The courtyard of the iconic Moazzam Jahi Market plays host to the festival’s inaugural play ‘Quli: Dilon Ka Shahzada’
Come November 18, the inner courtyard of the iconic Moazzam Jahi Market forms a perfect backdrop for the period costume drama Quli: Dilon Ka Shahzada, a royal love tale between king Quli Qutub Shah, founder of Hyderabad and courtesan Bhagmati. Directed by Mohd. Ali Baig, Quli… also rolls out the 15th edition of Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival which presents five productions at Raddison Blu Plaza in Banjara Hills from November 20- 22.
The annual Qadir Ali Baig festival is usually 10-day affair with a wide spectrum of plays involving scores of artistes from across India and international, masterclasses and workshops. This year’s abridged format will have productions with fewer artistes and even solo plays spread over a weekend.
- Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation’s ‘Quli : Dilon ka Shahzaada’ (Urdu); November 18; 8pm
- The Hoshruba Repertory’s ‘Dastangoi’ (English) featuring Danish Husain on November 20; 7 pm; A delightful journey across cultures and continents through the traditional, vibrant storytelling format.
- Seagull Repertory’s ‘Shakuntala Ke Saath Ek Dopehar’ (Hindi) on November 21 at 7 pm; Written by Vaidehee and directed by K.V. Subbanna, the play featuring Bhageerathi is a modern day look at Kalidasa’s Shakuntala through a glimpse of an afternoon in her life.
- Alchemy Theatre’s ‘Striptease’ (English) Written by Slawomir Mrozek and directed by Heeba Shah on November 21 at 8.15 pm; The absurdist play is about two middle class men who find themselves confined in a single space.
- Rang Sanskar’s ‘Dona’ (Hindi) on November 22 at 7 pm; Written by Arun Kolatkar Directed by Daulat Vaid, the play highlights the ideological social distances between the young and the old and the ancient and modern, while questioning if human culture is the best.
- Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation’s ‘Alone’ (English) November 22 at 8 15 pm; Written by Noor Baig and directed by Mohammad Ali Baig, the play, a dramatised reading shows a yesteryear star reflecting on her solitude and the many characters she has played in her life.
Tribute to frontline warriors
“This is our first performance in the new normal era,” says Baig adding the festival is a commitment to his father and theatre doyen Qadir Ali Baig as to also the city and its people and thanksgiving to the frontline warriors — doctors, healthcare workers, police force, municipal workers, voluntary organisations and individuals ‘doing a great deal to help and get the city back on rails during the pandemic and the recent devastating Hyderabad floods.’
The imposing stone structure of Moazzam Jahi Market is surrounded by fruit shops and bustling bazaars on its three sides; the monument was thrown open for people after renovation in August. It was Arvind Kumar, Principal Secretary, MA&UD who had suggested the inner courtyard for the recently-restored Market as a venue to stage Quli which had been earlier staged at historic monuments and palaces like Golconda Fort, Chowmahalla Palace, Taramati Baradari and Van Gogh Castle in France.
Baig did a recce of the site (MJ Market) to check if their performance at the open air venue would be disturbed by noise. He says, “A high ceiling and huge stone arches (18 ft) envelope the space and muffle the exterior traffic sounds.” The venue was found suitable for the production that also has a qawaali by the Warsi Brothers and a Shiv tandav scene that depicts Quli riding through a flooding Musi to meet his beloved Bhagmati.
The Festival also marks a new beginning for Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation staging live plays after the lockdown. Sanitizing at the gate and inside the premises, temperature checks and distanced seating are part of the safety measures that will be followed. For instance, the MJ Market courtyard can seat up to 300 people, but only 100 people will be allowed.
- Baig feels honoured and a proud Hyderabadi to present the play in an iconic site that reminds him of grand bazaar of Istaanbul. Calling MJ Market, a concept ahead of its time, he says, “I felt duty bound to bow to the last Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan to salute his visionary zeal and have a market place in the 1930s where one can find spices, fruits and other household items under one roof.,”
- Baig’s grand father Mirza Mehmood Ali Baig was Nizam’s special attache. From spices to their kitchen and fruits to cartridges for his grand father for hunting and fodder for polo horses came from the market. He adds, “A huge imposing clock tower stands testimony to the fact that there was a ruler who might not have changed his sherwani too often but he did everything to make sure that the citizens’ life is not hunky dory.”
The Festival showcases plays with divergent themes and languages. The last day’s play Alone directed by Baig is from A-Quaint-Essences, a book of short stories written by his wife Noor. Set during the lockdown, the play in a dramatised reading format features actress Suchitra Krishnamoorthi. Noor says, “The story is of an actress who is in the sunset of her life and reminisces her past experiences . Even as the actress struggles through the lockdown period, it is about her experiences during the isolated time.”
All six shows of the Festival will also be streamed online later for those who want to watch it virtually.
(Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival on November 18 and from 20 to 22; Inaugural play Quli at Moazzam Jahi Market is free but one has to register. Registration and tickets at bookmyshow.com)