Begumhood Unparalleled

Nadira Babbar performed at Kamani Auditorium on Sunday, to an enraptured audience- old folks emitting 'wah wah' noises at sharp edges of the Siddiqui script, young folks gasping now and then, at the extravagant delivery of Urdu dialogues. I remained focussed on the lady herself.

Not having much of a taste for resplendent performances in the traditions of yesteryears, I felt some discomfort with elaborate (in bits, tacky) sets of Begum Jaan. Or the conventional lighting, or stage directions. A cleverly and tightly written script delivered with panache and accuracy of timing by the other two young actors, who deserve credit. Babbar playing Begum Jaan did much more. Creating a mood for the dilapidated and the bygone, that must be remembered and romanticised precisely because of its tragic extinction. Bringing alive in her body and voice and demeanour the aura of a defeated diva, clinging on to the shadows of her dying arrogance.

There are performances that are brilliant, there are performances that carry the pace of a production, set the mood for a production, and then there are performances which transcend the production. So much so that they could have been standalone performances without the context of a script, other actors, an auditorium or a set. What I took back was a sensation of awe at a truly classic performance, and not so much a story.


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