By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: After a triumphant tour of their play Taj based on the legendary bonding between the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his daughter Jahanara, Kabir Bedi and Lisa Ray who play the two stellar roles, are all set to bring the play, originally written by British playwright John Murrell, to India.
Confirming this, Kabir Bedi – who took time off from his hectic 8-city tour of Canada to connect with this writer – said, “We’ve got standing ovation in almost every city we performed, including Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston and Banff. Nothing is more gratifying for stage actors than the spontaneous, heartfelt appreciation of audiences. Of course, cinema reaches a far bigger audience. But nothing beats the joy of performing a great character without interruption, in a darkened hall, sensing the quickening heartbeats of an audience.”
Kabir has done very powerful historical characters like Tughlaq before. What made him choose Shah Jehan for a stage comeback?
“I don’t choose roles, roles choose me. I had already played Emperor Shah Jahan in Akbar Khan’s film Taj Mahal. But in John Murrell’s great play, TAJ he has many different dimensions, really exciting to perform. Before this I’d acted in The Far Pavilions at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London’s West End for 8 months, which was also thrilling.”
Amazingly, western audiences have caught on the cultural context of Kabir’s play. “TAJ is an Indian story about an iconic Mughal ruler. But Shah Jahan’s incredible triumph, followed by the tragedy of being overthrown and imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb, gives the play a universal appeal. It’s about intrigue, betrayal, passion, longing and memories of a broken man. Kathak dance is also used wonderfully, along with multi-media visual projections. So audiences abroad have loved it.”
Kabir is all praise for his co-star Lisa Ray.
“Lisa has been terrific as Jahanara, Shah Jahan’s daughter, imprisoned with him. His story is revealed through his conversations with her, and dance-drama flashbacks. TAJ is an exploration of a father-daughter relationship at its best. It was a real joy working with Lisa.”
Kabir is no stranger to international recognition. He feels theatre in India is crossing into a new level. “Things are definitely changing for the better in India. Theatre is making a big comeback, and we have so many great actors performing on stage now, in many languages. Abroad ,theatre and cinema both have their audiences and are well established. That’s why, New York has Broadway and London it’s West End. I believe the golden age of Indian theatre will dawn very soon.”