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Punjabi Classic: Heer Ranjha (1970)…vs. Heer Ranjha (1970)

March 23, 2010

No, no! I don’t like to start a India-Pakistan thing going on over here. And I’m not going to argue which movie is better, because generally I’m not THAT capable enough, but mostly I don’t like these comparisons (and also, I don’t top ten lists, and i’ll make a top ten list of things I don’t like one of these days). I wanted to see Heer Ranjha (The Pakistani version i.e.) for a couple of months now, and I managed to find a copy of it on youtube. However, a basic search made me realize that there is a more popular Indian dramatization of the same story, which was also released in 1970 (See, I really don’t know/didn’t care about old Bollywood until recently, and eh sometimes it works for me, sometimes I doesn’t). I managed to get my hands on the Indian version recently, and watched both these versions back to back.

Background info, for all you unwiki-ed. So, Heer Ranjha story one of the four sob stories of Punjab, with the work of Waris Shah (1722-1798) being the most famous. The story basically revolves around this idiotic Dheedo Ranjha guy who falls for this classic village femme fatale from a Jatt family (this calls for some good o’ gandasa fight, no?). Ranjha seduces the girl to submission with his flute but the zaalim samajh (and a particularly annoying and frustrated Uncle of Heer’s, Kaidoo) gets in the way and they wed Heer off to someone who is also landowning, like them. How the things have changed! Ranjha goes all cuckoo over it, joins a cult, stalks Heer to her village, emotionally blackmails the shit out of her sister-in-law, gets caught because of his bad planning, and…. Long story short… eventually gets his Heer, but she dies after she is poisoned by that mofo Kaidoo, and Ranjha then dies as well. It is so typical of these eternal love stories. Tsk Tsk! No wonder I’m jaded about the whole concept of love.

ANYWAYS….  (I’ve realized, that I need more pictures, and less words for these reviews.. makes my life easier)

Lets start of the Indian Heer Ranjha, starring Raj Kapoor and Priya Rajvansh, which mostly in Hindi/Urdu. What bowled me over about this film was that the whole narrative was in couplets.

It was brilliant! Also, I think I fell for this woman a bit. She’s divine!

.. and a couple of brilliant songs.

First one, is a beautiful sad song by Lata, when Heer and Ranjha are separated.

The second one is another beautiful song, by Mohammad Rafi, when Ranjha is all busy being a wandering Jogi, after Heer is married off

Although, the movie was great and very well made and I enjoyed it, I just couldn’t relate to the story vis-a-vis what I was expecting to see.I suppose, the language was the main issue there. For some odd reason, The story of Heer Ranjha is wired to be Punjabi in my head, and I couldn’t imagine the film without the quintessential Heer recitals in Punjabi (A few versions of Heer are available at this fine website Folk Punjab). Though the film had a wider appeal, there was something missing, which made me go to the Pakistani Punjabi version.

As for the Pakistani Heer Ranjha was also released in 1970, coincidentally. The lead roles were played by Ejaz and Firdous (and yes this movie had a bit of cameo by both Rangeela and Munawwar Zareef).

The production values weren’t great (which was expected, also I was comparing a shady youtube video with a DVD quality rip), and the characterisations might have needed some more attention. However, those dialogues hit the sweet spot. Also, the reason I actually wanted to see the movie was because it has one of my most favourite Punjabi songs EVER!!

I found this video of Noor Jehan performing the same song on a PTV show, which was apparently in Zia’s regime in 1980-81. Loved the defiance of Noor Jehan, performing without a dupatta covering her head, compared to the woman who introduced her. Noor Jehan was the real Sasha Fierce! Perhaps she always was (If she can send death squads for Musarrat Nazir, she can do anything!) Also found this clip of Benjamin Sisters singing the same song. Its interesting how one of the couplets of the song was edited out/censored by the sisters or the PTV producers. The second verse goes something like this

Donway Paasay Charihyay Jawani Wali Rut Ve

Jindh saadi ek howee, panway do buth Ve

Which roughly translates to something like “We both dig each other, and our soul is one, even though we are in two separate bodies”, which essentially means that Heer wants to get it on with Ranjha on the charpai.

Coming back, not only Noor Jehan had one of her biggest hits in Punjabi with this movie, it was also the debut of a certain Ghulam Ali (apparently). And, also it had another very, very famous song.

Also, there was this song with some women being all wet! Uff Tauba Tauba!

