Mohammad Ali Baig and Noor talk about ‘Quli: Dilon Ka Shahzada’, their forthcoming theatre project

When Noor aka Prarthana Rao is not working for the Australian Consulate in Chennai, she can be found contemplating and ruminating over love stories. The 24-year-old writer has written Quli, dilon ka shahzada along with theatre personality, Mohammad Ali Baig and will also be enacting the part in a show that will be staged at Golkonda Fort as a part of Heritage week.

Prarthana Rao has been writing for many years and has been a part of the theatre scene in Chennai, acting and writing. She studied visual communication in Loyola College and then went on to do her masters in International Relations at Stella Maris; throughout, theatre and writing have been a constant. Last year, one of her short stories was published by Random House in a compilation of 12 stories by women authors. Prarthana is also working on a book.

Working for the Australian Consulate has been one the best things to have happened to Prarthana, “I got to meet so many new and interesting people. In fact it was through the Oz Fest that I got to meet Mohammad Ali Baig,” she says. That chance meeting led to a generous exchange of ideas and they eventually wrote the story of Quli Qutub Shah and Bhagmati. “There is so much more to the love story, in fact it is a love story that gave birth to Hyderabad. It is a story of two artistes who drew inspiration from each other,” she says with palpable excitement. Her interest in history and historical empires and dynasties pulled her closer to this project.

Quli: Dilon ka Shahzada explores the ephemeral love story between the poet-prince Quli Qutub Shah and his beloved Bhagmati, a dancer. The structure used in the play is of a dialogue between Quli and Bhagmati with added elements of choreographed shadow dance, period sets, costumes, live qawwali with original nazms (verses) written by Quli Qutub Shah. Prarthana claims that though the show takes you to a historical time, the essence is rather contemporary. Mohammad Ali Baig seconds this thought and says, “The idea is to work on the premise of relationships. Costumes, sets and time-period apart, the story is about two individuals with different ideologies and how they come together. This makes it timeless.” The duo wrote the play within three weeks; Mohammad Ali Baig is thankful to his family legacy which bestows an access to literature on him. “A lot of material was easily available to me. I didn’t have to look elsewhere,” he says. Mohammad says that he usually doesn’t have the courage to touch anything his baba (father) ever did. “A lot of people urged me to adapt Quli and I adapted it to a contemporary narrative,” he says. Prarthana and Mohammad are enacting the two characters as well. “I feel strongly for the character. Bhagmati is a self sufficient woman whose life turns topsy-turvy as she falls in love,” says Prarthana who is excited about her first step into the theatrical big leagues.