Special Reports

"Sons of Babur" - Search for Indianness


New Delhi: With stage production of Sons of Babur (Babur ki Aulad), Salman Khurshid asserts his Indian identity inspite of his alien roots. Grappling with the contemporary contempt for all Indian Muslims who have been castigated as Babur ki Aulad by extremists of Hindutva, Salman, (and with him all Muslims) interrogates the myriad levels of his/their identity as Indians. The fact that emerges is the understanding that India, as a collage of cultures, transforms aliens into Indians with her embrace of benevolence.

The protagonist, Rudranshu Mitra, a student of history, seeks a grant to visit Rangoon, where lies buried the last Mughal emperor in exile - Bahadur Shah Zafar. Though the grant is denied, Rudranshu has a super-natural spell in which Zafar himself arrives and takes him to a “Discovery of India” through his eyes. What Nehru did through his quest; so does Khurshid who confines himself to the spectacular period of the Mughal age.

Babur, who was driven from his homeland by conspirators but invited by Indians, arrives, settles and sires a dynasty that ruled the nation for three centuries. The play captures the fabulous opulence in which whatever they touched turned into gold and the period saw Diwan-e-Khas, Red Fort, Taj Mahal permanently changing Delhi’s skyline. Zafar, who lost his sons and was exiled from the city that he loved, still yearns to find “two yards of land in the beloved’s land.”

With malice towards none and with charity for all, Salman portrays his characters with a brush of human sensibilities – their triumphs and failures, their passions and frivolities as human beings. It was a task which an intellectual of Salman’s calibre alone could do with justice. Equipped with intellectual heritage of his grandfather, Dr. Zakir Husain, and his exposure to European liberal education, Salman follows Nehru’s footsteps to explore Indian history. The very fact that the freedom fighters in 1857 chose Bahadur Shah Zafar to lead the battle for Independence should have silenced all the extremists how warmly India responded to Babur ki Aulad.

The original play in English had its Indian incarnation through Ather Farouqui’s Urdu version (published by Rupa in Devnagri script). Ather quite competently handles the delicate texture of drama. Adding sonay par suhaaga, Dr. M. Sayeed Alam, the director with his vast stage experience, captures the audience with a sense of crowning experience which defies any verbal applause. Pierrot’s Troupe has undertaken the task of presenting the play throughout the country and abroad. By including Tom Alter in its team; the company further asserts the fact what India does to any alien – it transforms Tom into Zafar! Delhi had the privilege of its premier show on 1 December at the FICCI Auditorium, jointly sponsored by the Zakir Husain Study Circle and FICCI. So Salman Khurshid in his new avatar as dramatist, takes a respite from the politics of the day and keeps his advocate colleagues wondering whether he excels as a politician or a pleader or a dramatist. Here is one more versatile Girish Karnad! Welcome.