Music to all ears, epic Heer Ranjha comes to life once again
Staging an epic folklore, especially a tragic one, is always an uphill task, that too when it has to be translated for the audience. But with its opening at Arts Council this week, Waris Shah’s evergreen ‘Heer Ranjha’ – Punjabi tale popularised in 1776 – stirred an umpteenth set of audience once again.
Garnering a great deal of praise from the audience on its opening day, the musical, directed by Zain Ahmad and helmed by The Citizens Foundation (TCF) would also help the organisation in fundraising.
Following the script of the movie filmed on the tale, written by Indian poet Kaifi Azmi in 1970, the play was slightly tweaked to bring it in line with modern times. While the epic tale is known for its grandeur, Azmi’s script is extremely popular owing to the rhyming scheme used in the dialogues.
The Punjabi tragedy revolves around a man named Ranjha (Hasan Raza), who hails from Hazara and falls in love with Heer (Sanam Saeed), who belongs to Jhang. The lovers are well aware that their villages are against each other owing to the differences in their sects, but they allow their love to blossom through secret meetings.
However, they are soon caught by Heer’s vindictive uncle, Kaidu (Meesam Naqvi) who brings them before Heer’s father (Arshad Mahmud) and mother (Samina Ahmad).
Heer’s parents first decide to wed her off to Saida (Zain Nazar) but then agree upon marrying the two lovers and burying the hatchet. But Kaidu misleads Ranjha’s family to the point that eventually Heer is married in a sordid wedding ceremony to Saida after the Qazi (Nazarul Hasan) is also bribed.
However, the lovers are reunited when Ranjha, now living as a spiritual devotee, comes to the village Heer was sent off to. Much to the plight of the two lovers they are again caught, this time by Saida. He takes them to the court, but here the Qazi admits that the marriage between Saida and Heer stood null and void since Heer never consented to it.
The court decides that Heer and Ranjha be married, but Kaidu schemes otherwise and presents a poisoned laddu to Heer who dies after consuming it. Her death is followed by Ranjha’s who is devastated at the idea of living without the love of his life, hence, takes his own life.
The musical was a treat to watch especially because of old famous compositions such ‘Do Dil Tootay’, ‘Milo Na Tum Tou’ and ‘Ye Dunya Ye Mehfil’ among others, altered to suit the feel of the play.
Music director Nigel Bobby’s work was commendable. Both Sanam and Hasan also sang some of their respective parts. Raza’s performance as a forlorn lover could, however, be improved, while Sanam’s work was laudable. But it was perhaps Naqvi as Kaidu who was spot-on as a vile man who makes sure jealousy devours all those around him.
The musical could have done justice to the ending of the epic if the last scene was perhaps given more time because it failed to leave a mark, one that a reader usually gets after only reading the tragedy.
All in all, the musical should be a must-watch on the list of theatregoers, especially those who long for the 70s cinema. It is beautifully crafted and it’s not every day that actors like Samina Ahmad and Arshad Mahmud take to stage. The play will be staged till September 11 in the city, to be followed by Lahore and Faisalabad.