The National Theatre at South Bank played host to the magnificent play, Dara. Dara is a play has been adapted by Tanya Ronder from Shahid Nadeem's play, which was originally performed by Ajoka Theatre, Pakistan.
The play takes you back to Mughal India in 1659, depicting Dara Shikoh's life from childhood to death. It is a tale of two regal brothers, Prince Dara and Prince Aurangzeb, the sons of Emperor Shah Jahan. It depicts the dark and gruesome animosity between family members to become the next emperor, to the extent of being thirsty of your own kin's blood.
The music used in this play is not merely used to fill up empty space or for glamour purposes; it is used to bring the narrative forward and it helps assert the feeling of being in 17th century India.
Each and every person involved in this play deserves a massive round of applaud, be it the cast, the crew backstage or the director of the play. Evidently amazed and in awe of the performances, the audience did not shy away from explicitly expressing their contentment with the play by thunderously applauding during the interval and the ending. Each cast member gave a power-packed performance, engaging us, enthralling us into an alien world which no longer seems incongruous.
Zubin Varla played the powerful character of Dara, the eldest son of Emperor Shah Jahan. One memorable scene of his was the court scene and his defence to the claims of prosecutor Talib, portrayed by Prasanna Puwanarajah.
Another noted element, among many was the chemistry between Aurangzeb and a Hindu dancing girl, Hira bai. Their love and passion for one another resonates throughout the auditorium, making our hearts go out to the unrequited lovers who were not destined to be one.
Another performance worth mentioning is of Chook Sibtain, who portrayed the imperial eunuch, Itbar. The scene where he meets his parents after several years will give you cold shivers, as he gives an anguish account to how he was sold by his parents to the royals, who then castrated him into a eunuch. The angered, turbulent emotions were excellently enacted by Chook Sibtain.
Time Out gave Dara four stars and reviewed it as “a magnificently ambitious project, beautifully acted, and visually sumptuous, that throws both light and darkness on a crucial moment in world history.” The Financial Times also gave it four stars, stating, “‘Visually ravishing. Nadia Fall's beautiful, silken production balances clarity and fluency.”
I would go a step ahead and give it five stars, for engaging and captivating me throughout the 2 hours and 50 minutes duration of the play, and even more so after having left the theatre. Dara is one play that will stay with you for a very long time. It is certainly not something to be missed. Regardless of your preference in genres and entertainment, Dara will definitely not disappoint.