Every single trip I took to Old Anarkali bazaar in Lahore as a youth had one hidden motive: Try to guess which wall is Anarkali, the nautch-girl who dared love the Emperor’s son, cemented in. I used to think she was still alive and peeking through little holes in the wall, observing the world. A bit morbid, I must admit.
The legend of the love between Prince Salim (later to become Emperor Jahangir (c. 1605-26)) and a commoner Anarkali must have some roots in folklore but I am a bit lazy to dig it up right now. The story goes as follows: The prince and the girl fall in love. Emperor Akbar deems the romance against the royal wishes. The prince rebels and is sentenced to death. Anarkali steps forward and says that she will sacrifice her life instead but to spend one night with her lover. They have that one night. In the morning, the palace guards take her away and she is sandwiched alive in a brick wall.
This tale was told in the 1922 Urdu play, Anarkali written by Syed Imitiaz Ali Taj. Taj was a good ole’ Lahori boy who was very much into the seedy life-style of mujaras that took place around the old gates of Lahore. He sought to capture for eternity one of those nautch-girls and I doubt it existed before that. Several film versions followed but the most famous was the Indian epic Mughal-e Azam (1960). I watched it as a child and must have been where I got fixated on Anarkali’s final resting place (there is a tomb of Anarkali in the bazaar, though).
Anyways, all that is relevant today because Field-Marshall-to-be is coming to NY on September 22 and part of his shindig is to attend a special screening on Broadway of Anarkali. The high-entry fee play is to benefit the UN Human Development Fund. Zia Mohiyudin is narrating. The “script, direction, costumes and music” of this version are by Rizwan Beyg, a fashion designer, as quoted in this Jang interview and the twist he is putting on the age-old tale is that Anarkali was actually Noor Jehan. Ok.
Which seems to be the same twist in a play by Sohail Malik and his wife Shaiyanne Malik entitled, Anarkali Through The Eyes Of Noor Jahan (The Legend Of The Entombed Flower) that was performed in 2003. These writers have claimed in court that the Broadway show is ripping them off without credit and sued against any public showing of their play and have won! Except, that the the organizers of the NY shindig are still going forward with it. Here are some details, plus cool artwork of the invites, about the case.
All of which still leaves me wondering, which wall is Anarkali in?