The love story of Salim and Anarkali has always been a subject matter of great interest. No wonder, Colors and Producer Anirudh Pathak (Writers Galaxy), have decided to reprise K Asif’s Mughal E Azam for the small screen.
Given the lack of enough historical references for long-running daily sagas, most genre writers add a lot of fiction to the original source matter to make a complete cohesive story that also runs in tune with contemporary political realities.
As with all mythos and historicals, here too the story begins with the childhood elements, to give the narrative more heft.
Sharif un-Nissa (Naisha Khanna), who can easily detect essence ingredients, is forced to flee her home country along with her khala (Shruti Ulfat), for the invading Turks want to enslave her. The journey on camelback, across vast sand dunes, was quite picturesque. Soon, they reach the Mughal India (which also includes current Pakistan) and come across young Salim (Uzair Bashar), who is on his way, along with family, to Humayan’s tomb in modern Afghanistan.
The chasing Turks then decide to imprison the future emperor of India, but Empress Jodha Bai (Gurdeep Punjj) becomes a warrior to save her son. The kids become friends and Jodha lets them stay in the camp overnight. It was a refreshing change to see Gurdeep, who has always played family roles, to don a horse and sword.
The next day, Sharif un-Nissa saves Salim’s life from an assassin, which obviously pleases Emperor Akbar (Shahbaaz Khan), who not only makes them part of the royal entourage, but also gives her the new name of Anarkali, as she is still known as.
Anirudh has pulled out all stops to make Akbar look a very just and brave king as history recalls him. This is demonstrated by things such as his remark that he can forgive sins done against himself, but not against his beloved Hindustan; his religious tolerance (Jodha remained a Hindu); and last but not the least, his attempt to make Salim brave even at possible risk to his life.
There’s just one gaffe. We just did not get how Salim was allowed to get into the arena where a man was battling a lion. And why did Akbar have to jump into the melee? He must have much more trained hunters. The battle with the wild elephant was another attempt to lionize Akbar.
Shahbaaz brings the required seriousness and strength to the character of Akbar The Great. Have we not heard the famous saying– ghar ka bedi Lanka dhaye? Well, something similar is happening in Akbar’s family as well. Older wife, Ruqaiya Begum, wants to become chief queen, which will allow her son Daniyal to take over the throne of Agra. She uses every trick in the book to get Salim out of the way. The above attack that Anarkali thwarted was also her handiwork. Tasnim Sheikh is doing a good job as the main vamp, getting the expressions and dialogues spot on. Her inner circle is as vile as her. She also encourages Daniyal to make Salim a drug addict, which blots the latter life of Emperor Jahangir.
Both child artists are good. We wonder how long the child track will continue before the older Salim (Shaheer Sheikh) and Anarkali (Sonarika Bhadoria) enter, as their love story is the mainstay of the show. But this is TV, and if the opening track gets the numbers, then Shaheer and Sonarika might have to wait a bit longer to show their on-screen romance.
Sonarika is a past master of the genre, having done Mahadev, and more recently, Prithvi Vallabh (also produced by Anirudh). This will be Shaheer’s yet another attempt beyond normal daily drama, post his successful stint in Mahabharat.
Veteran film and TV actress, Aruna Irani, stands out as Akbar’s very powerful mother, Mariyam Makani. Being extremely class conscious, she does not like mere commoners to come close to her grandson. The scene where she gets Salim’s coat burned, which Anarkali was wearing, was a stark reminder of her belief. This also goes to show that women who themselves are products of class and misogyny, play the game with lethal precision, harming their own kin in the process.
We hope to see more of good-looking Piyush Sahdev as Akbar’s Man Friday. His clash with Ruqaya over giving kheer to Salim was interesting.
The on-going track, where Anarkali’s aunt is wrongly charged with theft and banished, is interesting, as Jodha Bai steps up to the plate and so does Salim. We are waiting to see how Anarkali wins her first major battle in life. Shruti Ulfat is among a few TV artists to have been lucky to play all kinds of roles. She was last seen as s cop in a web series.
The historical looks promising with creatively shot visuals. Full marks to Anirudh Pathak for making this show a good visual treat.
IWMBuzz.com will credit this show with 4 stars out of 5.