Unravelling Punjab’s Jugni through Kathak

Brought to you by noted Sufi Kathak exponent Manjari Chaturvedi, the show involves dance, music and story-telling production of Punjab through Kathak.
Manjari Chaturvedi
Manjari Chaturvedi

If you think Punjabi music is dhinchak beats with random words thrown in, perhaps attending O Jugni Punjab Di when it travels to your city will change your perspective.

Brought to you by noted Sufi Kathak exponent Manjari Chaturvedi, the show involves dance, music and story-telling production of Punjab through Kathak. Hear Jugni’s tales through Chaturvedi as she transforms into one.

The professionally-trained Kathak dancer from Kathak Kendra, UP Sangeet Natak Academy, Chaturvedi set up the Sufi Kathak Foundation in Delhi to create awareness about Sufi Kathak and traditional music and dance.

The musical is her way of paying tribute to the women of Punjab who are strong and hold their own in the fiercely patriarchal society. It also breaks the many myths that surround Punjabi society and its music.

The 90-minute-long musical features seven songs like Banga chadha lao data de darbar, Damadam mast kalandar, Main te jaana ae jogi de naal, Mera pya ghar aya (a 13-th century song written by Baba Bulleh Shah) through which Jugni narrates the stories of Punjab. Participating in the musical are 10 musicians, a qawwali team, two actors and Chaturvedi herself.

“There will be many contemporary Jugnis besides old traditional Jugnis. Popular Punjabi actors, Balkar Sidhu and Vikramjit Singh Rooprai, will narrate the Jugni folktale,” says Chaturvedi, eager to kick-start the second edition.

Beginning with Chandigarh this month, the show will travel to various Indian cities, including Hyderabad and Bengaluru, till March 2020.

“I want to break the myth that Punjabi music is only loud beats and random words. As against popular notion, the state is a celebrated land of a rich heritage, an absolute treasure of incredible poetry and music and dance,” she says.

How Chaturvedi thought about doing a musical on Jugni is an interesting tale. A part of Punjab’s folklore, Jugni is an opinionated and defiant character, who talks about politics, social stigmas and ruhani ishq in the same breath. She voices her opinions without bothering about the effect these will produce. She boldly enters arenas where women fear treading, and is much loved by people.

 Also being a non-Punjabi, the noted dancer had no idea about what a liberated society Punjab is.

“About five years ago, while researching on Baba Bulleh Shah and Baba Farid, I came across Jugni. I noticed she had a say on every issue. What intrigued me further was that Jugni has not been written about by women but men. This means deep down men like bold and strong women.

They want their women to come out of the shackles of home, travel the world and spread knowledge. But sadly, this is not what the outside world thinks of the Punjab, and I want to spread this knowledge,” says Chaturvedi, adding, “This revelation made me want to present her before a larger audience. I also wondered why women of Punjab are stopping themselves from being free-spirited women like her,” she says.

Chaturvedi was surprised to find that Jugni can talk about anything – life, economic issues, socio-political ironies, spiritual elevation, gaiety, love, loss, pain, anguish and loneliness. She can go everywhere, to different countries, and come back with tales. 

“What’s more distressing is that even Punjabi children are not aware of these stories now. The reason being earlier, grandparents told these stories to kids but now with increase in nuclear homes, there is no one who can do so,” she says, adding, “If not done now, we might lose a valuable part of our tradition and culture.”

Notes of a performer

For over two decades now, Manjari Chaturvedi has been striving hard to educate people about native traditions and culture through her musicals, both spiritual and mystical.

Two projects close to her heart are The Courtesans Project that she has been working on for the last six years now and  O Jugni Punjab Di that she began last year. She has been tirelessly working on changing the perception of people towards courtesans. 

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The New Indian Express