As for the characterisations, I found the character of Ranjha to be completely annoying for some odd reason. He seems irrational (again, I don’t get this love shove), and all drama-queen-usque, and ( atleast in the Pakistani version) very egotistic. He left his home, and didn’t return home, until he won a bet with his brothers’ wives (i.e. win over Heer). Also, nothing actually lovey dovey happened between Heer and Ranjha apart from lunch in the fields, some flute music, and guilt ridden trysts in the sugarcane field (or perhaps it was only in Dev D), there wasn’t anything subtantial between them, I think (Oh, arranged marriage, here I come!). Given that, he went all crazy when Heer was married off. He joined a freakin’ cult. A modern day equivalent would have been that Ranjha became goth with black lipstick, and piercings.. or even worse.

More interestingly, Firdaus’ Heer was much more fun that Priya’s Heer. Whereas, Priya’s Heer was something we would expect our Mashraqi Aurat-zaad (Eastern Women) to be (or at least we expect our heroine to be), Firdaus’ Heer was physical, (more) conniving, and the precurser to your Anjumans of the 1980s! (Hint: Loved her character!)

Exhibit A: When Heer and Ranjha interact for the first time:

Exhibit B: Heer’s Suhaag Raat (Wedding Night) after he is married off to Saida Khera

Exhibit C: Heer’s interaction with her sister-in-law

So, you get the picture!

This is indicative of the differences between these two movies. Whereas, the indian version takes it very seriously (and it should), the Pakistani version adds the comedy bits all over the place. The stern, rape-friendly Saida Khera is replaced by a bumbling baffoon Saida Khera (Played by Munawwar Zarif!)

However both the Kaidoos reeked of pure evil. The indian kaidoo managed to get my vote for the most bad-ass mofo!

Makes me hate everyone with a limp (Hint, Hint.. inside joke, which only some students of my small non-elitist school will get)

Another interesting things:

All the running scenes in the indian version, with the dhotis! Brilliant!

I loved the scene, in the Pakistani version, when Heer dies, and her spirits runs away, for Ranjha

How the Indian version refers to “Jhang” as “Chand” in the subtitles

Also, that Ranjha travelled quite a bit to get his share of booty. Its more than 2.5 hours BY CAR!

Essentially, both movies were very good, and if you don’t have any affinity with the Punjabi language, don’t bother watching the Pakistani version (well you can, if you want to).  And just when I was done with those two, I found this trailer.

NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Umer M permalink
    March 24, 2010 10:17 pm

    Hey great posting!

  2. March 26, 2010 2:12 pm

    haven’t watched either film, but a real treat to see the dissection, as well as the love that went into this post (google maps being a real treat)

    i think its a brilliant exposition as well on the differences between pakistani and indian cinema. while they’ve always had aspirations, and inspirations, for a refined parallel aesthetic, you can’t take out the sense of masti from pakistani films. its actually a far more challenging attitude to adopt as well, in some ways, since it isn’t easy to imagine a scene like heer’s soul running off from her body.

    super work

  3. March 31, 2010 1:05 am

    Well, thats an interesting thought, come to think about it. Given the budget (because perhaps of possible limited revenue generation capacity) Pakistani films had to “amuse” the viewer in more unique aways (im hypothesizing). One might argue that the over-the-top Rangeela acts, the gore and absurdity of Punjabi flicks (as well as the loud shouting) was meant to give the biggest bang for the buck (in a non-”refined parallel aesthetic” cinematic form).

    Though, there have been a few efforts to achieve that serious Bollywood sensibilities in some of the work over the last decade or so, some of it worked (Majajan, Inteha etc.), while many more failed miserably… or is it just me blabbering… must.. watch.. more..lollywood

  4. Bilal permalink
    April 12, 2010 4:16 pm

    I miss limpy. Any idea where is he these days?

    • April 12, 2010 5:59 pm

      I thing he left for UCL or some other small-ish but good-ish A-level school in lahore..

  5. April 18, 2010 4:20 pm

    I appreciate your inclusion of the map. Insightful! :)
    All the best!
    Sita-ji

  6. April 18, 2010 9:13 pm

    Hi, there. Very nice post! And I have some thoughts with regard to a couple of things that you said (if you don’t mind what is going to be a rather long and tangential comment here)…

    1. “…if you don’t have any affinity with the Punjabi language, don’t bother watching the Pakistani version…”: Well, I guess I have about as much affinity for the Punjabi language as I do for any other Indian language, but it’s limited because I don’t know a word of Punjabi (while I know about 15 or so words of Hindi/Urdu), but I could watch a Punjabi movie anyway if it has Noor Jehan, just to hear Noor Jehan. When I listen to that voice, I don’t care what language it’s in. And I have watched Punjabi Noor Jehan movies from the ’50s without subitltes, not understanding a word (as well as Hindi/Urdu Noor Jehan movies from the ’40s and ’50s, understanding maybe a handful of words), just to behold the beautiful sound and sight of Noor Jehan.

