“A is A. To be, is to be something finite, limited and non-contradictory.” – Aristotle
The initial idea for the narrative is a romance story about a prince who falls in love with a working class girl during the Mughal Empire period in India. Their life together is deemed short by the tragedy of the woman’s death, due to her place in the class system, and caused by those of the same class as him. She comes to be trapped in a locked room overnight with 122 others of her social standing where she does not survive.
This is a tragedy. The object is love. The metaphor is capitalism. I will be telling this story and reflecting on capitalism through the theme of the Mughal Empire.
I am especially intrigued by capitalism and as a social issue in today’s world I feed off this as an artist and an explorative mind. I was initially keen to communicate this contemporary problem in my documentary, though would find it hard to subvert against somewhat propaganda art, suggesting it inappropriate for a festival audience. Searching for a theme within the Mughal Empire, I delved into discovering the history of India’s capitalism. In dealing with a world before the industrial revolution, before railway and let alone the internet, one may view this period as the perfect time of capitalism. This is the period of the rise of capitalism in India.
Capitalism is always seen as a wonderful thing as a means of need in society. This is foreshadowing story of life, telling the future; a warning story suggesting the uprise and improvement of capitalism suggests the uprise on the suppression of man’s total freedom.
While the two want to be together and exist in this somewhat ideal world of capitalism, where man is seemed to have ultimate freedom. Man needs reasoning as a means of survival and this freedom is cut off. It is freedom to act by permission. The freedom is cut off. One is not in total control of it them self and thus it is destroyed by the state system. Two classes cannot be together due to defeat of one of the classes caused by people of same social standing as other.
The protagonist is a man of high class, a sultan or a prince. One in the social standing of the minority ruling class, vastly outnumbered by the Hindus, but it does not matter as they are in control of the state.
A relationship is bound with a woman from working class. This woman could be substituted for a male friend from working class, to avoid the cliché Romeo and Juliet love story. Though, I want to evoke as much emotion in the audience as possible, and feel heartbreak is the best way to do this. The two build an unlikely friendship/relationship. In a world where this is not deemed so peculiar, one would not expect tragedy. Though I will add controversy, such as different caste or religion. I feel this is still an important issue in today’s world.
The current emperor will be Aurangzeb, grandson of Akbar, the greatest Mughal emperor. Akbar was perceived as a good ruler:
“Through his reforms and administration and taxation Akbar created a sound and enduring for Mughal Governance, while his tolerant attitude and inclusive policies towards Hindus and Jains helped create a state that was more Indian in character.”
– Asher and Talbot’s ‘India before Europe’
Tolerance was especially important and in 1580 he gave all Muslims the same rights as Muslims, establishing Soulle-et-cout – ‘universal toleration’. He blended Indian and Islamic ideas of kinship, and suggested that he was somewhat divine. He even commissed buildings for theological discussion between all religions.
Historians take less affinity to Aurangzeb, 1658-1707, as the idea is thought that he built an Islamic state which discriminated against Hindus and other non-Muslims which in turn lead to a loss of unity across the Indian sub-continent and eventually the decline of the empire. By the time of Aurangzeb’s death, loss of control over the empire began. The harsh reality of this decline came in 1757 when the British East India Company established itself permanently in Bengal and began efforts to colonise all of India.
Set between 1658 and 1707, under the rule of Aurangzeb.
Because he was interested in science Akbar was interested in a special experiment:
“…He had infants moved to a special house where no person was to talk to them, so that the natural language of mankind might be revealed. The experiment failed but it is a reflection of Akbar’s desire to explore in a scientific manner the nature of humans and what he believed to be their common condition.”
This may be interpreted as the leader trying to understand the underlying connections of all humans no matter their religious backgrounds. Without historical context others might interpret it as horrifying abuse. I want to include this as a scene where the female or friend is trapped inside one of these rooms, either at the beginning as a child (thus during the time of Akbar’s rule) to foreshadow their defeat, or as their final defeat which also somewhat foreshadows the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’ which took place in 1757. This is also inspired by ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
There will be a number of locations, all of which small fortressed or villages surrounded by natural landscape, to appropriate to the period.
I am especially intrigued in capitalism and wanted to explore this in a non-propaganda way. I feel I am surrounded by it in today’s society.
I have also gained a great interest in the Mughal Empire following a film I recently watched called ‘Barijao Mastani’ (2015). This is an epic battle and love story, where the protagonist tries to make the whole of India Hindustani. I was particularly compelled by the cultural and periodic aesthetic.
Mughal India is something which lies close to home as my Sikh ancestry derives in Punjab, India. Though I have been taught more about Rajistan that Mogul. Throughout my life stories have vaguely approached me through means of Khathak and Barathnatiam dance performance, classical musical shows and learning the traditional instrument, santoor. Also many museum trips – I have learnt the most about the empire in Western surroundings.
This time period is important to me, as I acknowledged in the film, as it contains issues which still prevail today. Mainly cast issues and conflict between India and Pakistan. I wanted to examine this tension by looking at the cohesion that once was between India and Persia. Family values continue from this period, some of which are outdated and face issue in a contemporary society. Trying to survive as an Indian female in a modern Western society with old fashioned family values deems itself rather challenging.
Notes on the Mughal Empire
- The most powerful emperors where Akbar and Aurangzeb
- Muslims created an empire in India which held power
- This came to an end after Indian Rebellion of the British
- Delhi sultanate
- Mughal – Persian, arabic word for Mongals
- Descended from Jingus Khan
- In architecture and painting we see a blending of Indian and Persian styles – see how cosmopolitan the empire was
- How to maintain empire
- Small minority ruling class, vastly outnumbered by Hindus
- Relied on military power and pursued expansion of policies
History of Capitalism in India
Major turning point – rise of Indo Islamic empires and spread of their power from Indus – Ganges plains to South (Deccan Plateau) and West (Gujarat). Established reputation as business hubs attracted not only Indian merchants but Dutch and English – England’s East India Company in the coast: Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.
Mughal Empire collapses in 1700s. Hoardes of Indian businesses migrate to Company cities, starving interior of money and talent whereas Indo-European partnerships flourished at ports.
Why Did Capitalism Win?
“If we imagine a world without any “further development” of capitalism in England and Holland after its seventeenth-century victory there, then we are imagining a world dominated by non-capitalist empires (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Ottoman, Persian, Mughal and Chinese). We are imagining a world before the industrial revolution, without railways, let alone the Internet. If capitalism had not developed much more after it originated in England and Holland, the rest of the world might never have been dominated by Europe or become capitalist.”
– Peter Drucker – https://www.solidarity-us.org/node/1020
Primary Research at the Discovery Centre, Leeds
Primary Research at the Royal Armories, Leeds
Primary Research at the American Museum of Natural History and the Metrapolitan Museum, New York
- A history of capitalism in India | South Asia @ LSE (2012) [ONLINE] Available: [Accessed 26th January 2016]
- Dialogue: Why did capitalism win? | Solidarity (2016) [ONLINE] Available: [Accessed 26th January 2016]
- Historyworld | Mughal Empire Timeline (2016) [ONLINE] Available: [Accessed 26th January 2016]
- Capitalism Tour | The Capitalism Site (2016) [ONLINE] Available: [Accessed 26th January 2016]
- The rise of capitalism | International Socialism (2004) [ONLINE] Available: [Accessed 26th January 2016]