After Mirzya, it’s hard to ignore the potential of the Indian folk tale when it comes to forming the core of the next big Bollywood hit. The good news is that we have no shortage of material when it comes to fascinating and diverse folk tales. The bad news is that we have no shortage of material when it comes to fascinating and diverse folk tales.
#QueMag spent the weekend scouring through several collections of folk tales and found some of the most compelling stories which we think would make for fascinating movies. We hope you think so too.
RAJASTHAN: Hadi Rani
The folklore of Rajasthan is rich with stories of incredible sacrifices made to keep Rajput’s legacy intact. The tale of Hadi Rani, from Mewar, is one such story.
Hadi Rani was married to Chundawat, chieftain of Salumbar, Mewar. The young couple had a brief spell of happiness together before the chieftain was called upon by Maharana Raj Singh I to fight in the battle against Aurangzeb. Initially, Chundawat hesitated to answer the call to arms since he had been married only a few days earlier. However, Rajput honour compelled him to join the battle.
Before he left, he asked his young wife for some sort of memento to remember her by. Hadi Rani, having sensed her husband’s hesitation at having to go into battle, came to the conclusion that she was the one keeping him from doing his duty to Mewar. To remove herself as an obstacle, she cut off her head. A servant then covered the grisly, decapitated head with a cloth and presented it to Chundawat.
Devastated, yet filled with admiration for his wife’s immense sacrifice for her motherland, Chundawat tied her head around his neck and rode valiantly into battle. His fearlessness and frightening appearance caused Aurangzeb’s troops to flee. After his victory, Chundawat slit his own throat, having lost the desire to live without Hadi Rani by his side.
SINDH: Sassui Punnhun
This is one of seven popular tragic romances from Sindh and it has everything you need for a hit Bollywood film – love, bravery, adventure, sacrifice and everything in between.
Having heard of a prophecy that his new born daughter would be a curse for his royal family, the Raja of Bhambore placed her in a wooden box and sent her down the Sindhu river, where she was eventually rescued by a kindly washerman, who decided to adopt the child and name her Sassui.
Sassui grew to become a beautiful young woman and had suitors visit her from far and wide. Among the many young men who travelled to see this astounding beauty with their own eyes was the handsome prince, Punnhun. The young prince visited the washerman’s home and the two young people fell in love at first sight.
Despite stiff opposition from Sassui’s father and then from Punnhun’s family, the two lovers persevered and got married. However, right after the wedding, Punnhun’s brothers got him drunk, kidnapped him, and then returned to their hometown. Sassui, realising what happened, undertook a long and hazardous journey through the desert to be reunited with her lover. One day, while running away from a shepherd who tried to force himself on her, she prayed to be hidden and the earth parted to swallow her whole.
When Punhunn tried to find her, he came across the shepherd who confessed his sins. Broken-hearted Punhunn prayed for the same fate as his lover. His prayers were answered when the earth split open and he too disappeared into the land.
The king of the snakes, Nagrai – a strong and handsome man with hypnotic eyes – longed to leave his underground kingdom and explore our world. One day, he managed to escape via a freshwater spring that doubled up as a portal between the human and snake worlds. Nagrai who transformed into a baby boy, was found by a farmer and adopted by him and his wife.
Nagrai grew into a handsome young man who eventually fell in love with the beautiful princess Heemal. Unbeknownst to Heemal, Nagrai had left behind his serpent wives when he arrived in the human world. And these same serpent wives arrived to drive the two lovers apart. The wives tricked Heemal into convincing Nagrai to take a dip in the same spring from which he escaped all those years ago. In doing so, he was dragged back into his kingdom by the waiting wives. Not to be left behind, Heemal went after him.
Life in the land of snakes wasn’t easy for Heemal – the serpent wives made it a living hell for her and implicated her in the death of young serpent princes. She was sentenced to death and returned to her world, where she is revived by a sage. A heartbroken Nagrai followed her back in his snake form, but was killed by the sage. Unable to bear his death, Heemal burned herself on Nagrai’s funeral pyre.
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Image Credits: Folk Tales From Kashmir (S.L. Sadhu), Youtube screengrabs.