Karnad`s `Tughlaq` set for mega comeback in Delhi

New Delhi: Plays are the mirrors of social change in a nation full of political drama like India. Girish Karnad`s iconic play ‘Tughlaq’ scripted nearly 50 years ago, which makes a mega comeback here from Oct 28, still continues to be relevant.

‘Tughlaq’, which the writer-director originally scripted in Kannada and later translated to English as his pet drama of protest in 1964, still has the power to identify with contemporary strife.

The 13-act play is staging a mega-comeback on the capital`s open air arena once again at Feroze Shah Kotla from Oct 28, four decades after Ebrahim Alkazi brought it to life in 1972 at the 16th century Purana Qila, nearly 700 km from Daulatabad in Maharashtra where the "mad emperor" Mohammed bin Tughlaq moved his capital from Delhi in the 14th century.

The play, presented by the government of Delhi and its cultural wing Sahitya Kala Parishad, will be directed by Bhanu Bharti, who was a part of Ebrahim Alkazi`s cast 40 years ago. It will play at Kotla for four days. Actor Yashpal Sharma will star in the lead as the emperor Tughlaq.

Bharti is looking to generate the same kind of response that he elicited from ‘Andha Yug’ that he staged last year at the same venue.

"After the overwhelming response to `Andha Yug`, the Delhi government asked me whether I would like to stage another play.’Tughlaq` was an obvious choice because it had received wide attention at the national level. It was almost like Dharamvir Bharati`s `Andha Yug`," Bharti told IANS.

The play was first staged in the capital in 1967 but it was an informal presentation. "It was directed by Om Shiv Puri," Bharti said.

‘Tughlaq’ is a difficult and a complex play to stage because the story moves from one point to another - it does not pause, Bharti said.

"Each character and each situation is very complex. The play is multi-layered. It is difficult to bring all those layers together. Apparently it is a realistic play. And you cannot take much liberties," he said.

The play is a parable for the politics of every era though Karnad in 1964 wanted to bring out the growing tide of resentment against Nehruvianism through Tughlaq`s insane whims and the protests against his policies.

Karnad wrote it in Kannada while studying at Oxford and then translated it into English himself.

"It is a reflection of human predicament. The politician Tughlaq is a highly skilled manipulator who can kill a person. He is complex character," Bharti said.

History as well as the play abound in episodes of Tughlaq`s cruel manipulations and the manner in which he used "hostile nobleman and conspirators" as pawns on his chessboard - a game that he played often to polish his political precision.

Tughlaq plots the murder of Sheikh Imam-ud-din, a hostile nobleman resembling the emperor, by sending him to an enemy camp where he was killed.

In the play, Tughlaq is described as "an honest scoundrel who actually enjoys the feeling of guilt after murdering calmly".

The play begins with Tughlaq ordering his subjects, including the people of Delhi, to move to Daulatabad, his new capital. The futility of this move unfolds in the human sufferings of displacement and dislocation that the play sustains on.

"Till date, Tughlaq survives in popular memory in references like the `Tughlaqi firman`- call without reason," Bharati said.

Bharti`s crew has been rehearsing for two months. "The cast has been drawn from Mumbai`s small screen and cinema though most of them are National School of Drama graduates," Bharti said.

The director said the "two-hour play will use traditional Iranian and Turkish music".

After hosting the battle of Kurukshetra in ‘Andha Yug’ last year, Kotla is ready for another tryst with history.