powerful comment on the commodification of love.

Director Vashisth and some other actors in the main roles were members of the Repertory Company of Sahitya Kala Parishad, which was closed last year in July for reasons best known to the concerned authorities of the Government of NCR Delhi.

This Repertory has produced some brilliant productions in the past and represented Delhi State at various national theatre festivals.

Apt casting

The play is aptly cast throughout. Sanjeev Kant as Akbar, Meena Meer as Jodhabai and Madam X, Ashish Sharma as Saleem, Manoj Rajput as a corrupt politician and Madan Dogra as a Don and Papa give impressive performances.

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