Mughal-e-Azam director Feroz Abbas Khan: 'Raunaq & Jassi presents a huge opportunity to reinvent myself'
After creating a musical spectacle like Mughal-e-Azam, which has earned cult status across India, veteran theatre director Feroz Abbas Khan returns with another musical, Raunaq & Jassi. An adaptation of Shakespeare's classic love story Romeo and Juliet, this story is set in rural Punjab and explores the long-standing hatred between two feuding families, the Jagirdar and Chaudhary clans, while it witnesses a compelling journey of separation and hatred, accelerated by love.
Besides original writing and foot-tapping Punjabi folk music, the musical has its costumes designed by Manish Malhotra and choreography by Mayuri Upadhya. Ahead of its premiere in Mumbai, we speak to the director Feroz Abbas Khan and understand what’s in store for the audience and the challenges of bringing another production after giving a masterpiece like Mughal-e-Azam. Excerpts:
Q: Please briefly take us through your play, Raunaq & Jassi?
Raunaq & Jassi is a celebration of love. The driving philosophy behind the play is that love is fundamental to humanity and hate will eventually be defeated. It is a musical with live singing and while inspired by the 16th-century classic Romeo & Juliet, it is nevertheless a completely original piece of writing.
Q: What’s in store for the audience, another Mughal-e-Azam?
The team of Mughal-e-Azam has reunited for Raunaq & Jassi and is committed to giving audiences a memorable theatre experience. We have a very important addition in Iqbal Raj who has written the original script and lyrics. His work is simply outstanding.
Q: What made you set Romeo and Juliet set in rural Punjab? Any particular reason to make this story Indianised and Punjabi?
Punjab is a land that has given us some of the finest love stories and it resonates in its literature, Music, Dance and other art expressions. It became a natural choice for me and Iqbal.
Q: Although you are a veteran in the industry, with Mughal-e-Azam, you set another benchmark for yourself and the theatre industry, how difficult was it to work on another story? Is there too much pressure?
I know there will be inevitable comparisons. For me, Raunaq & Jassi presents a huge opportunity to reinvent myself and a huge challenge to convince the audience that there is life beyond Mughal-e-Azam.
Q: How has Mughal-e-Azam changed/shaped the theatre industry? And, what was your biggest learning from the musical?
Mughal-e-Azam has shown us the possibility of creating world-class production. My biggest learning - respect the masterpiece to carry forward the legacy but don’t destroy the masterpiece to draw attention to your piece.
Produced by BookMyShow, the play premieres on November 28 at the Mukesh Patel Auditorium, Mumbai