Kohinoor: A movie on stage
A Broadway style musical based on the facts around Kohinoor, the world’s most celebrated diamond
The largest cut diamond in the world, the magnificent Kohinoor, is claimed to be weighing 105.6 carats (21.12 g) and one of the most priced part of the British Crown Jewels. If one wishes to see this world famous diamond, it is on public display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London where it is seen by millions of visitors each year. The governments of India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have all claimed rightful ownership of the Kohinoor and demanded its return ever since India gained Independence in 1947. But The British government insists the gem was obtained legally under the terms of the Last Treaty of Lahore and has rejected the claims. So this precious jewel of India still remains in London.
If you are a history lover and want to know what really happened to the Kohinoor then I suggest you the witness the new larger than life Broadway style show, Kohinoor – The Musical, which is choreographed by my superbly talented friend Sudarshan Chakraborty of Sapphire Creations from Kolkata. This show is no fiction; it is a live movie on stage with lights by Dinesh Poddar, sound engineer Goutam Basu, makeup Abhijit Chanda and costumes by Utsab Ganguly.
Based on facts around the world’s most celebrated diamond, Kohinoor – The Musical was premiered on World Music Day but since then has been doing successful houseful runs. Trust me when I say that this musical has a lot to reveal. This riot of colours show has young and very talented aerial dancer Pallabi Haldar in the role of Kohinoor which has been reflected in mortal form.
The stage opens with the young maharaja Duleep Singh at gunpoint from East India Company and ends with Singh’s settlement in London. But in between the audience goes through a time machine, starting from the regime of Alauddin Khilji to the Mughals to the Persian invader Nadir Shah, then back to the arms of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It is one of the spiciest tales of bloodshed, love, emotion, action, adventure and facts.
The immaculate stagecraft which includes live courts of the Mughals to Persian Durbars along with cut-glass chandeliers moving on to stage with the peacock throne in exact real sizes to immaculate harness acts. Kohinoor – The Musical is a visual delight. Nevertheless, one also travels to the English court at the finale stage.
The music is ranging from symphonies to thumris, Middle Eastern style songs to Sufi, the soundscape changes as Kohinoor moves from space to space, time to time, century to century and also monarch to monarch. Indeed, a visual treat where amazing set of young musicians and singers perform live for the live audience.
Kathak to new-age creative forms, jazz to Sufi twirls. The dance on its own right celebrates extensive forms, all of which Sudarshan has aptly and exclusively choreographed for the scenes. A well-researched set of costumes dazzle your eyes with perfection head to toe, I might sound funny but honestly the range is more than an international fashion parade.
The concept of the show was developed by Sourendra and Saumyojit, very famous musical duo who are known for their experimental work and particularly experimenting and re contextualising the use of music and Tagore songs. It has been the concept of this unique story of the gem Kohinoor from the mines of Khilji to the crown of Queen Victoria.
A show of this calibre and this magnitude is rare to see in India and I feel proud that Sudarshan took up this challenge and delivered what many can only dream of. Let me tell you Sudarshan is a veteran of contemporary dance from Kolkata. He brought in a revolution of a sort in the world of dance when he started choreographing over 25 years back. His forte is very unique where he blends contemporary dance with Indian and Bengal sensibilities and he adds more beauty to his choreographies with loads of context and correlations from teaching of Rabindranath Tagore.
I took this opportunity to shoot a few questions to my marvellously talented friend who recently won the prestigious ‘Stagecraft Award 2018’ instituted by Padma Shri Usha Uthup for excellence in stage choreography for his diamond.
How was it choreographing a huge production like Kohinoor?
A production like Kohinoor integrates dancers, actors, musicians and singers all together. The challenge was to put them all on the same page. So, initially for a month we had workshops and grooming sessions with everyone together so that the entire team can orient together towards Kohinoor.
What went behind Kohinoor?
The show has in all 100 cast and crew members so the journey started when we had different team leaders. We had a huge backup support of costume designers, light designers, prop & set designers, backstage management, audio visual designer, from bills to the real stage and to the reality of logistics. The Kohinoor journey has been incredible.
What difficulties did you face during its making?
We faced two big difficulties. One was in regards to the venue. Kolkata is the cultural hub of India but the auditoriums available are not equipped to handle such a mega scale production. So even for rehearsals, we had to move to the outskirts of the city and our travel time was almost two-and-a-half hours one way. Other issue was that there are not too many historical evidence of Kohinoor so we were depended on information through books and few documents. Therefore, many sponsors and financial institutions did not even realise what we were making. Many of our own community people discouraged us and did not believe in us but finally they realised the outcome only when they saw the first show.
Share some fun moments with us…
We had a few foreigners in the cast who were playing the part of Queen Victoria, Lord Dalhousie and others. It was hilarious and very interesting when we spoke Bangla in the rehearsals and they were clueless of what was happening around them but behaved as if they understood it all and even tried to implement what they did not understand. But see how we all bonded and the love for Kohinoor prevailed because by the end of it all they did understand what was happening, such is the universal language of dance and music.
What next in line for Kohinoor?
We have many shows lined up of Kohinoor in Kolkata itself. Producer Sourendro and director Soumyojit have the vision to taking it to other cities in India and abroad as a product of the City of Joy. I am glad Kohinoor has set a benchmark for musicals in Kolkata and now it is time for all to enjoy the show which is regularly entertaining the people and the visitors to the city.
Kohinoor is one show that takes you on a journey which is completely an eye-opener. It is a total visual treat splashed of with colours and loads and loads of dance and music. I suggest, like me, you also make a trip to Kolkata not only to visit Kali Ghat, Victoria Memorial, Howrah Bridge and the Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity but add Kohinoor – The Musical to that list.