Posts Tagged Aditya Thakur

Noor – Empress of the Mughals ———- Play Review

Noor Jahan, 20th wife of powerful Mughal Emperor Jahangir, was a brilliant administrator, ambitious politician, knowledgeable economist, and enthusiastic patron of culture and arts.  Her complex and challenging character would be hard to portray easily, on screen or on live theater.  She wielded tremendous political and economical power, at a time in history, when women mostly stayed hidden behind lattice walls and purdah.  The play Noor, currently playing at locations in San Francisco and San Jose in Bay Area, is an attempt to tell this complex story, and is based on a book by Feisal Alkazi, also directed by Alkazi.  Alkazi’s 35 year old career as a director includes 200 plays, 32 films, and 2 TV series and he is Founder Director of the theater group Ruchika, and actively involved with several NGOs.   This play is his first attempt as a playwright.  The play is produced by Vinita Sud Belani.  Belani is the Founding Artistic Director of enActe Arts Inc., a new theater company with a mission to bring quality Asian theater and stories to mainstream audiences and to provide new and upcoming actors with a platform to develop and showcase their talent.  Belani has an impressive background.  She has held titles of Director and CEO and after rising to top corporate job as VP of Business Development at Sogeti Groupe Cap Gemini, she transitioned to doing theater full time.  Belani has acted in twenty seven plays and two movies to date.  Belani effortlessly blends the diversity of cultures, and the impressive cast of Noor includes a group of actors from Iran, Iraq, Peru, and India.

Nur Jahan

Nur Jahan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Story of Mehrunissa, later known as Noor Jahan (after her husband Jahangir decreed this title on her that means Light of the Universe), and the historical events impacting the Mughal reign, do not lend themselves to easy narration.  The play attempted to do too much and I felt it did not do due justice to the story of Noor or the Mughal reign.  The play begins with narration of Akbar nudging towards his death, and ends with a poignant scene of Shah Jahan’s beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal’s death, during her 14th pregnancy.  I would have much rather seen a stronger focus on Noor with stage featuring a Jarokha where Jahangir received audiences and later Noor Jahan accompanied him.  This was remarkable, for a royal woman to sit beside her husband and receive audiences, issue orders, oversee administration of jagirs, accompany her husband on hunting trips, and have silver coins printed with her face on them.  Noor also consolidated her powers and got the emperor to cast special favors on her family, including arranging marriage between her niece Arjumand (later known as Mumtaz Mahal) and Jahangir’s oldest son Khurram, later known as Shah Jahan.  When Shah Jahan seemed to be slipping from her grip, Noor later arranged for her daughter Ladli, from her previous marriage, to marry Shah Jahan’s younger son, Shahryar.  In attempting to tell a broader history and encompass a wider cast of complex characters, in this play, not enough justice was done to the character of Noor.

Additionally, the Mughal rein during this time in history was at its zenith of territorial expanse and glory, ruling over more than 150 million subjects, nearly 1/4th of the world’s population, with a combined GDP of over $90 billion.  It was a golden age of architecture, arts, and trade.  I would have liked to see the stage reflect some of the glory (featuring a throne and court, or jarokha, or royal gardens where romances occurred, or the vibrant market where Jahangir first saw Mehrunissa), rather than dying Akbar’s or abused (by her first husband) Mehrunissa’s, or tragically dying Mumtaz Mahal’s bed.  Nevertheless, enActe Arts has a grand vision and it has taken a bold step to bring this play with tremendous complexity of characters and events, on stage.  This is truly praiseworthy and I will eagerly look forward to new and coming productions, from this company.

The complex blend of cast was interesting.  Sanjiv Desai did a fabulous job in the role of eunuch, from whose lens the story is told.  Cezar Espinoza, even in his short role as young eunuch, played his role beautifully.  Deergha Sahni, in the role of Arjumand and later Mumtaz Mahal, was awesome and could have carried the play, under a different title.  Vidhya Subramanian, in her role as Mehrunissa, showed superb command over her role, and Aditya Thakur, in the role of Asaf Khan, was excellent.  Belani and Subramanian share the role of Noor, playing her on alternate shows.  I will very much look forward to seeing Belani on stage, in future performances.

Noor is playing at theaters in San Francisco and San Jose in May and June, 2013.  Get your tickets early because it is expected to play to sold out audiences.  After all who does not like to hear a story of beauty, romance, power, ambition, greed, and intrigue?

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Night of January 16th – (Adaptation of Ayn Rand’s original play) by Bay Area Naatak Company – Play Review



Night of January 16th, presented by Naatak company, of Bay area, is an adaptation of Ayn Rand’s original play, by the same name.   Director Ravi Bhatnagar and Producer Alka Sippy has done a brilliant job in staging this challenging murder mistery, with complex plot and challenging twists.  And like the original play, Naatak has adapted the twist of seating jurors from the audience on the stage, who at the end, decide the final verdict.


Ravishing Sunaina Karanwal (as Radhika Roy), is accused of murder of her boss and lover, the financier and swindler, Jai Walia.   Karanwal gives a brilliant performance as irreverent and straight shooting Roy who maintains her innocence, despite mounting evidence, to the contrary.  When asked, how did Walia die on the night of January, 16th, “that”, she says, “is a mystery”, and when asked what Walia did was right or wrong, she says, “with Walia, it is not about right or wrong” but it is about whether “he could or could not”.  In few dialogues of this type, we see glimpses of Rand’s philosophy that embodies heroic individualism.


Anubha Prakash, in the role of Pooja Walia (Walia’s wife) who persuaded Walia to marry her with a promise to help him out of his financial mess and Mukund Marathe in the role of her father, Hari Singhania give excellent performance, at first, as victims of Walia’s mistress turned murderess and as the plot thicken, as victimized by Walia’s adultery and reckless disregard for other people’s money.  The performance of the judges, Sonia Saini and Aditya Thakur, while driving the trial forward and in grilling a long lineup of witnesses, is fabulous.  The performance of many witnesses, Sriram Iyer, Gaurav Baone, Dhanjay Motwani, Surender Singh, Rantija Chakravary, Pratiksha Rao, Sathish Sattanathan, and Ashesh Divetia was both exemplary and at times, funny and kept the play moving along at a good speed.


My disappointment was with the story line.  While it tangentially brought out the individuality of the protagonists and their conflict with the socialist, the philosophy of “that which is good for all”, was not explored in any depth.  But this was Rand’s first play and her philosophy might not have much developed, at that point.  Her philosophy of “Your life, your achievements, your happiness, your person are of paramount importance;  Live up to your highest vision of yourself no matter what the circumstances you might encounter;” is  clearly evident in the characters of Roy as well as her lover, D’Silva, and particularly in the character Jai Walia, despite his absence on the stage.  So how would you render a verdict?  Would societal notions of right and wrong have an influence, when you consider the evidence?


Don’t miss the opportunity to see Naatak company’s beautiful adaptation of Ayn Rand’s, “The Night of January 16th”.  Buy your tickets at .  And who knows, with some luck, you too might be the star of the show, as a member of the jury!

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