What we witnessed was a riveting performance by Mahendra Mewati as Aurangzeb who is written down in history as an intolerant tyrant. But was he really that? Yes, he committed acts of oppression but we also learn that Aurangzeb had his heart in the right place. He loved his father Shah Jahan (played by Sanjay Gautam) who neglected him all his life. He sees Shah Jahan and his brother Dara Shukoh (played by actor and Sansani host, Shrivardhan Trivedi) as transgressors of Islam for their excesses. For him, ruling is all about providing subjects with their daily living instead of wasting money on building grand monuments. Ultimately, Aurangzeb questions himself in his declining years: is he really a murderer of hundreds? Is he not a pious person? Has he forgotten the beauty of life's little pleasures?
Mewati and Trivedi are passionate actors and you can see it in their eyes as they seem to speak from the soul of the characters. Anwar's dialogues are full of vigour and bespeak the full-bloodedness of Mughals. Laxmi Rawat is believable as the manipulative Roshan Ara who is consumed by jealousy of her beautiful sister Jahan Ara (played by Manleen Kaur). The actors spoke impeccable Urdu and the lighting matched the mood perfectly.
There is more to Aurangzeb than a historical drama. Often, the dialogues echo the reality of our country today, such as "Mazhab aur siasat ko alag nahin kiya jaa sakta." So, on the one hand we have rulers like Shah Jahan who don't give a damn about people and dream of building monuments by imposing more taxes saying, "Aani wali pushtein un logon ki qurbani yaad karengi". On the other, we have Aurangzeb who considers all non-Muslims as transgressors and refuses to see beyond that. Dara is the 'secular' voice in the play who accepts all religions but is no politician and therefore, loses his right to the throne.
Overall, a commendable production by Rajendran which deserves a standing ovation, and it got one too. There's a repeat performance of the play today at Shri Ram Centre Delhi at 7 pm.
P.S.: I wonder why the brochure shied away from calling the play an Urdu translation when it was clearly one and chose the term "Hindustani" instead?
Visit Natwa Theatre website for details.