Scripted by Ajay Shukla, Tajmahal Ka Tender explores the possibility of emperor Shahjahan coming alive in today’s time. Even though this marvel has been performed in Delhi numerous times with the most famous one being the one by Chitaranjan Tripathi in 1996, winning the Mohan Rakesh Samman and becoming one of the most performed plays in theatre circuits.
With numerous adaptations and theatrical styles, it has evolved on numerous stages to have its own distinctive flavour each time. It traces the journey of making of the Tajmahal by Shahjahan, after it has been allotted to one ‘Gupta ji’ a chief engineer who takes forever to pass the tender. The supreme emperor giving orders to engineers, contractors, babus, politicians, social workers et al, and how they take him for a roller-coaster ride, this play takes a humorous take on the entire issue. Even the king is not exempted from bureaucracy and its ‘chakkars,’ Shukla has indeed delivered a masterpiece.
But sadly, this performance by Gajraj Nagar with his group was a disappointment and that too a major one. The cast was ineffective, the tweaking of Shahjahan’s character to give it an effeminate touch was of bad taste and the entire play was very badly coordinated. The characters kept popping out of nowhere with none of them having an idea of what they are doing and the little ‘sardar’ act that they kept on repeating was a drag. Perhaps the director needs to sit with his crew and teach them the basics of proscenium like- voice modulation, clarity, stage management and improvisation.