Theatrical review: Raunaq and Jassi

Director: Fierce Abbas Khan

Duration: 150 minutes

To emit: Neha Sargam , Omkar Patil, Sonal Jha, Jeetendra Shastri

Language: Hindi

Classification: 3.5 stars

Plot: Inspired by William Shakespeare ’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the timeless tale of a pair of star-crossed lovers, Fierce Abbas Khan ’s Raunaq (Omkar Patil) and Jassi’s ( Neha Sargam ) love story rolls out amidst the lush golden fields of Punjab and its robust, vibrant backdrop of music and dance. Set in the 1950s, the two warring families in this play are the Chaudharys and Jagirdars. And, in this clash of clans that threatens to overpower their tale of love, the couple finds support in Dhai Maa (Sonal Jha) and Gurdip Mama (Jeetendra Shastri), who have a history of their own.

Revision: Long before the story unfolds, it is the balcony on stage that creates the atmosphere. The architectural accessory has become synonymous with the romantic encounters of Romeo and Juliet on moonlit nights. It is no different with its Punjabi counterparts. The balcony, which takes Shakespeare's hat off, is a silent witness to lovers' quotes as they throw themselves between euphoria and disappointments, whose signs are visible in the background when it explodes in fuchsia roses, mauve and blue tones. The play is really a celebration of love, and exhibits it through popular songs by Piyush Kanojia, impressive dance performances by Mayuri Upadhya , and their costumes, lights and more. The writer Iqbal Raj gives his characters a jargon that is rarely used on stage these days: that of the verse. It is used not only to speak the language of love and yearning, but, through Jassi, questions the few options given to women in society.

Iqbal's writings (script and lyrics) steal the show. And although he has chosen the poetic format, it is not archaic: it is easy for the ears, but impressive in depth and form. He goes from obscene jokes to sublime exchanges and also, plunges deep into a woman's heart, exposing her anguish. While the younger generation may have difficulty connecting with the outdated love portrayed in this work, feminist tones definitely hit home.

‘Raunaq&Jassi’ does boast of a vibrant cast and their performances, which include live singing. They are perfectly front-lined by the lead pair, Omkar Patil and Neha Sargam. The latter, who has played Noor Jehan in Khan is highly praised Mughal-E-Azam It leaves you hypnotized not only with her effortless singing but also with her powerful performance, especially when she hears the monologue.

In general, Raunaq and Jassi is a commendable effort, which must be experienced at least once. And if you are a music fan, you will surely visit popular songs like Lady Dam Mast Kalandar, Kala Sha Kala and Tumhe Pyaar.