Saturday, November 25, 2006
By Sharin Batti - Express India - Chandigarh, India
Friday, August 25, 2006
Rediscovering the legacy of Waris Shah, the poets in Manjit and Gurdas Maan resurge to the fore
What is it like to live, breathe and be like a legend. To wave a hand and proclaim your will. Ask the devout worshipper who got to play God for a day. I’ve been breathing Waris Shah since I was in the ninth grade and ever since then, the first rays of the sun have risen with Heer and set with the cries of Ranjha,’’
Gurdas Maan converted to the wisdom of the Sufi saint [Waris Shah, d.1798] who gave love its ethereal flame and preached the truth in a time of turmoil. ‘‘Often when I would sit in solitude and cry on the sun basked wheat fields, I would sing in pain, distant and not mine. But it would bring out the need in me to sing. And that is the madness of the Shah that carried me to the stage, to the studio and when I sat to write. I owe my identity to him.’’
Maan feels blessed to have been one of those to interpret his melodies and verse when the world lost his notes in their bleached existence. ‘‘I think it was written in the stars and Waris Shah himself sought this of me. And I am but a humble subject, who must submit,’’ says Gurdas who along with producer Manjit Maan and director Manoj Punj rose Waris Shah back to life with a pen and a camera. Together they paid his allegiance to the mentor who gave the Gurmukhi its philosophy, the Sufi its virility, the melody its jazba and love its burning passion.
‘‘Playing Waris Shah was like a mirror to my soul. And for the moments I was on the sets, being Waris Shah, I wasn’t me. I could feel him in me every step of the day,’’ Gurdas is still living his moments while director Manoj Punj spent sleepless nights looking for the lost literature on Waris Shah. ‘‘The man had no story. In all his verses, songs and books; he never spoke of himself. It made him a greater man, but an unrelenting hero. But the entire cast and crew were so motivated to sing his name, that we dug and we found him.’’
Punj’s three hours of a three-century-old lost legacy found and even made the man who lost himself to Sufi. ‘‘The costumes, the set, the village, the period and the music...my world reeked with the lost era and even my actors were not actors anymore. They were alive.’’ Alive with the tension of turmoil and the search for love and lust alike. ‘‘And that is when I found myself getting greyer with the character. I think I have done my best work in this film,’’ actor Divya Dutta plays a seductress who is obsessed with Waris Shah and absolutely loved playing a character with a darker side to it.
‘‘It’s the vision and the madness about acting that I love. And it isn’t everyday you get to seduce a legend,’’ Dutta is satiated with her role. As for Juhi Chawla, her romance with Punjabi period cinema has just begun. ‘‘The culture, the tradition and the story...it’s very human even though its mystical,’’ she smiles. This is the sarur of Sufi and the Shah.