Agha Hashr wrote this play in 1910, in Hyderbad Deccan, where it was first performed. In the next ten years the play was staged in different cites of India under different titles: “Silver King,” “Na-Aqibat Andesh,” “Achuta Daman”, “Pakdaman” and, in one or two places, “Nek Perveen”. It was an enormous box office success. It provided Hashr with enough money to form, once again, his own production house. He called it the “New Indian Shakespeare Company”. “Indian Shakespeare” was the sobriquet bestowed upon him by the Parsi impresarios.
In the hey-day of Urdu Theatre (1860-1925) no other dramatist achieved the kind of fame that Hashr did. His heightened prose was better written than his contemporaries and his poetry had a greater depth. A play, carrying his name, automatically ensured a success for its producers.
Hashr did not write drama; he wrote melodrama, the popular genre of the 19th century. A melodrama is a sensational dramatic piece with crude appeals to the emotions and, usually a happy ending. It is interspersed with songs. The audience loved the rhyming prose and the exchange of stanzas. In Hashr’s plays the conventions of melodrama remain intact: disguised husbands remain unrecognized even by their wives; reprobate hero repents at the end; dastardly villains meet their comeuppance.
In keeping with the practice adopted by his predecessors, Hashr’s melodramas also included comic episodes which had no bearing on the main story of the play. The low-comedy scenes were known as “comics”. They were written in a language replete with double entendres and, invariably, depicted the wrangles of a miserly husband and a spendthrift wife, or a slanging match between a cocky menial and a cheeky maid.
Hashr wrote his comic scenes at the behest of his Parsi producers (some of whom were major actors of his era) who loved playing the comic parts. Interestingly enough, the comic episodes of the melodrama, known as ‘Comics’, were published long before the publication of the actual play.
It is important to bear in mind that in the theatre developed by the Parsis in India, the epitome of acting was the stylized manner in which the emotional scenes was delivered. The actor who “tore a passion to tatters” and “split the ears of the groundlings” was considered a supreme maestro. There was no concept of “holding a mirror upto nature”. The actors were encouraged to mouth their speeches and speak like the town-crier.
The characters in the play are symbols (of evil, of goodness, of virtue and of villainy) and not human beings. Realism and naturalism came into being in the Indian theatre only in the post Edwardian era.