Heer Ranjha hits the Scottish stage

A retelling of Heer Ranjha is set to launch in Glasgow this week, and the screenwriters have done a fascinating job of trying to place the classic love story in a contemporary setting. Heer RanjhaInstead of the story of two villagers (Ranjha, who leaves his home and is hired by Heer), it’s the story of a Muslim restaurant worker and a Sikh socialite:

In a fit of depression, [Ranjha] throws himself off the George VI bridge, presumably choosing that one ahead of the Kingston so that the play can continue. He is pulled out of the Clyde by a boatful of partygoers, led by the beautiful Heer, the fast-living daughter of a Glasgow curry magnate and a Sikh. [link]

And, instead of fully morphing the play, the director discussed his desire to speak directly to the Asian population in Glasgow. He integrates a fully Punjabi story into the framework of life experience for Punjabi Scots, including choosing to play the dialogue in local dialect:

I had been trying for some time to find a story that would attract Asian audiences [Glasgows Asian community is primarily Punjabi] and Heer Ranjha was something I had come across very frequently in my discussions with [local] people, says Lalitha Rajan, artistic director of Ankur Productions. I wanted to make it relevant and contemporary and I wanted a writer who had an ear for Glaswegian dialect, because it has its own unique linguistic richness. [link]

I think one of the most striking features of this show the opportunity it takes to speak to, and honor, the interconnectedness of the history of Scotland’s Punjabi community within the artistic/social narrative of the U.K. Instead of the story feeling unfamiliar, exotic, or far, it is re-placed to popularize it among youth in the diaspora. Whether this means it’s more risque or departs dramatically from the original, I’m curious to see how it turns out. If any of our readers are Scotland-based, I would love to hear a review if you’re able to go!


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10 Responses to “Heer Ranjha hits the Scottish stage”

  1. Blue says:

    Okay… of all the posts on The Langar Hall… I think this has the least to do with anything related to the diaspora.

  2. Blue says:

    Okay… of all the posts on The Langar Hall… I think this has the least to do with anything related to the diaspora.

  3. Camille says:

    Blue, I'm curious — which part is unrelated to the diaspora? The part about it being a traditional Punjabi folk story, the part about it being updated to include Punjabi youth narratives today, or the part about it taking place in the Punjabi diaspora?

  4. Camille says:

    Blue, I’m curious — which part is unrelated to the diaspora? The part about it being a traditional Punjabi folk story, the part about it being updated to include Punjabi youth narratives today, or the part about it taking place in the Punjabi diaspora?

  5. Blue says:

    All three – particularly because Punjabi's are not the only Sikhs. I am non Punjabi Sikh and I wish we could see Sikh culture as separate from Punjabi culture.

  6. Blue says:

    All three – particularly because Punjabi’s are not the only Sikhs. I am non Punjabi Sikh and I wish we could see Sikh culture as separate from Punjabi culture.

  7. Camille says:

    Blue, thanks for clarifying your comment. I think there's a lot of importance in recognizing the diversity of identities (including ethnic identities) within Sikhi. I don't want to speak for the other bloggers, but my sense of TLH is that we strive to speak to cultural experiences both along Sikh and Punjabi planes. We've discussed the interplay of Punjabi and Sikh culture before, and while I do believe there are distinct aspects to both cultural traditions (and that one does not presume the other), I see them as a venn diagram. There's an area of overlap where the identities become interlocking. I don't mean to be trite, but there's an intersectionality of identity that would make separation of the two, in some cases, manufactured and not really reflective of the lived experiences and cultural/social structures people live within.

    For many Punjabi Sikhs, Heer Ranjha speaks to an underlying sense of Panjabiyat, struggle, and difference specifically across religious and socioeconomic lines, which is why I included this post. I recognize, though, that it is fundamentally a fixture in Punjabi literature — not Sikh literature. I hope my explanation provides a basis for why I included this story, though.

  8. Camille says:

    Blue, thanks for clarifying your comment. I think there’s a lot of importance in recognizing the diversity of identities (including ethnic identities) within Sikhi. I don’t want to speak for the other bloggers, but my sense of TLH is that we strive to speak to cultural experiences both along Sikh and Punjabi planes. We’ve discussed the interplay of Punjabi and Sikh culture before, and while I do believe there are distinct aspects to both cultural traditions (and that one does not presume the other), I see them as a venn diagram. There’s an area of overlap where the identities become interlocking. I don’t mean to be trite, but there’s an intersectionality of identity that would make separation of the two, in some cases, manufactured and not really reflective of the lived experiences and cultural/social structures people live within.

    For many Punjabi Sikhs, Heer Ranjha speaks to an underlying sense of Panjabiyat, struggle, and difference specifically across religious and socioeconomic lines, which is why I included this post. I recognize, though, that it is fundamentally a fixture in Punjabi literature — not Sikh literature. I hope my explanation provides a basis for why I included this story, though.

  9. whatsinaname says:

    Is it coming to London?

  10. whatsinaname says:

    Is it coming to London?