Dance

Creating visual poetry of Mughal-e-Azam

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The stage adaptation of Mughal-e-Azam is a crowning glory for Bengaluru, as the choreography team led by city-based artiste Mayuri Upadhya won the BroadwayWorld India Awards 2017 for Best Original Choreography

Mayuri Upadhya has earned accolades for her artistic work, from starting her troupe Nritarutya to bringing alive on stage Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s poem, Madhushala. Last year, however, was even more special for her. She choreographed Feroz Khan’s stage rendition of Mughal-e-Azam. Mayuri is ecstatic with the appreciation Mughal-e-Azam has received. “Usually what tends to happen, in my experience, is that you get a project, create it, and you move on. But Mughal-e-Azam is very beautifully starting to become an important part of my life. It’s not just a project, episode, or milestone, it’s beyond that. It’s so magically converted itself to a new movement of sorts. Every time Mughal-e-Azam goes on stage we are left with people asking for more. That moment and that joy and love that we see in the eyes of the audience make the team work harder. I would say Mughal-e-Azam for stage has created history of sorts. And in various ways it’s opened up gates for many, primarily for theatre and the capacity and value that dance can give to a theatrical production. That has been the most interesting take-away for me.”

 

The creative process involved a deeper involvement with Mughal-e-Azam, a 1960 Indian epic historical drama film directed by K Asif and produced by Shapoorji Pallonji that starred Madhubala, Dilip Kumar, and Prithviraj Kapoor, among others. “I was familiar with the classic. But I watched it as an audience would — not critically. It excited me, but at the same time I wondered how much value I would be able to add to it being a non-practitioner of Kathak. I had, of course, a basic knowledge of Kathak, but my focus with my company is to understand what could be modern interpretations of Indian movement forms. When they wanted to me to come back to something that is authentic, I asked them why, and told them they should be going to a Birju Maharaj, who is a practitioner of Kathak. They said we respect your honesty but we want a Mayuri Upadhya. I said if that is the case I am going to work with Kathak dancers. They agreed. Their openness and their faith motivated me to take this project up.”

Mayuri says the auditions eventually expanded outside the zone of Mumbai. “Within time, we realised we were doing digital auditions, city-wise visits, so it went nationwide. Based on that we hand-picked the dancers.”

Reminiscing over the journey of choreographing the piece, Mayuri says: “I still remember the first day when I entered the rehearsal space I saw these young girls, waiting to be moulded. They completely surrendered themselves. And that purity for me led to what Mughal-e-Azam is today. Even Feroz Khan has been a tremendous inspiration. His brief was to stick to the authentic and to go with my instinct. Our intent was to do our best with no worry about the fruit. But the response when we did the premier was so magical that we felt we have a higher responsibility to the audience.”

Mughal-e-Azam, which has been performed nationally and internationally, is a crowing glory for Bengaluru. “The choreography was completely managed by Nritarutya. My associate choreographer was Madhuri Upadhyay and the rehearsal director was Latha BS. The entire dance team management was by Masoom Parmar, who is from the city.”

The production received an overwhelming response, winning a slew of awards, including the BroadwayWorld India Awards 2017 for Best Original Choreography.

“Performances are voted by 55 countries across the globe. These are regional awards given to 11 countries. From India, Mughal-e-Azam won. We didn’t even know we were nominated! We got the awards for best sets, best direction, best play, best costume, and best cast.”

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 1:18:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/creating-visual-poetry-of-a-classic/article22450214.ece

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