‘The purpose of comedy is to reform and critique’

Humour galore: The play highlights the helplessness of a taxpayer and his endless suffering  

Amongst a frenzy of government officials, greedy bureaucrats and sycophant darbaaris, the ambitious Mughal emperor Aurangzeb wishes to resume his father’s incomplete dream project. The Taj Mahal is yet to be built but the India administration is not easy to navigate when it comes to property, construction, court matters or anything else. He must first be elected as a leader since India is a democracy and not a monarchy. A formal complaint has been filed against his father’s supposed foreigner status. His siblings have a cunning plan of their own and the ministers at his court only want their pound of flesh. How will Aurangzeb fulfill his father’s dream? The play, Taj Mahal ka Utghaatan (TMKU) is at once, the story of our government, a waging family feud and a critical comment on current affairs.

Directed by Salim Arif, TMKU uses historical characters like Aurangzeb and courtiers as metaphors to highlight sycophancy and greed rampant in our urban system. The play highlights the helplessness of the taxpayer and his endless suffering. He says states, “The purpose of comedy is to reform and to critique and by making people laugh, we are also drawing attention to a few problems that our nation can very well do without.” He compares the play’s humour to that of R.K. Laxman’s cartoons.

TMKU is a sequel to the successful Taj Mahal ka Tender that was staged over 16 years. Although the plot is a continuing one, “the set is different; the take is different and it is a different approach compared to Taj Mahal ka Tender” says Salim Arif. Writer Ajay Shukla approached Arif with TMKU’s script in 2014 when it first hit the stage. In its second run, the play is being staged with actors Vrijesh Hirjee Amit Behl, Bakul Thakkar, Lubna Salim and Tapan Bhatt. The prequel featured veterans like Rakesh Bedi but since a social satire such as this one requires constant updating, Arif finds that working with a new cast on a sustained plot “brings in fresh ideas and energy”. Arif talks about Hirjee in particular saying, that he is an “exceptionally gifted performer who takes it [the play] to another level”.

Taj Mahal ka Utghaatan is being staged at The Royal Opera House Theatre, Mumbai at 7.30pm this evening; tickets between 826 and ₹2360; more details at

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 9:30:27 AM |

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