Mughal–E-Azam Creates History in Houston!

HOUSTON: Harry Shah of Bollywood Entertainment took Houstonians back nearly 500 years to relive the splendor of the Mughal Era for three days – JULY 14-15-16 during Mughal-E-Azam, the Broadway Musical  at the Wortham Center, presented nationally by Cinema on Stage.  The recently remodeled Wortham Center with its spectacular high ceilings, lush maroon carpet and towering windows peeping into the downtown skyline, mirrored the luxurious Mughal sets that changed 48 times throughout the Musical. Cinema on Stage – the masterminds behind the entire North America tour –  created a picturesque lobby with dazzling giant backdrops of all the most iconic Musical  scenes and distributed red Anarkali Qawwali feathered caps to get everyone in the spirit.   Harry Shah and Sunil Thakkar of Masala Radio created a unique pre-event Social Hour filled with Sitar strokes, rich Saffron Chai, Veg Indian street foods and Audience interviews.  This was a special tour stop for the Houston-based partners of Cinema on Stage – Aanand Dawda and Dushyant Kansara.  Harry Shah said’ “It was like attending a wedding – everyday my extended family – and the Dawda, Kansara, and Thakkar families – dressed up in different Moghul themes and welcomed over 2000 guests per night!”     Dawda said “Bringing Mughl-e-Azam to US  is a dream come true.”

Sunil Thakkar said “In my 30 year history with Masala Radio, I have not seen anything like this in Houston.  Back to Back 3 days SOLD OUT !  6500 people in total.  And what a mesmerizing show with a production that was so lavish & the sets as opulent as the Akbar’s real  palace.  The production was beyond spectacular.  Wow !   I watched it on Friday and had to see it again on Sat & Sun.  If I could I would watch it again this weekend.”

“With the outstanding success of Mughal-E-Azam in Houston, when so many shows are going less than half full, I realized that today’s audience is looking for something new – unique concepts away from traditional Bollywood concerts.  Yes, this show was expensive with average ticket prices of $250, but not one person told me it was not worth it,” said Harry Shah.  Indeed this is the single most expensive theatrical production to come out of India and rightfully so, since the 1960 film Mughal-E-Azam was the most expensive film ever made in India (inflation adjusted).  Mughal-E-Azam boasted 150 performers, 4 containers of sets, 550 costumes intricately designed by Manish Malhotra and has completed over 200 shows since its inception in Mumbai in 2016. “I want to thank Ash & Leena Shah of IMPEX,  Arshad & Rasul Ramji of RAMJI LAW GROUP, Nitin Narag of SOUTHWEST MITSUBISHI, and Gopal Agrawal of TARA CAPITAL, Malik Jamal of DISCOUNT POWER and Sheetal Bedi of INDO AMERICAN ASSOCIATION (IAA) for their sponsorship and giveaways during the Social Hour.”

Cinema on Stage created the hype with a national media campaign showcasing reviews from Bollywood Stars, Indian Industrialists, and Politicians.  Even Rishi Kapoor, grandson of Prithvi Raj Kapoor who played Akbar in the film, appeared in videos saying “The production was so real to the film that he didn’t miss his grandfather.   After travelling to Delhi, Ahmedabad, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, the show started its 3 1/2 month tour in the USA, beginning in NYC.  In the North America Prelude Event, sixteen of the Musical’s apsara-like kathak dancers performed “Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya” in NYC’s Times Square on WED, MAY 24th, covered by all the major Indian channels in the US, and some India-based channels as well!   Invited to Times Square to hype The Musical, Sunil & Sandhya Thakkar of Masala Radio dressed up like Akbar & Jodhabai and Sunil created excitement for each performance with playful audience interactions and interviews with the director Feroz Abbas Khan.  The Times Square experience moved Sunil to create his most heartfelt promotional radio & social media campaign, personally encouraging the Houston listeners, sponsors, friends & family with “Do not miss this once in a lifetime show!”  To take such a scaled production and tour of 3 1/2 months in the US was no easy task, though you could not see any sights of stress from the Mughal-E-Azam team, from the producers to the cast to the technical crew.  Harry Shah said “When we hear the glowing feedback and when some people come a second night to take in all of the production and still come out bedazzled, this is why we do this.”  Just before Houston, the troupe of kathak dancers gave one more aflatoon prelude performance for the Canadian Media on a bridge over the roaring cascades of Niagara Falls.

Harry Shah was a regular on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6-7 PM on Masala Radio talking about the Musical’s awesomeness occasionally bringing one or more of his supportive family: wife Shital, younger brother Dipesh and elder brother Ash.  They talked about the film, the history, the cast & director and the 7 Broadway India World Awards including the Best Play, Best Director, Best Original Choregraphy, Best Original Costume Design, Best Ensemble Cast, Best Original Lighting Design and Best Original Set Design.  Every week Hostonians learned a little more about the Mughal Era, the fascinating real forbidden love story of Akbar & Jodhabhai’s son Salim and Anarkali a court dancer.  Salim invokes his right as exercised by his forefathers Babar & Humayun, and as heir to Hindustan, to simply choose his own wife.  Akbar, full of royal pride cannot let his only son marry a lowly courtesan and imprisons Anarkali, leading to Salim’s open rebellion against his own father.  The play, in Hindi and Urdu with English Subtitles remains faithful to the original film with live singing of the entire film track.  Indeed while “Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kiya” has become a lovers’ anthem throughout generations in India other popular favorites raised goosebumps while being sung live:  the Qawwali competition song “Teri Mehil Mein Kismat”,  the song foretelling disaster if Akbar does not concede “Ae Mohabat Zindabad” and the chilling finale as Anarkali leaves “ Khuda Nigehbaan Ho.”  “I loved Dilip Kumar in Mughal-E-Azam” said Ranjan Sanghani and I explained it to my kids…it was priceless that this Musical allowed my grandkids to experience it…in the equivalent awe it deserves.”

Mughal-E-Azam, The broadway Musical has religiously posted reviews from each city, along with glimpses of scenes from the US Tour.  After Houston is Dallas. Seattle, Vancouver, Phoenix, San Jose, and by popular demand the last show added Los Angeles.  If you haven’t seen this truly once in a lifetime play, don’t miss the remaining shows and spread the word, the culture, and the history of this epic love story.  Houston Photos & Videos were taken by Neha and Alex of Gaurav Hariyani Photography. Harry Shah & Bollywood Entertainment thanks his family, Cinema on Stage, sponsors, Masala Radio, and the entire Houston community for their support and success, and promises to bring more of such high caliber performances to Houston.