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Thursday, 2 June 2011

Gulbadan Begum, IIC

Gulbadan Begum – the lady with the Rose Body -- was a remarkable person, a woman far ahead of her age. That she had an impeccable lineage perhaps explains some of the things she was to achieve -- despite being a woman! She was Babar’s daughter, Humayun’s half-sister and Akbar’s aunt. It is her story that comes alive through an interactive show called, appropriately enough, Anecdotes and Allegories. It is a history lesson quite out of the box and certainly out of a stuffy classroom. Interestingly enough, while the audience had a fair sprinkling of young ones. Quite a few senior citizens also showed up.

Based on Gulbadan Begum’s journal, the Humayun-nama, the story is told by Anurupa Roy. Her narrative is based on the English translation of the Humayun-nama by Annette Beveridge. The show chronicles the ups and downs of Humayun’s rule, but more importantly gives a glimpse into the life of the Mughals in the sixteenth century. Roy’s narrative has plucked the small personal details about Humayun’s life. She dwells, for instance, on the cockerel that woke the emperor for the dawn prayer and Humayun’s penchant for staring at the sky and observing the movement of the stars.

Roy uses simple props like puppets made of papier mache and toilet paper. The puppets are ‘perform’ against a backdrop of an intricately worked ivory board, whose details are taken from Mughal monuments. The show is interspersed with slides and real characters miming from behind a makeshift screen. While over all, the show is innovative and succeeds in creating a certain ambience, it suffers from a few technical glitches.

-- Rakhshanda Jalil

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