Popular Theatre Festival 2018: Aurangzeb
Happy Ranajit, Avinash Tomar, Raj Tanwar, Usama Zaheer, Aditya Sharma, Sumit Dubey, Saad Khan
When Emperor Shahjahan fell ill in 1657, a war of succession broke out among his four sons, Dara Shukoh, Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad. The main contenders were Dara and Aurangzeb while Shahjahans two daughters Jahanara and Roshanara, supported Dara and Aurangzeb respectively. The Emperor himself lent his support to his eldest son Dara, who alone of the four brothers, was present at Agra and sympathetic to Shahjahans dream plan of building a black-marble-mahal for himself on the other side of Yamuna facing Mumtazs Tajmahal.
The play begins with the conversation between two of Aurangzebs spies in Agra Fort, who tell us of others spying on them, indicating Aurangzebs suspicious nature as well as his attempt to be in control. The play selects, telescopes and fuses events to capture the fissures as well as the peaks of a period of history. The war of succession to throne and issues and ideologies that the major players in the drama represent: Shahjahan symbolizes a decadent, self-indulgent, romantic aestheticism; Aurangzeb articulates and fiercely fights to establish an Islamic fundamentalist state, and Dara projects himself as a philosopher-statesman striving to preserve a pluralist society and nation. Shahjahan dreams about a black-marble-mahal for himself, Aurangzeb dreams of one nation, one language, one religion, while Dara fears that Aurangzeb will destroy the precious heritage of Akbar.
The play has as its theme the struggles of mutually contradictory dispositions of the various characters: Shahjahan and Aurangzeb; Dara and Aurangzeb; Jahanara and Roshanara; and finally Aurangzeb versus Aurangzeb. Shahjahan lives in the past, Dara in the future, and Aurangzeb in the present. Aurangzebs success is the triumph of pragmatism but he has to pay dearly as we find him in the last scene sitting not on his Peacock throne but beside it on the floor. His loneliness becomes his tragedy. The play ends with him asking himself the question: Am I a devout Muslim or a fanatic? He is left awaiting the judgment of history.