‘Civilization to Nation’ review: Feroz Abbas Khan’s new musical celebrates syncretism

‘Civilization to Nation’ review: Feroz Abbas Khan’s new musical celebrates syncretism

After the royal spectacle of his hit show Mughal-e-Azam, celebrated director and playwright Feroz Abbas Khan’s ongoing new show, The Great Indian Musical: Civilization to Nation, can best be described as the zenith of his creative oeuvre so far. A celebration of the inheritance of our syncretism, it’s a reminder of what needs to be re-visited and protected in today’s heightened state of sectarianism and communal differences.

The musical made its debut this month at The Grand Theatre, a plush 2,000-seater located inside the newly launched centre by Nita Ambani called the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) in Mumbai.

Under the bespoke sparkling ceiling of 8,400 Swarovski crystals, the grand tribute to India’s heritage played out in a never-before-seen song and dance extravaganza. Celebrity costume designer Manish Malhotra has designed a record 1,200 costumes for this show that range from attires for Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Bhakti Movement, Khadi movement, etc.

Also read: Jubilee review: A lavish ode to Hindi cinema, an epic tale of ambition and stardom

The thread of history

At the show, the speeches by Swami Vivekananda and Jawaharlal Nehru received the loudest applause, said Khan. “I was aware of the theme of this show, but could not imagine how so much history could be thread together in mere 90 minutes?” he said.  It starts with what is believed to be the first and original spiritual faith of the land, Hinduism, by celebrating it with the LIVE singing and dancing performances of the bhajan “Jaidev Jai Mangal Murti” followed by “Mahishasura Mardini”.

The scene undergoes a dramatic split-second change between these two bhajans from a Ganpati temple bathed in white to suddenly transforming into a Durga temple dressed in red. With at least 45 dancers on stage at one given time, this slick change from one scene to another becomes part of the immersive experience. It fully exploits the translucent front screen projections and the massive video wall in the background to bring in quick changes in scenes without a hitch.

Also read: Family review: A sinister portrait of Kerala’s Christian community’s moral decay

Once you are firmly awed by the visual spectacle of The Great Indian Musical: Civilization to Nation, Amitabh Bachchan’s voice announces the Bhagwad Gita while the epic battlefield dialogue in Mahabharat, between Krishna and Arjuna is played out by the actors on stage. This smooth transition of scenes, interspersed with Bachchan’s narration, sets the formula for the show.

A confluence of ideas

It moves on to Buddhism, Meera Bhakti, Sikhism, Sufism and the Mughal Empire that brought in a confluence of whatever had existed in India so far. How could the poignant and unparalleled essence of love and beauty introduced by the Taj Mahal be forgotten in this story of India? Ironically, it was the same week when NCERT was under fire for the removal /modification of chapters of Mughal history in school books.

The Kathak dance at the Taj was followed by British Rule, our Independence Movement and historic speeches delivered by our freedom fighters, including Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Sardar Patel. A perfect end to this epic was a LIVE rendition of ‘Saare Jahaan Se Achcha’ by a young child actor.

Also read: Bheed review: Anubhav Sinha’s sombre portrait of migrant exodus during lockdown

After a thunderous round of applause, as the audience settled back in their seats, Nita Ambani walked up to the stage to thank one and all for making the show a success. The entire hall echoed with cheers of ‘Thank You’ in Marathi, Gujarati and English, which added to the excitement. She reminisces about how Feroz, her classmate, was the director of her first show that she had performed during her younger days, and how the first theatrical show at NMACC has brought her life full circle.

Beyond the glitz and glamour of the red carpet, the NMACC centre is a testament to our country’s rich artistic heritage and a touching commitment to preserve it.

Read More
Next Story