”˜Taj Mahal’ – A Timeless Love Story performed in Sydney

by Manju Mittal

Sydney-based Swastik Productions staged one of the most successful
shows, Taj Mahal: A Timeless Love Story, at the Riverside Theatre in

Dazzling costumes, sweeping dance performances, foot-tapping music and a tale of love as immortal as time itself brought Taj Mahal: A Timeless Love Story to life at Sydney’s Riverside Theatre in Parramatta on the eve of Diwali this year.

Featuring spellbinding sets and a cast of more than 120 performers, the show created the 14th-century Mughal empire on stage. Think of chaotic bazaars, regal courtrooms, majestic palaces and stately gardens, complete with fountains and water pools.
At the heart of the production, however, was the story of the Taj Mahal ”“ the
events that led to creation of the world’s most magnificent monument.

”˜Taj Mahal’ musical dance drama soaked itself in the splendour of lights, colour and sound depicting an era of the Mughals and the splendour and grace they signified. The play was organised by Sumati Swastik Dance Sydney.  It is a stage musical play that dramatises the true story of Shahjahan, the Mughal emperor famous for building the Taj Mahal in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. It was a unique production, translated and adapted for the sake of Aussie audience.

It was an evening worth witnessing this theatre piece based on the famous love story of India. The play tells the story behind one of the great tributes to romantic love and one of the seventh wonders of the world, the famous Taj Mahal.  A romantic love story of Emperor Shahjahan and his beloved wife Mumtaj Mahal, the sets and costumes were mind blowing and the performance spell binding.

Special mention of praise for the brilliant choreography by Amrita Shah with Sumati Lekhi Nagpal who developed the concept and her dedicated team of talented kathak dancers who brought to life numerous scenes, especially songs ”˜Pyar kiya to darna kya’ and ”˜Jo wada kiya’ sequences were just magnificent. Costumes were well designed and chosen to showcase the opulent era of Mughal days. Taj Mahal the musical play has a life of its own, an incredible, inspiring and locally produced theatre with the help of local performers.

Organiser Sumati Nagpal thanked everyone who helped and supported her in this venture and also her students who invested months of hard practice and rehearsals as well as the audio visuals in backdrop made the experience real. “Love is a very fierce emotion and through this play I wanted to show the full scope of what love can accomplish,” said Sumati Lekhi, the artistic director of Swastik Productions. “In today’s age of instant posts, instant likes and instant everything, I feel the true meaning of love is lost on most people. But through the story of Taj Mahal I wanted to show how deep, meaningful and intense love can be, and what it can achieve.” Sydneysiders who have visited Tajmahal may know the story but for the audience it was a love story that unfolded through dance, music and excellent performance by beautiful dancers who danced in unison. Everyone is familiar with the iconic façade of the Taj Mahal; some even know the story of Mumtaz Mahal ”“ the empress of Hindustan ”“ in whose memory her husband, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, built the Taj Mahal. “But there’s more to this tragic tale of love and loss than meets the eye,” said Sydney-based Kunal Mirchandani, the co-director, co-producer and scriptwriter of the play.
“This play brought to life a vibrant chapter of India’s history, showcasing three generations of Mughal emperors and queens. Their intertwined lives and dreams inspired the greatest expression of love that this world has ever seen, the Taj Mahal,” Mirchandani said after the show.
Set in 15th and 16th century India, the play traced three generations of love
stories of the Mughal dynasty ”“ the unconventional love between Hindu princess Jodha and Muslim Emperor Akbar; the tragic tale of rebellious prince Salim and court dancer Anarkali; and the eternal romance of Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz, which culminated in the creation of the Taj Mahal, a mausoleum built by the king in his wife’s memory.
The first half of the show clearly belonged to Shurobhi Banerjee and Gunjeet Singh Chattha, who portrayed the timeless love story of Jodha and Akbar on stage. Beautifully directed and choreographed, their swordfight scene was both romantic and humourous in equal measure.

The second half, on the other hand, brimmed with the tale of Salim and Anarkali, played by Dhruva Thorat and Manasi Kundap. Their young, rebellious love ”“ featuring standout dance performances by Kundap on tracks like Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya ”“ gave the show its quintessential melodramatic Bollywood moment.
In the end, though, it was the performances delivered by Kristy Gupta (Mumtaz) and Satish Kala (Shah Jahan) that truly moved the audiences to tears. Mumtaz’s passing away during childbirth and Shah Jahan subsequent grief was poignantly presented on the stage.
Injecting these scenes of love, humour and grief were about a dozen dance
performances, created by different choreographers at Swastik Productions. Mohe Rang Do Laal, Azeem-O-Shan Shehanshah and Khalbali were some of the most stellar performances of the night. The audience gave a standing ovation at the end of the performance of a timeless story based around the mausoleum Taj Mahal which is visited by tourists from abroad from all over the world. A truly spectacular show, all in all.

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