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Tiger of Maysore – Tipu Sultan retold

Tiger of Maysore – Tipu Sultan retold

LAHORE: “Sher ki ek din ki zindagi geedar ki so sala zindagi sae behtar hoti hai!” (One day of lion is better than the hundred days of jackal!), utters Tipu Sultan while drawing his sword.

Companions followed the suit and the curtains started dropping at the stage of Bokhari Auditorium of the Government College University (GCU), concluding the special bilingual play -- Tiger of Maysore -- staged by the varsity’s Dramatic Club on Thursday.

The last independent ruler of princely state in India persisted in his relentless struggle to challenge the ever-expanding East India Company. His advisers and even close family members were convinced it was a futile effort as the English represented a superior civilisation. Rapidly losing allies and territory, Tipu struggled to keep his wits in an intense drama.

The play’s opening scene is of an annual exhibition at the Victoria Albert Museum in London, where waxen effigies of characters from the fourth Anglo-Maysore War parleyed over history and its representation. Mir Sadiq looks offended at being dubbed a traitor in Indian accounts of the War of 1799.

With sequences out of Tipu’s real-life Book of Dreams, philosophical ramblings of the chorus, Wellesley’s march of progress and Tipu’s obsession with the most ferocious tiger in his pride – the ‘Tiger Royale’ – the play gradually builds up to the final moments before the English enter his fortress.

Based on the life of Tipu Sultan, the play was written by GCU faculty member Sameer Ahmed and directed by Dr Salman Bhatti and Dr Atif Yaqub. Omer Dar convincingly portrayed the lead role of Tipu Sultan, while Abdullah Waleed Hashmi played the dominating Mir Sadiq and Talha Akhter the crafty Purnea.

The performance was glued together by the Sultan’s royal guards and chorus members Mehran Siddiq and Ali Butt. Queen Ruqqaya Bano was played by GCUDC president Yusra Anwer. Sufia Sarwar played the king’s favorite concubine. Music was arranged by Muzammil Shabbir and lighting by Farhan. The play also featured a live qawwali by talented musicians and singers from GCU’s Nazir Ahmed Music Society.

“In the traditional story that everyone knows, Tipu Sultan is the consummate holy warrior who is a victim of treachery at the hands of Mir Sadiq and Purnea. Our play follows the same storyline but it shows Tipu as a human being; a fallible ruler, an unbending idealist and a politician of limited acumen. You will see him like never before, it is going to be Tipu Sultan retold,” said Yousra Anwer after the play.

GCU Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Khaleequr Rahman said theatre had an important function of reforming society, and all universities should play a vital role for reviving culture of quality theatre in the country.

“I am optimistic that the GCUDC will continue to put on a memorable show,” said Prof Rahman, adding it was a complete show of the club as no outside technical or any other support was hired.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2015

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