You could be forgiven for thinking that the whole world was against the romance
of Andrew and Pooja. Sparsh only keeps getting better, and for a book reading,
this is perhaps a benchmark for many. And with a cast led by the headmistress
of the Hyderabad Public School, the scripting team including Bilkiz Alladin and
Supriya Karunakaran, and the audience including some of the leading lights of
local academia and civic executive, this was a performance that will be remembered
as much for personalities as for ambience and content.
Khairunnissa was a girl of Nawabi lineage who fell in love with James Kirkpatrick, a British Major in Lord Wellesley's time who was famous for being instrumental in establishing the rule of the East India Company in the Deccan. Her tale is one of love and of opposition to it even after marriage. Kirkpatrick built her a palace that stands as one of the monuments of Hyderabad - it is now the University College For Women at Koti. And that is what made this rendition all the more appealing - it happened right in the original location, making you think time and again that this was the place that the man and the lady walked in, talked in and battled all those odds in.
The play, a reading of Alladin's "For The Love Of A Begum", and directed by Supriya Karunakaran, had Pooja Goswami in the role of Khairunnissa, Andrew in the role of Kirkpatrick and Geeta Shyamsunder as the narrator and the grandmother of Khairunnissa (Shyamsunder is the headmistress of the Hyderabad Public School), along with three supporting actors. Goswami was quite animated as Khairunnissa, and is clearly talented. Andrew was fine enough for a starter. Shyamsunder played her role with maturity and was an able anchor. The costumes and the make-up did a good job of invoking the period that it was set in.
The play had contribution from several persons - as Chandana of Sparsh gave her vote of thanks, there appeared to be more individuals on the stage than it could probably handle! Like we said, Sparsh is adding on new talent continuously and evolving into a fine group.
A word needs to be said for the edifice - we had opportunity to look at only Hyder Mahal, and it is majestic, archetypal of ancient Islamic architecture. The high (really!) ceiling, the vast columns and pillars, the chandeliers, the artwork - they all transport you into a bygone era if you are willing to let your imagination take over. You should visit it once.