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