Tea India UK
Cancer Research UK
Mental Health Media
Governor (Accounting Experience)
Elephant Atta
College of Policing

‘Our greatest challenge was to recreate its music’

MASTERFUL: Salim (left)
and Sulaiman Merchant (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)
MASTERFUL: Salim (left) and Sulaiman Merchant (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

WHETHER it were the early days of 19th century courtesans, movie adaptations or a new stage show, music has always been intrinsic to the legend of Umrao Jaan.

For stage production Umrao Jaan Ada: The Musical, ace music duo Salim Sulaiman have masterminded the music, which includes recreating classic compositions Khayyam delivered for the 1981 movie version and adding new songs.

It adds to the impressive range of blockbuster musical projects delivered by the Merchant brothers.

Eastern Eye caught up with Salim Merchant to find out more about Umrao Jaan Ada: The Musical.

What made you want to get involved with Umrao Jaan Ada: The Musical?
As a child, I grew up listening to the music of Umrao Jaan. In fact, my introduction to Hindi film music in the early 1980s was through Umrao Jaan. When we decided to produce a big musical, the very first name that came to me was Umrao Jaan.

Tell us about the work you have done on it?
We wanted to retain the timeless melodies of Khayyam saab with its original arrangements. We wanted to bring out the tradition of Lucknow through its music and dance. We’ve brought in a touch of classical music and Kathak to this classic giving a grand and beautiful scale to the mujra style of dancing.

Which of the original songs from the 1981 film have been retained in the musical production?
All the songs by Khayyam saheb have been incorporated beautifully in the musical.
How does doing music for theatre compare to films and standalone pop songs?
It’s a far cry from films. It is live and has a grand sound. We have to ensure the music is emotional and moving to give the audience an amazing audio-visual experience, as well as keep the tradition and authenticity of the story.

What was the greatest challenge with this project?
The greatest challenge was to recreate its music. I’m a big fan of Khayyam saab. To recreate his songs with the original arrangements, keeping the sound authentic was a challenge. To find the perfect singer and performer to play Umrao Jaan was another task. Lastly, it was to compose four original songs as Khayyam saab would have done it.

What has the response been like in India?
Simply incredible. We started of in Delhi. We wanted the show to do well on its merit. It started slow, but ended with a full house in Mumbai.

Why should we come watch the musical?
It’s an incredible audio-visual experience that takes you back to 19th century Lucknow – the city of nawabs, with a grand musical extravaganza.