The tragic love story of Mirza Sahiban has been recreated in the form of plays, songs, and films over and over again since the 17th century, when it was first penned by Punjabi Sufi writer Peelu. The folklore is famous for its narrative on love, romance, elopement, betrayal, and murder.
Many scholars, writers, and poets believe that the legend is misogynistic and a reflection of the deep-rooted male chauvinism that has existed in the music industry to date.
Having garnered 2,279,415 hits on its YouTube video without the tag of any label company, the song released on 24 November was written and sung by Simiran. She believes that pursuing singing as a career will put limitations on her imagination.
Questioning Mirza in the song, Simiran’s bold voice states how both were killed, yet she is the one who is called unfaithful.
“I have heard Mirza so many times and always wondered was it only Mirza who loved Sahiba? It wasn’t like only Mirza loved Sahiba, it was a love story after all. Sahiba must be having some thoughts as well. There must be some of her obligations that she broke Mirza’s arrows”, Simiran reasons on writing the song.
Sahiba and her love Mirza were lying down under a tree when she saw her brothers coming and told him that they should go. But Mirza, overconfident of his archery skills, tells Sahiba that he will take care of her brothers and keeps his head on her thighs to fall asleep. Worried that her brothers will be killed, Sahiba breaks his arrows, eventually leading to the murder of the lover by her brothers.
“I sing what I write. I started writing Sufi poems when I was in school. I write what I believe in, everything that I think. Some people might like it and there is an equal chance that some might not. It is overwhelming that people like what I have written”, says Simiran, who learnt Punjabi from her mother.
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'Everyone Loves a Love Story, Even with a Sad Ending'
Commenting on this celebration of love or consummation of the relationship, Indian poet, journalist and translator Nirupama Dutt says, "Sahiban is not the cause of Mirza’s death but a pawn in the struggle to control desire and a prize that must be won. It is a highly misunderstood story by the male world. He has got the one whom he loves and to prove his won he stops to consummate their love. Mirza has an equal role in the tragedy. He puts her through a difficult situation where she has to choose between brothers and lover".
She quotes social-historian Ishwar Gaur: “It is nowhere written in the poetic legend that Mirza stops to make love but it is implied and understood. It is here that Peelu falls short of the Sufi thought which recognises physical and divine love and does not make room for carelessness”.
Sufi thought believes that any “Ghaflat” or negligence, drowsiness on the road from physical love to divine love is to be denounced, and Mirza has to pay the price for it with his life, writes Dutt.
“My love was divine and not physical. Even today I will let you keep your head on my thigh but why I have to listen to the society’s laments”, Simiran reiterates Dutt and Gaur's view in the song.
Talking about the prevalence of the legend in popular culture, Dutt says: "These are part of our culture, the folklore is deeply-engrained in our culture. Poetry is sung. Everyone loves a love story even if it has a sad ending".