On a pleasant Friday evening, people gathered at Lamakaan to get a glimpse into the life of Mah Laqa Bai Chanda, the famous 18th century Urdu poet, the first to have an anthology of her own. Directed by Vinay Varma and written by Oudesh Rani Bawa, the play is a monologue that focuses on her journey during the Nizam Ali Khan’s reign.
Popularly known as Chanda Bai, she was a courtesan who fought against all odds and made a place for herself in the Deccani history. She was not only an excellent poet, but had also mastered the skills of archery and horse riding. Ratika Sant Keswani, who portrayed the role of Mah Laqa Bai Chanda, narrated some interesting and courageous tales as part of the play.
As the play progresses, the actor takes us through many phases of the life of this poet. She brought to light her childhood and growing years which were spent under the guidance of her maternal aunt. Then, she went on to share how the great poet also took part in the three major wars as part of the Nizam Army. Impressed by her skills the then Nizam showered her with some jagirs and conferred upon her the title of Mah Laqa.
One can observe the happiness in her voice, when she spoke about her achievements, and similarly, can feel the pride when she addresses herself as Nacheez. Some parts of the play portray a ferocious side of her, the other parts of the play focus on her philanthropic and motherly side. Sharing an instance, the actor shows how Chanda Bai saved one crore rupees for women’s welfare.
Talking about the political scenario of those times, she recalls how both French and British were eager to gain power over Hyderabad. Despite being a monologue, the actor made the play feel wholesome. Her expressions and dialogue delivery kept the audience hooked to their seats till the end. Apart from the brilliant performance, what gave the play completeness is the setting, which was fittingly well-designed for a grand performance about a major figure.