Dubai: Begum Akhtar's legacy celebrated in mega-biopic featuring 40 Malhaar artists

Grand production 'Haaye Akhtari' celebrates the legend's musical legacy with live music, theatre and dance


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Begum Akhtar. Photo: Supplied
Begum Akhtar. Photo: Supplied

Published: Mon 16 Oct 2023, 7:33 PM

Dubai-based Malhaar Centre for Performing Arts is all set to bring an Indian musical based on the life and music of Ghazal Queen Begum Akhtar on Saturday, October 28, at 7:30pm at the Emirates International School auditorium, Jumeirah.

The show follows the legend's inspiring story of courage against all odds, a woman's struggle in volatile and systemically oppressive times, and her search for true artistic mastery.

The Indian Broadway show, in Malhaar's signature style, will trace the legend's personal and professional journey from Bibi Sayyed to Akhtari Bai Faizabadi to Begum Akhtar.

From the poignant episodes of her life to her soul-stirring romance with music, 'Haaye Akhtari' will take music lovers through the many facets of the artist and her art.

Artists from the Malhaar Centre for Performing Arts. Photo: Suppllied
Artists from the Malhaar Centre for Performing Arts. Photo: Suppllied

"Haaye Akhtari depicts the pain and loneliness that honed Begum Akhtar's singing," said Jogiraj Sikidar, the Founder-Director of Malhaar Centre for Performing Arts and the artiste who conceptualised the musical.

The storyline is dotted with anecdotes narrated to Sikidar by his Guru, Rita Ganguly, Begum Akhtar's disciple. "It tells the story of how a young girl named Bibbi came to be one of the best singers of the country and some hidden facets of her life," said Sikidar.

Her life story is laced generously with soulful renditions of Ghazals, Thumris and Dadras that have become synonymous with Begum Akhtar.

"Malhaar has raised the bar, especially for Hindustani Classical Musicals. Audiences can expect to be regaled by a dazzling show combining live music, dance, and the theatre in a breath-taking journey through the life and times of one of Indian music's foremost icons," said Sikidar.

"Music is Malhaar's forte, and the Indian classical music hub has in its repertoire some of the finest musicians and singers in Dubai. They will all be on stage, performing live. The experience is one not to be missed," said Sikidar.

Composing this musical tribute has not been easy, given the sensitive storyline and iconic music.

"The script needed to be one that covered both the broad strokes as well as the nuances of the icon's incredible story. Fortunately, I had access via Jogiraj to some very personal stories of her life, as well as tons of research material," said Sanjeev Dixit, the writer & director of Haaye Akhtari.

"Primarily a writer in English, I had the help of my long-term collaborator Sunil Jasuja to translate the dialogues into Hindi/Urdu. Then came the task of fusing the elements of music, dance, and the theatre into a cohesive whole. Malhaar has always challenged my limits and pushed me out of my comfort zone. In the end, though, working with some of the region's most talented musicians, singers, dancers, and actors is any Director's dream."

Rich and elaborate costumes, luscious Urdu and spectacular visual effects will transport the audience to Lucknow's Nawaabi era. The show will also focus on how the legend came into her own in an era where professional female singers fought for an identity. From her flamboyant celebrity lifestyle to her haunting loneliness, 'Haaye Akhtari' will explore the enigma of Begum Akhtar.

In short, Begum Akhtar's life is a journey in search of Taaseer (soulful singing). "In a world obsessed with the here and now, with immediate gratification, I would hope the audience walk away with the sense of the lifelong strife it can be to achieve the pinnacle of artistic achievement," said Dixit.


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