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Heer Ranjah (Retold)

Tramway, Glasgow
3 stars
The rise of the Glasgow-based Ankur Productions has thus far marked a significant move forward in terms of depictions of contemporary Asian culture. This new play by Shan Khan attempts reinvents ancient myth for the here and now, as a doomed love story between a Muslim boy on the run from his brother and a glamorous Sikh girl mixes Bollywood with Quentin Tarantino to update this fifteenth century tragedy.

When Ranjah chucks himself in the Clyde, he ends up on a yacht owned by Glasgow’s curry king, where party girl Heer is preparing a night to end them all. The inevitable love affair that follows sees Ranjah the victim of petty racism as well as more brutal treatment at the hands of Heer’s wheeler-dealer uncle that eventually brings down both a business empire and the young lovers stab at cross-class happiness.

Daljinder Singh’s big production takes the bull by the horns, pouring rose petals onto the couple as they embrace, punctuating each scene with boldly choreographed dance routines and wheeling bits of set in and out. It’s impressive stuff, though the script itself isn’t always strong enough to keep up. Beyond the two leads, played vibrantly by Nalini Chetty as Heer and Taqi Nazeer as Ranjha, there are too many bit parts that aren’t fully developed, some of the acting is patchy and the rhythm of the piece occasionally stumbles. While Khan leans towards gangster movie chic to make his point, it’s hard to show sympathy for such an unpleasant lot in a piece ambitious enough to break the mould but not quite sure what to do with it afterwards.

The herald, November 24th 2008

ends

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