Luminato 2011 Review – TAJ (Sampradaya Dance Creations)

TAJ is the story about the King who created the Taj Mahal: an epic tale about yearning, passion, true love and loss. I was about seven years old when I visited the Taj Mahal in Agra, India and remember my mom telling me the story about a Moghul King, Shah Jahan, who builds this mausoleum as a tribute to his beloved wife, Mumtaz. I was fascinated by the grandeur and sheer beauty of the building and that sense of wonderment has stayed with me since.

Over 20 years later I am just as excited at the prospect of watching this story of the TAJ come to life. The production is magnificent and does justice to this timeless love story. The play opens with a Sufi dancer whirling in abandonment to mystical Islamic music.

The rest of the journey through this play is filled with musicality and beautifully choreographed dances. Every movement, every step is so graceful and fluid in true Kathak style. The music is a perfect fit and enhances the mood of the play every step of the way.

We see that King Shah Jahan has grown to be a lonely old man living through his final days. His selfish and cruel son has succeeded as his heir and has taken over the kingdom, making the King a prisoner in his own palace. His only reprieve is to re-live his glory days by retelling his tragic love story to his loving and patient daughter who has heard it a thousand times.

The costumes are breathtaking and very accurate for the time period. The dialogue is powerful, almost poetic.

The props are minimal, just a bed and a cushion on the floor for the most part, but the backdrops created using fabrics are beautiful and add colour and whimsy to the set. The lighting is unbelievably stunning and mesmerizing. It has a hypnotic quality that draws you in.

TAJ has a stellar cast and crew with high calibre actors like Kabir Bedi as King Shah Jahan and Lisa Ray as his daughter. Lata Pada is the artistic director, John Murrell is the playwright and Tom Diamond is the director. The play took me on a nostalgic, emotional journey that stayed with me after I left.

If you ever get a chance to watch this production you owe it to yourself to watch it. I have never said this about a play before but I would love to see this again. Take in the beauty, the sights, the sounds and cherish every moment of it.


Photo credit:

Lisa Ray in TAJ