Next week, a play written by Salman Khurshid will be performed in the city for the first time. Sons of Babur is the affable politician’s painstakingly researched script on the life of Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar, which attempts to showcase India’s harmonious post-partition growth despite contradictory belief systems.
“We need to go back to Mughal policies,” he stresses. “They are huge, valuable assets that have been distorted or romanticised. There’s a great deal for us to be inspired by, and we need to keep looking at and rediscovering them. That’s the message I hope to deliver through this play.” Sons of Babur took Khurshid over six years to write, and was conceptualised while he was based in Uttar Pradesh and travelling extensively on political duty. “I wrote it on bits of paper,” he recalls, adding “I’d found a tragic hero in Bahadur Shah Zafar, whose poetry I have admired greatly. I have an affinity for characters that rise above their own condition in a tragedy, and even in the worst cases, they leave behind a message of hope. And he gave tremendous hope to this country. That attracted me, so I built a play around him.”
The play sees two eras successfully juxtaposed as the protagonist is a young man who goes back in time to revisit the empire of the Mughals, and how it laid the foundation stone for the development of a harmonious present-day India.
Khurshid reasons that this was needed to draw in younger audiences, “ It would just be a historical play otherwise. If youngsters are to be encouraged to take it more seriously, it must be contemporary and something they can connect with.”
Despite having a hectic political career to look after, Khurshid has tried his best to keep his creative instinct alive. “I’ve been a theatre buff for very long now. I was part of groups in school, college and even professionally. My last major performance was Pygmalion, where I met my wife, Louise. I played Professor Higgins to her Eliza Doolittle,” he smiles.