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Produced By The Hoshruba Repertory
The Hoshruba Repertory is a theatre company currently based out of Mumbai and believes in performing high literary text while ensuring the performances are accessible, entertaining, engaging, and an experience for the audiences. We wish to bring alive great literature on the stage. Our four previous productions are Samuel Beckett’s Krapps Last Tape, Ira Lewis’s Chinese Coffee (featured in India Habitat Centre’s Old World Theatre Festival 2012, NCPA’s Centrestage 2012, Prithvi Theatre Festival Pune Chapter 2016) Ali Akbar Natiq’s Ek Punjab Ye Bhi (premiered at the Prithvi Theatre Festival 2015) Poetrification - a poetry performance project, and Qissebaazi - reimagining art of storytelling (premiered at the NCPA’s Centre stage 2016).
Guards at the Taj
In 1648 India, two Imperial Guards watch from their post as the sun rises for the first time on the newly-completed Taj Mahal—an event that shakes their respective worlds. When they are ordered to perform an unthinkable task, the aftermath forces them to question the concepts of friendship, beauty, and duty, and changes them forever.
Produced By The Hoshruba RepertoryMore Info+
Directed By Danish Husain
Written By Rajiv Joseph
Vishwa Shroff & Goto Kotushi
Lower Parel Info
7th October 2017
Guards of the Taj held at G5A
by LPinfo on May 8, 2017 in Culture, Reviews of plays
This is the first play to kick off the third season of Aadyam, a theatre enterprise that is promoted by the Aditya Birla group. Aadyam has been a real boon for theatre groups and theatre lovers. Divya Bhatia, their Artistic director and Brian Tellis their Creative director, have ensured a steady stream of quality stage productions for theatre loving audiences both in Mumbai and New Delhi.
Humayun and Babur, are two guards, whose duty it is to guard the building of the Taj Mahal, the most beautiful monument to have ever been built. The Emperor Shahjahan has decreed that no one is ever allowed to see it before it is completed. During their guard duty, the two guards banter about the vagaries of life, and various other issues of universal interest like freedom, politics, friendship, duty and the parameters these issues have to work within. Two insignificant characters getting centre staged and discussing these weighty issues in absurdist fashion, is very reminiscent of other Absurdist plays like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and to some extent also of Waiting for Godot.
The direction by Danish Husain is an interesting concept. The action takes place in two opposite spaces, forcing the audience to shift chairs when the scene changes happen. This experiment certainly makes the play interactive and wakes the audience from any stupor they may have fallen into! Shahjahan, wants to ensure that nothing as beautiful as the Taj Mahal is ever built again. So he orders that the hands of all the twenty thousand men who built the Taj, and also of its architect Ustaad Issa, be chopped off!
Humayun and Babur (ironical that their names are the same as the founding emperors of the Moghul dynasty) are given the task of performing this horrific act. Thankfully the audience is spared any scenes of gore and bloodshed, and the only semblance of this dastardly deed are some scattered hands in the background! Both of them are riddled with guilt for having “killed beauty” on this “night of the forty thousand hands”.
Eventually Babur, the more sensitive and emotional of the two, confesses that the only solution is to kill the Emperor when they finally achieve their dream of becoming Guards of the Harem. Unfortunately for this blasphemy the dutiful Humayun is forced to put Babur in jail, and this finally leads to a most unexpected end.
Joy Fernandes as Humayun, is a perfect foil to Vrajesh Hirjee’s Babur. With his expressive face, Hirjee is quite brilliant and energetic as Babur, while Fernandes manages to engage the audience despite his role being the less boisterous one. Babur is the dreamer, the dreamer who dreams about the Aeroplath,a flying palanquin, and of “sandelwood machans in the forest”, while Humayun is the realist, the more prosaic one, who is rooted to his duty and to doing the right thing as he knows it is ” allegiance to the Emperor or death” that is the law of the land.
The set design by Vishwa Shroff and Katsushi Goto is interesting while Arghaya Lahiri’s lighting design is excellent and contributes effectively to the sets and the play. The accompanying music also adds to the flavour of this production.
The G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture is a not-for-profit organization, that supports contemporary art and culture, good governance, and sustainability.
At G5A, we believe that art and culture have the power to ignite change for the better – by challenging people to think critically, creatively, and courageously.
Through a series of diverse programs and projects we are committed to nurturing a vibrant, safe, and inclusive platform that encourages the creative and just – in thought and expression.
In doing so, our endeavor is to enrich people’s lives, rebuild resilient and responsible communities, and strengthen the cultural fabric of our community and city.
The Daily Pao
7th October 2017
‘GUARDS AT THE TAJ’ PLAY REVIEW: DANISH HUSAIN’S DARK COMEDY IS AN ENGAGING ALLEGORY OF OUR TIMES
Director: Danish Husain
Writer: Rajiv Joseph
Cast: Joy Fernandes, Vrajesh Hirjee
The opening play of the third season of Aadyam, the yearly theatre festival sponsored by the Aditya Birla Group, is a refreshing departure from the body of works produced in previous seasons. The allegorical drama, written by American playwright Rajiv Joseph and directed by Danish Husain, can be read in terms of the autocratic impulses directing the current political scene in the country and in some parts of the world. This makes Guards at the Taj the only Aadyam play other than Loretta to address political realities, providing a much-needed artistic response.
Guards at the Taj is also, by and large, an engaging drama. It hinges on the most famous (and grisliest) myth associated with the making of the Taj. Two guards, Humayun (Joy Fernandes) and Babur (Vrajesh Hirjee), are posted at the Taj on the eve of the day it will be unveiled. The Taj has been in the making for 16 years and it is said that it will look loveliest in the first light of dawn. The guards, who have their backs to the Taj, are forbidden by the emperor Shah Jahan from clapping eyes on the monument. Babur, the naughtier, more inquisitive of the two, doesn’t understand Shah Jahan’s decree. What’s wrong in turning to take a peek? Humayun is the obsequious one, always prefacing Shah Jahan’s name with a string of honorifics and trying hard to follow rules. The two aren’t meant to talk on duty. But this is a rule Humayun finds tough to uphold as it’s too tempting to chat with his childhood friend Babur, who likes to talk about the fantastic inventions he has dreamt up.
They’re given a terrible job to perform. At the end of it, they’re filled with horror and misery. But while Babur considers retaliation, Humayun takes a practical view. Their superiors are impressed with the way they’ve carried out their task, which means they will be rewarded with a promotion. The irony is that Humayun is named after the Mughal emperor who had an enquiring mind that manifested in an enormous fondness for books. He would rather be servile and have a comfortable life than question orders that make no sense.
Any number of parallels can be drawn between the play and the domineering way in which the Indian government at the centre currently operates. They’ve banned beef because cow slaughter upsets a subset of one community, filled educational institutions with right-wing ideologues, and made a bigoted godman the chief minister of the country’s largest state. There are legions of Humayuns in our midst, folks who easily quell pangs of conscience to support a communal party because they think it’s in their interest. Shah Jahan’s possessiveness over the Taj Mahal, in the play, suggests the religious right’s love for dogma. This applies to both the Hindu right and Islamic fundamentalists, both of whom like to outlaw opposing streams of thought.
Hirjee and Fernandes make a winning pair as they banter. Even though the play is set in the sixteenth century, the language is current. For instance, in response a lewd gesture Babur makes, Humayun says, “That’s messed up man.” Both actors are lively and amusing in the comedic parts, which make up most of the first half; it’s the serious bits with which they have trouble. In these moments Hirjee, whose character is crisis-stricken, is not entirely successful in conveying Babur’s sense of pathos and terror at the incident in which he is complicit.
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