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July 3, 2018
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Love is eternal

Karachi

July 3, 2018

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Love is an emotion that has mystified man over the ages. It is an enigma. Yet, on one thing we all have to agree; it is the most beautiful of human emotions. It knows no barriers of caste, colour, creed, tribe, or clan, and transcends all man-made obstacles to human relations.

This was precisely the theme of Daastaan-e-Ishaq, a replay of the legendary Punjabi folklore, Heer-Ranjha, staged at the Arts Council on Thursday night.

Sponsored by Starlinks PR, the play takes us on a nostalgic cultural jaunt through Punjab, to the story of the two lovers, Heer and Ranjha, the Punjabi sequel to Romeo and Juliet. It is the story of a girl who has the courage to defy the age-old tribal and feudal values that relegate women to a level of lesser human beings, where a woman is not treated as a human being in her own right but has to subordinate her wishes, her likes and dislikes to the whims of her elders, the male ones in particular.

Here’s the story of a young woman who stands up to these values and asserts her own identity, refusing to be herded around, and making it clear that she’s as much a human being as the others.

Her elders, including her mother chide and chastise her and order her to desist from meeting her lover, Ranjha. She resolutely resists their opposition to the affair. Both of them continue to meet each other and taste the pleasure in their ecstatic, loving relationship, despite the muted and sometimes highly vocal condemnations of the village folk. Finally, Heer is made to marry another man in the village, a move that she successfully resists.

Ultimately, on the prodding of the village headman, the Heer-Ranjha marriage is sanctioned. The marriage takes place with all the traditional pomp but things are not destined to be as happy as they look. As Heer is boarding the palanquin for departure to her new home, a wily old uncle, in the guise of a blessing, gives her a “candy”, which actually is a poison. Heer is dead by the time she reaches her new home. Ranjha being too stricken with grief also dies. Thus comes a tragic end to a happy situation.

The dénouement comes when at the end, a character says, “Lovers who can’t meet in this world, meet in the hereafter and live happily ever after.” In other words, “Love is eternal”.

All the cast members performed their roles most profoundly but Sabiha Zia as Heer and Umair Rafiq as Ranjha outshone all the others.

Added to this was the highly melodious and appropriate musical interlude of the traditional Heer Waris Shah, the lilting, melancholy flute rendition, deftly played by Muhammad Siddiq, and the Dhol played by Raja, not to miss out Rida Ali, the female voice that made the folklore come alive. Siddiq Maseeh on the Teen Tara was another highly promising performance. The musical accompaniment to the play was so reminiscent of the Punjab and the Punjabi folklore which forms such an inseparable part of our cultural heritage.

Even though all about Punjab, the play was in Urdu to cater to the requirements of Karachi’s theatre fans.

Another highly innovative idea was the wall-to-wall mural of the verdant Punjab landscape along the Chenab, the venue of the legendary episode.

The play runs up until July 8 -- a must-see for those who value cultural heritage, take pride in it and staunchly advocate its preservation.

As the chief guest, Dr Junaid Shah, interim Sindh minister for sports, said, “We have a golden cultural heritage and we must endeavour to preserve every bit of it.”

Kudos to Zarqa Naz for her really astute direction. Keep it up! Such events can be a real means of overcoming ethnic and provincial consciousness and weld the nation into a cultural, homogenous unit.

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