SHARJAH (UAE): Pakistan’s young heartthrob Ahmed Shah and his brother Abu Bakr, who have garnered millions of followers and views online for their viral videos, made their much-awaited stage debut at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF 2023), enthralling hundreds in the highly acclaimed comedy production Akbar the Great Nahi Rahe.
The special rendition of the popular play by the Bazm-e-Urdu group left the audience in splits with the young protagonists – Ahmed as the mighty Mughal emperor and Abu Bakr as the emperor’s brother Mirza Mohammed Hakim – and director Dr M Sayeed Alam from India raising the bar with their comic timing
The play, that revolves around an existential afterlife crisis faced by the Mughal emperor Akbar in his utopian abode called Burj Al Swarg (Tower of Heaven) and the dilemma by those around him whether to continue addressing him as The Great, has entertained thousands over the years with hundreds of stagings since its debut in India in 2019.
The narrative – specially curated in Hindi, Urdu and traces of English for the audience of the SCRF – takes a satirical approach to many contentious thoughts and ideologies that reflect contemporary India in the 21st century, over four hundred years after Akbar’s reign, when the greatness of many key historical figures including Akbar himself have come under the scanner.
The play opens with Akbar meeting emperors Ashoka and Alexander with their suffix of The Great firmly established for all three. But as they assess, along with Alauddin Khalji who ruled the Delhi sultanate in the 13th, whether Akbar indeed is worthy of his title, the plot thickens. India’s former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee also adds to the unfolding drama with his characteristic take on the whole situation. Akbar then spends most of the time trying to fight eviction from Burj Al Swarg by holding on to his ‘greatness’ with references from Bollywood and Mughal history – much of what, he says, are today erased.
The 90-minute show also saw young Ahmed and Abu Bakr – dressed in regal attire – take the stage twice, introducing Akbar to the audience with pop quizzes on the emperor. The show is part of a packed programme for children and families throughout the 12-day SCRF being organized by the Sharjah Book Authority under the theme ‘Train Your Mind’ at the Sharjah Expo Centre until May 14.