Formed by the late Begum Abida Ahmed in 1974, Humsub Drama Group is probably the first organisation in the post-Independence India to initiate a theatre movement to restore the glorious tradition of Urdu drama and theatre in the country.

Over the years, Humsub has staged 26 new as well as classics under the direction of eminent theatre directors like Habib Tanveer, B.M. Shah and Nadira Babbar, showcasing the beauty and vitality of the Urdu language and raising burning questions about prevailing social dichotomy. What is heartening is thatthese shows are watched with keen interest by the public.

Its latest offering, at Aiwan-e-Ghalib, was “Anarkali-Akbar-Salim” by Imtiaz Ali Taj written in 1930. The tragic tale of youthful love of Anarkali, a slave girl and Salim, the crown prince, has been adapted into literature and films, the ultimate being K. Asif's magnum opus “Mughal-e-Azam”, immortalising the heartrending love, capturing dazzling opulence and magnificence of the all-powerful Moghul empire and the stony heart of an emperor blind to the nobility of human love. Imtiaz has worked on various versions of the legend of Anarkali, transforming her character into a truly tragic one, a virtuous and innocent girl who had died for the sake of love.

It is believed that Imtiaz's Anarkali marked a new trend in Urdu playwriting which emphasised more on characterisation and exploration of dramatic conflict. In Anarkali his emphasis was not on capturing the grandeur of the Moghul empire but to show the intrigue and counter-intrigue of royal court and the manipulative power of royal harem.

In fact, it is Dilaaram, a powerful member of harem who sets further development of plot afoot. The play has been directed by Aziz Quraishi.

Quraishi has added three characters — a guide, a tourist and a khadim — which add certain intricacy to the otherwise straightforward script, offering brief comments on the perplexities of youthful love and its ephemeral character. We watched the story of Anarkali through the eyes of Khadim who narrates it to the guide and tourist.

Bare stage

The play was enacted on a bare stage with a raised platform used as acting space for Akbar and his queen. The costumes were aesthetically designed with a view to capture the ambience of the Moghul court. The aim was to focus on the conflict between three main characters, Anarkali, Akbar and Salim. The use of offstage vocal and instrumental music imparted the production some poignancy that stirred the heart of the audience who empathised with the ill-fated lovers. The special appeal of the production was in the subtle use of periods of ‘silences' and the stage compositions.

Ramesh Manchanda, an alumnus of National School of Drama and a senior actor of Delhi stage, as Akbar impressed the audience. His gait, his delivery and his facial expressions projected the image of an emperor with unquestionable power more concerned with preserving the blood of the royalty. Magdalena as Anarkali vividly brought alive the portrait of a love-lorn young girl. Jitin Gaur as Salim, Radha Yadav as the mother of Anarkali, Ashima Pandey as the sister of Anarkali, who was bold enough to face Salim and Akbar condemning for burying alive Anarkali and Charu Madan, as Dilaaram who plots the killing of Anarkali as her revenge, Flora Bose as the Maharani all acted admirably.