“A teardrop on the cheek of time” Bengali Poet Rabindranath Tagore referring to the Taj Mahal

“A teardrop on the cheek of time” Bengali Poet Rabindranath Tagore, referring to the Taj Mahal

“I thought it had to be about a woman [but] I had no idea what the story would be.” Lata Pada speaking about the inception of the play TAJ.

Lata Pada, Artistic Director of Sampradaya Dance Creations had a vision – to produce a play about the Taj Mahal. Most of us know the basic story of the Taj Mahal, that it is a tomb that was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a resting place and monument to his wife Mumtaz, the love of his life.

But Lata wanted to go even deeper. “The image of the Taj Mahal is a ubiquitous symbol of India [and is] about this enduring love, but for me it is not about that [but about] human relationships and the universality of human experiences.” With that foundation she started to seek out the structure of the relationship between Shah Jahan and his eldest daughter Jahanara. To build on this she wanted to involve “the best of the best” and from Canada, she attracted to her project award-winning playwright John Murrell and director Tom Diamond whose work with directing operas for the Canadian Opera Company led to beautiful blocking in every part of the play. From India, Lata drew legendary choreographer Kumudini Lakhia, an 82 yr old treasure who sequenced exquisite scenes and whose experience in Kathak, a Northern Indian style of dance, kept the choreography true to the spirit of the location and history of the Mughal Emperor. Also from India was composer Praveen D. Rao. His musical score was stunning. I cannot put into words the powerful feeling that surged through me during the scene of the wedding of Shah Jahan to his wife and the song of the Sufi. Sashar Zarif’s incredible input and talent was transcendental and the performance was energetically so heightened that it felt as though it was lifting me off my seat.

The part of Shah Jahan was played by one of India’s greats, Kabir Bedi, and Jahanara was played by Canada’s own enchanting Lisa Ray. Their tenderness, despite the complication of their characters’ father / daughter relationship, was the underpinning of Lata’s statement that the story of the Taj Mahal is about human connections.

The final cap that sealed tight this production was the artistic and technical visions of Phillip Silver (Lighting and Set Design) and Jacques Collin (Projection Design). There were times when the combination of the dance, the music, the set and the projections made me feel as though I had entered another dimension. It was unbelievable, absolutely striking.

In this production you could see how each tiny little detail and each unique talent and personality involved kept building and building on Lata’s vision. Everyone added in their layer, their texture, their reinforcement.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the making of this play and gratitude to Luminato for having the vision to commission Lata Pada’s production. My sincere hope is that someday I have the chance to see this play again as one time was not enough!

TAJ was visually and sonically fluent. Eloquent interpreting of one side of the story of the man behind the Taj Mahal.

More info on TAJ

One Trackback

  1. [...] you someplace out-of-the-body as I found while sitting in the same spot at FLECK last June watching Sashar perform in TAJ (part of LUMINATO) as an old Sufi.  If I had the money, the time and if there were tickets [...]