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News |  29 May 2019 14:46 |  By RnMTeam

Pratibha Singh Baghel on reprising the iconic Umrao Jaan Ada on stage

MUMBAI: Mughal-E-Azam and Umrao Jaan are two of the most revered films in Hindi film history. The performances, the music, and the stories continue to receive many accolades and generous appreciation.

At present 70mm has given these grand stories a break but in the theatrical space it’s being explored. Feroz Abbas Khan’s Musical on these lines completed ten glorious seasons in India and abroad. Now, its Umrao Jaan Ada, directed by Rajeev Goswami, that’s making some noise. The play premiered in Mumbai on 21 May and gears up for a Delhi premier in mid-June. Umrao Jaan Ada is a novel with a poignant story of a courtesan and her life journey. The novel was turned into a movie in the 80s by Muzzafar Ali and the lead role was immortalized by Rekha, which won her a National Award as well as Filmfare.

A common factor in both these magnum opus musicals is Pratibha Singh Baghel.  While she played Bahar in Mughal-E Azam, in Umrao Jaan Ada she reprises the titular role. To say she is ecstatic is an understatement, as she says, “I was called by Salim and Sulaiman Sir in their studio. As happy I was for receiving this opportunity I wasn’t sure as I was already committed to Mughal-E-Azam. I went and shared it with Feroz Sir (Director of Mughal-E-Azam) and he encouraged me to accept and work for this. I am grateful to him for giving me this advice.”

The original movie has timeless songs composed by the legendary Khayyam, sung by none other than Asha Bhosale and performed by the epitome of grace Rekha. The pressure is immense on all of the current stars-Pratibha as the singer and performer and Salim-Sulaiman as the composers. Pratibha shares, “We have three songs from the movie and three original tracks composed by Salim and Sulaiman Sir.”

Speaking of the pressure she says, “Of course, the pressure is immense but we have tried our best. Also, we have tried to be the closest to the novel Umrao Jaan Ada than the movie. However, the comparisons are inevitable.”

Pratibha is a classically trained singer and hails from Rewa in Madhya Pradesh. She began with being a part of music reality shows gradually moving to lend her voice in Hindi films and then being part of two big ticketed musicals like Mughal-E-Azam and Umrao Jaan. She is clearly enjoying this phase and remembers her mentor, Feroze Abbas Khan’s words, “Films are like affairs but theater is like marriage.”

The singer is also grateful to Salim-Sulaiman for giving her this golden opportunity to feature in the grand stage version of Umrao Jaan. Speaking of them, she says, “I knew them before this too but wasn’t very familiar. However, now that I am working with them, I have realized they are such wonderful and understanding people. They really understand how to connect with new talent.”

While the musicals have a long history, the current trend has revived the demand for the same. Apart from Mughal-E-Azam, we have had some international musicals like Aladdin and Sound of Music, which were presented in India. The story of Devdas was presented in a musical format and now we have Umrao Jaan Ada. Being a part of this renaissance, Pratibha thinks this is a positive point in the industry. “I personally think it is a beautiful avenue for artists and the audience. This also gives a chance to artists to explore and gives a chance to a few artists who are very talented but are not working due to lack of opportunities.”

Umrao Jaan Ada was attended by the who’s who of Bollywood and music industry on 21 May and the response has been great. “It was a grand premiere with so many dignitaries attending. However, for us artists, it was also like a zero show or a dress rehearsal as we didn’t get a chance to have one.”