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The story of Nizam's firmans

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RELIVING ROYALTY Vani Ganapathy and Md Ali Baig in His Exalted Highness in Khilwat
RELIVING ROYALTY Vani Ganapathy and Md Ali Baig in His Exalted Highness in Khilwat

The royal decrees of the Seventh Nizam formed the crux of the drama, writes Serish Nanisetti

One of Aristotle's dictum for drama is: plot. The struggle that forms the fulcrum around which a play evolves and the drama is resolved. His Exalted Highness written and performed by Mohammad Ali Baig in the company of Vani Ganapathy and Javed Kamal is not a play in the classical meaning of the word. Staged on Thursday evening with the magnificent Khilwat of Chowmahalla Palace as the backdrop, the story unfolded where the reality had played out years ago. The play tried to focus on one aspect of the Nizam VII - Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan. That of his firmans (Persian-decree) issued during his lifetime showing his secular and progressive nature. Right from the time he ascended the masnad at the age of 25 in 1911 to the demise of his rule on September 17, 1948, his firmans showed the mind of the ruler as nothing else could.The play began with Kathak performed by a few artistes who swirled like dervishes as the song of Hyderabad played out in the background. Then Md Ali Baig stepped on the stage personifying the city of Hyderabad. Wearing a flowing, glittering sherwani his thoughts flashed back to the time of Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah who created the city and how the it has evolved. As he narrated the great qualities of the city, "oh you are so full of yourself Hyderabad," said Vani Ganapathi breaking the reverie of the narrator and stepped on the stage wearing a single-piece black dress with a strings of pearls used as a waistband. Vani was Duniya aka Maya who knows everything that has transpired through the history of time. She comes in to puncture the delusions of grandeur but is swayed by the reality of the Nizam's firmans that dealt with a range of social issues. The man featured as the richest man in the world whose pearl collection could fill a swimming pool did his bit for the society when he doled out largesse for a host of issues. Right from a grant to bail out Benaras Hindu University to rescuing a conference for the depressed classes to salvaging the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Osman Ali Khan contributed his mite. Shankar Melkote did a cameo when he appeared as a petitioner for grant to salvage a temple built by Ahilyabai Holkar.Running around concentric circles, the play appeared like a hagiography ignoring the opportunities presented by a man whose story reads like an Arabian Night's tale. A man who wore his miserliness on his sleeve, who disinherited his sons, whose fabled wealth brought troves of treasure hunters in various garbs, who fought like a cornered noble when his kingdom vanished in a trice and someone who had between 42 and 200 wives, the play was a lost opportunity. Though the 1916 firman creating the Osmania University and its vernacular medium: Urdu is the most well known one, the first one he issued was to restrain eunuchs from adding to their ranks and banning the institution of devadasis. If this isn't progressive what is!

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