Aurangzeb

September 28, 2016 § Leave a comment


What made me write the play ‘Aurangzeb’ or rather, who led me to writing it? Don’t be surprised, it is Schopenhauer, the great German philosopher!

I was reading a book on him, when I came across this line that he himself had acknowledged that he owed his philosophical wisdom to the great book from India, ‘The Upanisads’, , which he read in Latin translation by a Frenchman called Abraham Hyacinth Anquetil-Duperron. The Frenchman, according to Schopenhauer  ,had  rendered it in Latin from the Persian translation of Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan,  the great Mogul Emperor ,who built Taj Mahal.

I became interested in Dara Shikoh.

I began reading R.C.Mazumdar, Jadunath Sarkar and all those scholars, who had written about the Moguls. I had not heard of Dara Shiikoh before, because the history we were taught in the schools was only about those, who became kings. Of course, I knew about his brother Aurangzeb because he succeeded Shah Jahan, But the Aurangzeb I knew from my school text-books was a religious fanatic,  who  wanted to bury music twenty fathoms deep and also who hated poetry.

Once when I became absorbed in the Mogul history, many things came to me as revelations. Aurangzeb was as interesting a character as Dara was. I realized that he had strong psychological reasons for being what he became in his later years. It seems he loved music, was gifted with an excellent musical voice, and he wrote elegant romantic poems, when he was young. But what brought this cosmic change in his personality that conventional history had been projecting him as an intolerant and ruthless king with a staunch dislike for Fine Arts?

This is  the question I try to answer  that constitutes the sum and substance of my play ‘Aurangzeb’.  Beyond this, I have no intention of teaching history to anyone.

The printed version of the play had a ‘turbulent’ and’ triumphant’ history.

The  Central Board of Secondary Education, in its collective wisdom prescribed it as a text book for the Higher Secondary classes in the seventies of the last century If I had come to know of it earlier, I would have been the first person to object to it, because , in my opinion, the easiest way to condemn a writer is to prescribe his work , as a text book at the school or college level.You can visualize how many young minds would hate the author for determining their academic destiny!

There was a big hue and cry in Tamilnadu, as most of the Tamil students were from this region. Questions were raised in the Parliament, with a new infant Janatha Party in power.  The then MGR Government promptly banned the book. This was the play’s ‘turbulent’ story

But in the very next year(1980), ‘Aurangzeb’ won the Tamilnadu Government’s award as the best book of the year. Not only the people,  but the Governments also, have a  short-term memory. And, perhaps, this is its ‘triumphant’ story, if one considers a government award is a ‘triumph’.

The play was staged in 1976 in Hindustani (translated from K.V.Ramanathan’s English version published in ‘Enact’, a theatre magazine ) by a Delhi drama troupe ,called ‘Agredoot’) and it was directed by  M.K.Raina. It was the most discussed  period, when the ‘Emergency rule’  by the late Indira Gandhi was at its peak

‘The Hindustan Times’ reviewed  the play under the title ‘The Son also rises’, with a subtle reference to the ascendance  of the late Sanjay Gandhi. This led more people to see the play and on the fifth day of its run to a full house at the AIFACS Hall, there was a big altercation between the Director and fake ‘historians’, who criticized  the play to no end for ‘non-historical’ reasons such as critical references to ‘Emergency’ and the party in power,though the play was written much before Emergency was declared. In fact, there was, at that time no party in power, there was only one person in power that was Indira Gandhi.

Prof.K.S.Rajendran of the N.S.D, recently started staging the play in Hindustani in Delhi and at various other places . Quoting Prof.Satish Chandra, some of the students began to raise doubts about the way I have projected Aurangzeb in the play. According to them, Aurangzeb  had nowhere said that he stood for one religion and one nation. I have only shown  Aurangzeb mouthing this as a political slogan,  like our contemporary politicians do, as a stratagy to fight with his brother Dara Shikoh, who did not believe in one religion as he was  a staunch secularist like his illustrious grandfather Akbar. Moreover, Aurangzeb, who was well-read in the  Islamic ideology, would have known that Islam had never believed in ‘national boundaries’.

This is the reason why he is shown in the last scene as a man’ more sinned against than sinning’. He felt himself to be ‘an orphan crying for his father’s love’. This is the paradox that determined his life.

Recently,  theatre Shradda and theatre Nisha , staged the play in the language in which it was written, after a long time. V.Balakrishnan ,the Director has done a good job and exploded the myth that a serious play cannot draw a good crowd in the sabha halls. He also put staged it five times in Alliance Franchise to a well- packed audience for all the shows.

 

 

 

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