arts
Umrao Jaan Rekindled

A classic tale centred on the Tawa’if culture brought to life on stage

Posted: 07.07.15

The illustrious opulence of bygone eras remains a focus of fascination for many enthusiasts, particularly of the decadent times of the Mughal Empire, from which have spun many a legendary epic tale. One such story which has persisted as a muse for the arts for decades, is the legacy of Umrao Jaan, the most sought after courtesan of the mid-nineteenth century, whose inspiration outlined the dwindling culture and captivating lives of the Tawa’if. Her story has been depicted many a time, but never fails to allure, hence it is now being reincarnated on stage at London’s Cockpit Theatre and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, to enlighten the Western audiences. Despite the common association of prostitution, the courtesans originated from noble beginnings, when their refinement of poetry, music and dance was passed down to the children of the elite during the Mughal era.

The stage adaptation of the iconic Umrao Jaan, whilst at its heart will entertain and take the audience back to a time of a forgotten rich heritage through enthralling poetry, kathak dance and traditional ghazal and qawalli music, typical of Lucknowi culture which is where the Tawa’if held much prominence, it will also enlighten about their origins. This educated and cultured class of women have now become synonymous with outcasts following the British infiltration, when this class became plagued with prostitution to make a living. Their original refinement will be celebrated years on, by the Asian Music Circuit, working with renowned author and poet Simon Mundy, directed by Vasilios Arabos with music composed by Viram Jasani.

Umrao – The Noble Courtesan will open on Wednesday 22nd July through to Friday 24th July 2015 at The Cockpit, Gateforth Street, Marlylebone, London,NW8 8EH
Edinburgh Fringe Festival 6th August till 31st August 2015 at George Square Studio One, George Square and Windmill Lane, Edinburgh EH8 9JS.

Fariha Sabir

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