On watching Heer Ranjha presented by Thespianz Theatre in collaboration with the PACC in Karachi, the thought that flashed across my mind was loyalty to Waris Shah’s version of the epic tale. In order to make it more entertaining, director Faisal Malik inserted a few dance sequences to lend it a more upbeat and modernised feel.
The stunning Heer was born into a wealthy Jat family of the Sayyal clan in Jhang, Punjab. Ranjha, also a Jat of the Ranjha clan, was the youngest of four brothers and lived in the village of Takht Hazara by the River Chenab (Saubia played Heer on stage whereas Atif Khan played Ranjha, the latter also being the choreographer along with Baber Ali).
Ranjha was his father’s favorite son and unlike his brothers who toiled in the lands, he led a life of ease while playing the flute. After a quarrel with his brothers, Ranjha left home and eventually arrived in Heer’s village. Heer offered him a job as caretaker of her father’s cattle and gradually she was mesmerised by Ranjha’s flute-playing skills and the two eventually fell in love. They kept meeting secretly until Heer’s jealous uncle, Qaido, and her parents, Chuchak and Malki, separated them. Heer was forced to marry another while a heartbroken Ranjha wandered the land until he finally reached the village where Heer had been living after marriage. When they met, love prevailed despite tragedy.
The union of Heer and Ranjha was symbolised on the Thespianz stage by a dance number on Abida Parveen’s famous number, Yaar ko Hum Ne Ja-baja Dekha. The choreography was decent while for the other dance number there was a strong Bollywood flavour in the form of Ishq Sufiyana by Rahat Fateh Ali to spice things up. Layyan Layyan Mein Tere Nal Dholna (Naseebo Lal), Tere Baajray di Rakhee (Anjuman) and Be-parwa Dhoola (Abbas Ali Khan) were also included in the song list. All the performers largely remained convincing in their respective roles and deserve praise for their effort. As for the technical glitches, they happen all the time and passed off somewhat unnoticed.
Finally, it is said that the lovers remain buried in Heer’s hometown, Jhang, and many present-day lovebirds regularly visit their shrine to pray and offer fateha.