Finally, last weekend we made it to this magnificent play ‘Lal Quile ki Aakhri Mushaira’.
( Lal Quila – Red Fort in Old Delhi.
Aakhri – last
Mushaiera - Pronunciation: /mʊˈʃʌɪərə/
noun. An evening social gathering at which Urdu poetry is read, typically taking the form of a contest.)
I say magnificent because the first thing that strikes you, right from scene one, is the simple yet regal costumes. The set and aura of the performers added to the beauty.
’Lal Quile ki Aakhri Mushaira’ is a beautifully witty depiction on stage of the last ‘mushaiera in the last Moghul emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar’s court before the Sepoy Mutiny of 1847 happened.
(Sepoy Mutiny, also considered the first fight in the long struggle for India’s independence saw over 300 soldiers marching down to the Red Fort from Meerut to declare independence from the British East India Company- the small trading company that had managed to colonize India taking advantage of the constant internal rifts between numerous small kingdoms that the vast sub-continent was by now divided into.
The Sepoys (soldiers) declared Bahadur Shah Zafar the Sovereign of India and rallied under his banner. This was also accompanied by uprisings at many other places all over India.
The East India company however managed to squash the uprising, exiled the 82 year old emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar to Burma and thus brought the illustrious Moghul rule in India to an end. His sons were ruthlessly killed at a gate now a monument of tourist attraction in old Delhi called ‘Khuni Darwaja’ or the Bloodied gate. The administration of India was thereafter directly transferred to the throne of England.
The illustrious Moghul empire in India was already weakened by a series of incompetent rulers by the time Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar inherited it. The British East India Company had taken over substantial administration of Delhi and allowed Bahadur Shah Zafar to maintain a small army within the confines of the Red Fort. His rule did not extend much beyond the ramparts of the fort.
An ardent Urdu poet, the emperor wrote under the Nom-de-plume ‘Zafar’. His court offered every encouragement necessary to nourish Urdu poetry and often hosted poetic congregations comprising of some of the most treasured names in Urdu poetry – Zauq, Daagh, Mirza Ghalib, Momin and Munshi Tishna.
This play was a delight to watch as it brought to life the witty interactions and inter-personal relationships of these great poets in addition to presenting some beautiful poetry. Even for someone like me who is not fluently proficient in Urdu, the play proved mesmerizing due to the wit and aura (that kept kept effortlessly changing from funny to witty to soulful to melancholy) on stage.
( Delhi based Pierrot’s Troupe is often termed the least pronounceable yet most pronounced theatre group in Delhi! Tom Alter, who plays Bahadur Shah Zafar is the star performer and chief attraction along with the witty and charming playwright and director Dr. M. Sayeed Alam )