    2. I was amused by your reference to the “modern day equivalent” of becoming a goth. Actually, my perspective is that many characters in old Bollywood and Lollywood movies don’t have to become goths, because they are already more goth than anything most western goths can ever hope to be, because these films are by nature very goth. (And by the way, I have talked about this before with our friend Sitaji.) This is especially true of the Bollywood movies of the ’40s (was anything ever more goth than the 1949 Mahal?), but it probably can be said for Bollywood and Lollywood movies of later eras, including the early ’70s (Pakeezah – very goth; and look at that famous Lollywood scene of Naghma dancing to Noor Jehan singing “Lal Meri Pat” – understandable, since Sufis have had a big influence on much goth). I say this, by the way, as someone who was a goth himself for a while – at least in musical and cultural tastes, if not completely in personal fashion.

  7. April 18, 2010 9:54 pm

    @sitaji: Well, I don’t know what made me include that, but its interesting that people find it interesting. I’ll keep my tangential thought process activated if im doing a similar piece next time around. Thanks :D

    Hey its alright. The whole blog post was essentially a long and tangential blabber around a theme. First, (Disclaimer) I am not an expert on Lollywood, by far! However, I am slowly embracing it and want to contribute to the almost non-existent “Lollywood” blogosphere. My writing style, and how I look at different movies will evolve and/or change arbitrarily over the time period. Now having said that…

    1) Well, yes, perhaps if one has a better print than the one I had, then definitely one should see it! With the given print, the bad production quality might irk some people who might not understand the brilliant dialogues in the movie. I might re-do this post one I have more developed and refined review writing skills. And, the songs was the reason I watched the movie, and the bits in between didn’t disappoint me one bit.

    2) As I am attempting to “relate” to more bloggers (urban youth in pakistan) I thought that including some pop culture references would be interesting. Personally, I don’t really know why people ascribe to Goth (or Emo) lifestyles. Perhaps its the same sense of disillusionment with their surrounding, which, in south asian cultures, can easily drive youth towards easily-available forms of mysticism. Ranjha, in fact, did become a “Jogi”, a spiritual sufi kind and roamed the lands. Which makes perfect sense given what both of us are saying. And that “Lal Meri Pat” Dhamaal is bad ass!! Brilliant!! … and usually I go in a Lal Meri Pat marathon when I see any of the Lal Meri Pat songs.. Noor Jehan, Abida Parveen, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Junoon… and sometimes Shazia Khushk! … and now I have the muppet version as well (refer to my latest post!)

    Thanks a lot for liking the post. Looking forward to some feedback to improve future endeavors.

  8. April 18, 2010 9:55 pm

    The last big comment was for Richard S.

  9. Roop Dhillon permalink
    July 9, 2010 11:19 am

    Anything Harbhajan Maan is crap, and I say that being a Singh..no the best is the Pakistani version with Firdous and Ejaz, not taking anything away from Raaj Kumar version, but Waris Shah wrote Heer in Punjabi, and this is the better telling..

  10. August 13, 2010 5:55 am

    dude, why do you hate Limpy? he was so nice. oh wait, i think he was mean to you a few times

    also, why does the way to hazara from jhang go through rabwah? is this an Ahmedi ploy to destroy Punjabi momin lovers?

  11. Shani Ji permalink
    September 21, 2011 10:39 pm

    A tragic historical note to Bollywood’s Heer Ranjha (1970) is that Chetan Anand, the director was in love with Priya Rajvansh, Heer of this film. When Anand died, Priya inherited property from him, Anand’s sons didn’t like that, and murdered her.

    Lollywood’s Heer Ranjha was responsible for breaking up Madam Noor Jahan and Ijaz’s (Ranjha in the film) marriage because he was in love with Firdous (Heer and the name behind Firdous Market Lahore).

  12. April 10, 2013 4:13 am

    That has a single equipment, it seems based on the advertiser that
    you flip into a muscle bound god (if you’re a man), or have a very wonderfully sculpted and tanned overall body (if you are a woman).

  13. Johnk456 permalink
    April 27, 2014 12:29 pm

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