Sydney witnesses ‘Anarkali – The Musical’: A Tale of Love, Lust & Bravery

By Rekha Rajvanshi

After staging so many successful dance shows and musicals, Ruchi Sanghi Dance Company produced ‘Anarkali – The Musical’ which was staged in NIDA on the February 26, 2022. The musical brought to life the epic story of Anarkali through poignant music, breathtaking dances, over 400 dazzling costumes and a cast of over 60 performers. 

Based on the original story written by Imtiaz Ali Taj in 1922, set in the 16th century AD, ‘Anarkali – The Musical’ brings to life a timeless tale about the Mughal emperor Akbar, who becomes a villain in the love story of his son Salim and the beautiful courtesan Anarkali, the story continues to draw audience across generations. Like Mughal-e-Azam, ‘Anarkali’ also has historical characters woven into a fictional narrative.

A troupe of 80 dancers in 400 dazzling costumes danced across lush sets designed to evoke the Mughal era.  There are seven scenes in Act one and act two comprises of six scenes. The curtain rises to a beautifully choreographed dance on ‘Ye Ishq Ishq hai.’ In scene two, Jodha and Akbar go to Khwaja’s shrine in Ajmer to pray for a child, their prayers are heard and Salim is born. Akbar sends Salim to his uncle, Army General Mansingh, to get trained as a warrior for 14 years. Salim is welcomed on his return.

Bahaar is groomed by her mother Rukhsana to be the best dancer and future empress, whereas Anarkali, a servant girl learns dancing by watching them. She grows to become a beautiful dancer. Prince Salim comes to watch Bahaar’s dance, when Anarkali dancing in the other room, catches Prince’s attention. Salim, enamoured by her beauty and grace, falls in love with Anarkali. A dance competition between Bahaar and Anarkali is organized by Rukhsana and Salim rewards Anarkali.

Salim and Anarkali meet secretly in the garden when jealous Bahaar exposes their affair to King Akbar. Jodhabai and Akbar try to make him understand but he rebels. The emperor gives Salim a last warning to leave Anarkali, but Salim is determined to marry her. Finally, Salim is imprisoned and the king sentences Anarkali to death. Anarkali requests the king to release Salim and allow her to be his wife for one night and then agrees to be buried alive in the garden they used to meet in. The musical ends with the last dance on the song – ‘Yun Hi Mit Jayenge’ – I will die in love. Anarkali is buried alive and thus ends the tragic love story of Salim and Anarkali.  But their legend is still alive in millions of hearts.

The credit for the vision and execution of this timeless tale goes to Sydney’s Kathak Guru Ruchi Sanghi, who passionately produced and choreographed the whole show. Viral Hathi scripted and directed the musical skillfully to match each character. Sagar Agashe’s projections and lights added special effects to the show and Abhijit Dan’s music and compositions kept the flow going. As they say no show is ever perfect in everyone’s eye, the audience felt that the gap between scenes (when the sets and props were rearranged) could be filled with a piece of music. However, they waited silently for the next scene to come.    

Associate choreographer was  Niharika Sanghi, photography and editing was done by Sandhya Dusk Devi Nand, artwork was by Duane Leewai and make up designer was Shabnam Ahmed, all this blended together to appeal the audience, who cheered and universally and unanimously liked it. Both the shows of ‘Anarkali – The Musical’ were fully booked and were enjoyed by all.

Pics. Courtesy Sandhya Dusk Nand

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