Qawwali songs always bring to mind the regal mughal time period in India. We don’t get to hear as many qawwalis these days, but Niraj Chag is set to bring us back to the mugal period. Mughal India will be brought to life in Dara at the National Theatre in UK. Picture yourself in Mughal India in 1659… you are in an imperial court, a place of opulence and excess. Music, drugs, eunuchs and harems are accessible to you in the empire. Are you picturing the scene? Now, get ready to witness a battle of wills between two brothers, the heirs to the Muslim empire, whose mother’s death inspired the Taj Mahal. Now they fight ferociously for succession. Dara, the crown prince, has the love of the people – and of his emperor father – but younger brother Aurangzeb holds a different vision for India’s future. Islam inspires poetry in Dara and puritanical rigour in Aurangzeb. Can Jahanara, their beloved sister, assuage Aurangzeb’s resolve to seize the Peacock Throne and purge the empire? Such is the story of Dara.
Spanning the princes’ lives from cradle to grave, Dara is an intense domestic drama which is brought to life even more with a stunning score by composer Niraj Chag (Much Ado About Nothing, RSC, 2012). The soundtrack to Dara takes root in classical Indian music and Qawwali, the devotional music of Sufism. Chag’s score brilliantly combines traditional Indian instruments – such as the santoor, Indian classical violin and Indian percussion – with touches of sharper, modern sounds and textures, invoking the opulence of the royal courts of the enigmatic Mughal Empire.
The lead track, Ali Mola, a Qawwali piece, accompanies the scene when Dara goes to see a Sufi mystic for a blessing before embarking on a war. During the scene the mystic tells Dara a story so profound the prince finds himself moved to tears. The experience of religious ecstasy through the repetition of Qawwali chants at the core of Sufi devotional music, along with the elements of Indian classical music, mirror both the Mughal setting of the play and Dara’s own experience.
Adapted by Tanya Ronder from Shahid Nadeem’s play, originally performed by Ajoka Theatre, Pakistan, Dara opens in the Lyttelton Theatre on 27th January 2015 with previews from 20th January and plays until 4th April. Dara is directed by Nadia Fall with design by Katrina Lindsay and stars Esh Alladi, Nathalie Armin, Rudi Dharmalingam, Emilio Doorgasingh, Vincent Ebrahim, Mariam Haque, Indira Joshi, Scott Karim, Nicholas Khan, Ranjit Krishnamma, Anjli Mohindra, Simon Nagra, Ronak Patani, Prasanna Puwanarajah, Anneika Rose, Chook Sibtain, Gurjeet Singh, Liya Tassisa, Zubin Varla, Anjana Vasan, Gary Wood and Sargon Yelda.