Directed by Feroze Abbas Khan, the ‘Mughal E Azam’ show brings one of the most loved Bollywood movies to stages across the world.
Now in its North America tour, the Broadway-esque musical is showcasing the film’s grandeur and music to a wide audience.
A star cast helms the project, with Nissar Khan playing Akbar, Priyanka Barve acting as Anarkali, and Dhanveer Singh acting as Salim (these were the actors playing the roles for the show our host attended on July 1st, 2023 in New Jersey).
Barve played the role of Anarkali flawlessly, and brought to life the emotions felt by the character when she’s sentenced to death. Barve speaks to being cast in the role, especially after it was played by iconic actress Madhubala.
“The first feeling that I got was gratitude, because to be a part of such a humongous play, and getting to play the character that has been played by the iconic Madhubala, and the songs are sung by Lata ji, I think I feel blessed. It was a big responsibility, and it was a big challenge that we all took.”
Barve and the other female artists all sang live throughout the show, as did Singh during his duet with Barve. We asked her what her routine was to prepare for each performance, as it is incredibly difficult and tiresome to sing and dance live simultaneously.
“It’s definitely not easy, I’ve done 200 shows, but still whenever we’re going on stage, I still get those goosebumps, but the stage is such a place that it gives you the strength, and the feeling is magical to be on stage. I have my routine, I do my riyaz, I’ll go through all the dialogues and stuff.”
Barve had actually never seen ‘Mughal E Azam’ before, and was told by the director when casted as Anarkali not to watch the film, so she could interpret the character on her own.
“I came very fresh, with a clean slate, and Feroze sir helped me find my own version of Anarkali.”
In addition to the cast, the crew put on a spectacle for the audiences – from the set design to the background score orchestra, the entire show was produced with endless detail. During the ‘Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya’ song sequence, to emulate the mirror shown in the film, the crew created a light show on stage that looked like the glass shards in the ‘mahal’ room Anarkali performs in before she’s sentenced to death.
In addition to the crew, the supporting case of background dancers brought each musical score and dramatic scene to life. The background Kathak dancers were flawless as they supported the main cast in building and creating the story. We were able to speak with one of the Kathak dancers, Ashmita Aich, who explained her role in the show.
“Each of the songs is being portrayed through the dance as well, while the live singing is going on, so we as dancers show the story through our dance.”
The dancers travel as a troupe for the tour, along with the rest of the cast and crew, and are classically trained for years in Kathak, which can be seen in their talent and performance on stage.
The Mughal E Azam show is a masterpiece from start to finish, and is incredibly well executed and directed as a live musical. The crew have also taken inclusivity into thought, and provided subtitles throughout the play, as some of the phrases in Urdu are difficult to understand. The Mughal E Azam musical is continuing its tour across North America, and you can look up show timings at a location near you!