Mughal-E-Azam—The Musical is India’s Pride in America

Priyanka Barve plays Anarkali in Mughal-E-Azam—The Musical Photo: Deepesh Salgia 

The play is now as iconic as the parent film—globally. Shapoorji Pallonji (a group essentially into real estate!) had produced Mughal-E-Azam in 1960, which was directed by K. Asif. Over time, this film has become timeless!

Not only was it the biggest hit of that year and the entire decade, but the film ranks among the top five all-time blockbusters of Hindi cinema and was restored and colorized in 2004. And while the original movie ran for 50 weeks, the colorized version, even 44 years later, achieved a Silver Jubilee (25-week run).

Deepesh Salgia, Director, Shapoorji Pallonji Group, oversaw the release in 2004, and again became the main producer for another dimension of the ageless story—Mughal-E-Azam—The Musical, the play reproducing the story with the same music enacted live by actors. This was 12 years later in 2016. The first-of-its-kind play in India again met with unprecedented success, and after shows in other Indian cities, and the Middle-East (UAE, Qatar) and Far East (Singapore and Malaysia), it was shown again in Mumbai in 2022, and now, the next stop is Europe.

Right now, the event and its team has been on a phenomenally successful trail in the US and is also heading for Canada. News India Times spoke to Salgia, who is the brain behind this latest triumph, on the How’s and Why’s of the tour.

“I am often asked why it took us so much time to get the show to North America and Canada!” he says. “The fact that we had 150 people traveling with us is just one part of the whole thing, because the play is such a mammoth production. But what was much important was planning everything.”

He goes on, “Our model was to perform every weekend at the locations we had selected. But on the remaining four days of the week, we had to dismantle our sets and transport them on-ground, in seven 50-feet containers, sometimes for 000 miles! After reaching the new venue, we had to install the sets again there, do the programming and begin the rehearsals.”

During this period, says Salgia, the logistics and the supply chain were critical. “Our containers of the sets and costumes were humongous in size, so we had to perfectly and precisely plan out everything. We had to choose and select venues in the routes we wanted, and block them for seven days! And our show had a compulsion—a big-size auditorium with techs.”

Salgia also goes on to explain why Mughal-E-Azam works, unlike even other “popular and very good films from India.”

Says the producer, “Mughal-E-Azam has a huge fan following, because since 1960, when the original ran for 50 weeks in the theatres, it was being re-released in theatres a minimum once a year everywhere in India—all the way to the mid-1980s. It then continued to be a hot favorite on Cable TV through the 1990s. In 2004, the color version was released and enticed a new generation as well. Then we came up with the dialogues books of the film that were sold out! Documentaries were made on the film too. And in 2016, came the play!”

He concludes, “Brand Mughal-E-Azam has connected with every generation for more than 60 years now!”

Opulent sets, magnificent lighting, live music and performances define the stage opus—Mughal-E-Azam—The Musical. Photo: Deepesh Salgia

Salgia states that the film has a dedicated and devoted fan following across age groups. “So there is this core audience waiting to watch it in a new format. For this play, we can see 90 year-olds coming in with their grandchildren!” he preens with justifiable pride. So far, over 200 shows have been staged globally, and their next stop will be Europe.

The format of the original film also helps substantially, Salgia points out. “The film is structured like a theatrical format, with good dances, Naushad’s music and scale. The love of the fans does the rest of the magic.”

Three major factors are collectively responsible for this level of success: A creative director like Feroz Abbas Khan, the giant corporate entity, Shapoorji Pallonji, that holds the IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) or brand of this film, and last but not the least, the financial and management skills of the team.”Such miracles can happen only when these three factors blend together!” says Salgia. “It’s a matter of big joy to me that this film is the pride of India and of Indians the world around. And my big moment is when a lot of Americans and other foreigners too come and watch this slice of Indian culture!”



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