Sunday, March 08, 2015


Cast of Dara
Saw Dara last night at the National Theatre, a very stimulating play about the dynastic power struggles in the Mughal empire. The Crown Prince Dara is a Muslim heavily influenced by Sufism and (following the tradition of his predecessors) quite supportive of all religions in the Mughal empire. However his brother Aurangzeb seizes power and eventually has him condemned on trumped up charges of Apostasy, enforing a much stricter version of Islam. In the final scene Aurangzeb aged 88 repents of this and tries to avert dynastic struggles between his surviving sons.

There are of course (as I now know, I had to my shame never heard of these people before) a number of historical inaccuracies in the play. But it is at its heart an impassioned plea for religious tolerance especially within Islam. It is an adaptation into English of an original play by a Pakistani author which has been performed to acclaim in Pakistan and is something of a beacon of hope for that reason.

The central characters were pretty compelling and I'd especially single out:
  • Zubin Varla who played Dara
  • Sargon Yelda (Aurangzeb)
  • Prasanna Puwanarajah who played the prosecutor.
  • Anneika Rose who played a rather wicked sister Roshanara
  • Scott Karim who gave a mesmerising performance and the Fakir
  • Ranjit Krishnamma who played the Sufi saint Mian Mir.
 Of course after Aurangzeb's long reign where the Empire reached its maximal extent, it then imploded, and was eventually replaced by the British Raj. Fundamentally, any society that tried to impose such a repressive approach to ideas is going to be overcome by more innovative and open societies.  Just a matter of time...

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