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July 2003
Layla Majnun
Written by Harmage Singh Kalirai, director
Layla Majnun
Layla Majnun
Layla Majnun is the sub-continent equivalent of 'Romeo and Juliet'.

Director Harmage Singh Kalirai talks about the story and his involvement with the production.
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Layla Majnun is the last part of a trilogy of love stories that I wanted to adapt for large-scale outdoor production and which could provide ample opportunity for live music, song, dance, drama, storytelling and poetry.

The aim has been to bring together artists from the local community to work alongside professional artists in order to produce these beautiful epic and legendary stories.  

Layla Majnun
Layla Majnun
The trilogy

The first tale was Sohni Mahiwal, performed on the River Thames and the courtyard of The Waterman’s Arts Centre, London during the summer of 1994.

The second story Heer Ranjha was produced in the courtyard and the Arena Theatre at Mac  in the summer of 1997.  

These stories have universal appeal and are known throughout the sub-continent as kind of “Romeo and Juliet” tales.

The ingredients are similar in their tragedies, in the destinies of the lovers and the parents’ insistence to keep them apart.

This trilogy of love stories is universally known and loved by Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims.  

Layla Manjun

Layla Majnun is one of the love romances of Iranian source that had infiltrated and become assimilated into Punjabi literature and came to be owned by the Punjabis. It is the favourite love story of the Muslim world.

Layla Majnun
Layla Majnun
The story pre-dates Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and centres on the undying quest of love.

There are many versions of this epic story, some taking different threads and emphases including Arabic, Persian, Indian, Turkish and Russian versions from the 7th to the 21st centuries.

The Persian poet Nizami was the first to make use of all the traditional versions, widely dispersed and greatly varied in detail, which he shaped into one great narrative poem around AD 1188.  

Developing South Asian Arts

My interest has always been in the development of South Asian Arts and in combining these art forms to compliment each other, within a framework of traditional epic stories containing myths and legends.

I also wanted to create entertainment for our community, introducing live theatre to an audience brought up on Bollywood culture.  

A lot of planning and organization has taken place in the conception of this project.

Many people have been involved in front of and behind the production, and their skills have been invaluable to the success of this piece.

I would like to thank each and every one, including the parents, for the huge commitment, time, effort and the support to make this production work.  

As it is said at the end of the play “…What was mine is now yours...”   …and so it is.  

Harmage Singh Kalirai.


When and where

Layla Majnun is showing from Thursday 17th to Sunday 20th July and Thursday 24th to Sunday 27th July 2003, at The Arena, Mac.

If you go along, why not send in a review. Just e-mail the team at: birmingham@bbc.co.uk


For more on Sampad - South Asian arts, click here.


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