A new play based on the life and career of Indian singer and dancer Gauhar Jaan is set to premier in London this October.
Written by Mahesh Dattani and directed by Lillete Dubey, Gauhar tells the story of a musical icon who recorded more than 600 songs between 1902 and 1920. She is also remembered as a feisty independent woman whose personal life was as mesmerising as her professional one.
The play has taken inspiration from Vikram Sampath’s book My Name is Gauhar Jaan: The Life and Times of a Musician. A cast of seven actors tell the performer’s story in English and perform songs in Hindustani.
Born Eileen Angelina Yeoward to an Armenian father and an Indian mother, Gauhar’s parents separated when she was five years old. She was raised by her mother who decided to convert to Islam, taking the name Malika Jaan.
Her mother’s love of music, poetry and dance proved inspirational and before long Gauhar became a much sought-after performer, commanding huge rates for appearances at the royal courts of North India. Accomplished at singing several genres of Hindustani classical music, she also became known for her larger than life behaviour and tempestuous personal life.
After coming to the attention of sound engineer Fred Gaisberg, Gauhar began her recording career in 1902. She was selected to perform a duet at the Delhi Durbar of 1911, held for the coronation of George V, grandfather to Queen Elizabeth II.
The stage production sees Rajeshwari Sachdev and Zila Khan, daughter of Ustad maestro Vilayat Khan, play the lead character at different ages. Actor Denzil Smith doubles up as recording engineer Fred Gaisberg and Gauhar’s father, William Robert Yeoward. Danny Sura, Gillian Pinto, Rajeev Siddhartha and Parinaz Jal, complete the lineup.
Gauhar runs from Tuesday, October 11 until Saturday, October 15 at Watermans art centre in Brentford, west London. Performances start at 7.45pm with a matinee due to be held on October 15 at 3pm. For more information and tickets, visit www.watermans.org.uk