Recreating The World of Mughal-e-Azam | In conversation with Mayuri Upadhya

Manav Ratna awardee, choreographer and dancer Mayuri Upadhya is currently creating magic and breathing life into K.Asif’s timeless epic and now a musical play, Mughal-E-Azam. Helmed by acclaimed theatre and film director Feroz Abbas Khan, the play is a unanimous creation of some very talented and skilled artists, and is currently running in it’s second season with house full shows at the NCPA in Mumbai.

A trained professional dancer, Mayuri had charmed the audience with her beautiful choreography in Mirzya last year and had also conceptualised, choreographer the inauguration for Make in India week 2016. She went on to bag her first musical, Mughal-E-Azam, in the same year. Right from the first season, she has mesmerised the audience with sounds of ghungroo in the play. Mayuri went on to win hearts, and earned accolades, appreciation for her work. We caught up with the artist in between rehearsals for the ongoing second season of the play. In an exclusive chat, Mayuri Upadhyay gives us get an insight into the journey of recreating the choreography for a magnum opus - Mughal-E-Azam, on stage.

What were your first thoughts when you got the opportunity to choreograph the musical?
Initially it was ‘Wow’, then it became ‘Why?’ and then finally, the thought ended with ‘How?’ Firstly, the name of this show itself spoke a lot about the magnification of the project. Secondly, I was wondering why are they approaching me and not a Bollywood choreographer to do the job. Finally, I was thinking how will I be creating the magic in a limited time frame. 

How has the journey of choreographing a grand musical like Mughal-E-Azam been?
It has been overwhelming, as this is my first musical attempt. I have just loved the journey so far. The love and appreciation for my work is inspiring. It has really been my sincere effort and I have put my best in creating every song for this musical. 

What is the most challenging and unique element that you have incorporated in your choreography for this musical?
When I pick up a project, everything is versatile. Every song has a unique approach in the play. We chose Kathak as the dance form as it is the most pure form, and have given Kathak a contemporary look. The song ‘Mohe panghat pe’ has been given a whole mythological, raasleela touch through the choreography. Then there is the famous song ‘Pyaar kiya toh darna kya’, which has been given a modern feminist approach. I feel every woman is an Anarkali in her own way.  We have kept the choreography contemporary in its movement and gestures. During my discussion with Firoz sir, he was very sure wanted that he wanted to keep the look of this musical very minimalistic. He didn’t want to do anything over the top. I just incorporated his school of thought in my work. You will see there are no loud props or flashy jewellery. It is the unique approach and imagination that keeps its freshness intact. 

Which role do you enjoy the most, Dancer or Choreographer?
Of course, that of a Choreographer! As a Dancer, you have limitations with your body. But, when you are a choreographer, sky is the limit.

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Priya Adivarekar

Priya Adivarekar - Founder and Creative Director at Diary of a Dancebee. She is also a renowned Voice Actress and award winning artiste, with serious passion for dance. When not working round the clock, she can be seen reading, enjoying a movie-binge or listening to music.
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