Maur is Kisan Movement in the 19th Century

Jatinder Mauhar's "Maur" showcases the power of cinema to mould popular heroes and folk memories in light of historical struggles to inspire contemporary movements.

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By Harjeshwar Pal Singh | Movie Review |

Growing up in a village on the outskirts of Malwa in Ferozepur District, Maur was an integral part of our lives, memories, and popular culture, just like any other folk character.

My earliest recollections of Maur were our neighbors and “Shareeks” who were called Maurs for their expertise in bootlegging, feuds,”Vailpuna” and their ability to outsmart the police .

Then came “Jeona Maur,” a popular song-dialogue LP record by Surinder Shinda, which was released in the early 80s and became a mega-hit. This Jeona Maur was a fearless action hero in the style of Bollywood, seeking revenge against “Dogar” for betraying his brother Kishna. As children, we were enthralled by the dialogues like “Langeya langeya Jeonn sian” and songs like “Badla lae layin jeoneya je maan da jaaya” and “Jeona Maud Ghori te farar ho geya.” We would plead with the “tawe wala Bhai” to play it repeatedly at every “Viah” and “ Akhand Path”.

In the early 90s, “Jatt Jeona Maur” hit the screens and became a massive success. This movie, featuring Guggu Gill as Jeona Maur and Gurkirtan as Ahmed Dogar, was one of the many Jatt movies produced in Pakistan and India during the 80s, following the genre pioneered by “Maula Jatt.” These films, with robust Jatt heroes and villains, were filled with bombastic dialogues, buxom heroines, acrobatic action, and graphic gore, appealed primarily to rural audiences.

Maurh,” starring Amy Virk and directed by Jatinder Mauhar, has been one of the most highly anticipated Punjabi movies ever. Its extensive marketing campaign, with gigantic billboards along highways and cities across Punjab, rekindled childhood and adolescent memories.

While remaining faithful to the essence of the Kissa and its traditional feudal values of “Anakh” (honor), “Dhokha” (betrayal), and “Badla” (revenge), Mauhar reinterprets this classic late 19th-century Malwayi folk tale of Punjab to address contemporary needs. The Maur of “Jeona Maur” is not an exaggerated larger-than-life hero seeking personal vengeance; rather, he is a social bandit glorified as a symbol of resistance by oppressed communities against feudal and pre modern state oppression, as hailed by scholars like Eric Hobsbawm.

Set in feudal and colonial South Malwa, Maur is a semi-arid village inhabited by “Muzaras” (sharecroppers) who endure the oppression of the Jagirdar (landlord), Shahukar (moneylender), and Sarkar (government). Jeona Maur’s fight is not only against Dogar for “Yaar maar” (betrayal of friendship) but also against the feudal lords and their colonial masters.

The resistance of Maur for their “izzat” (dignity) and “Anakh,”(pride) epitomized by the two brothers Kishna and Jeona who become Dakus (outlaws), is based on an idealized class, caste, and religious solidarity. Jatt sharecroppers like Jeona and Kishna join forces with Dalits like Chatra, invoking the blessings of Gurus, Pirs, and Devis, where “miracles” provide solace to a community under immense stress.

The reinvention and reimagining of Maur are clearly inspired by the Kisan (farmer) movement, where a united “Maur” Punjab fought against contemporary “Dhadwails” (oppressors) and “Shahukars” (monebags) in the form of Modi and Adani, as well as the compradors like the “Dogars” who faced the wrath of the people. Jatinder Mauhar has now added the name of Maur to the esteemed list that includes Ajit Singh, Chottu Ram, Kishangarh, and other symbols of peasant resistance.

Among the actors, Dev Kharaud delivers an intense performance as Kishna, while Vikramjeet Virk’s portrayal of Dogar is menacing and captivating. Richa Bhatt shines as Bishni,in a brief but powerful role. Amy Virk as Jeona looks the part as a timid farmer forced by familial call and community strife to take on the mantle of a peoples hero.

The sandy ,arid backdrop and mud houses add authenticity to the movie. The cinematography, art direction, and dialogues are top-notch, capturing the essence of the story flawlessly. However, a minor critique lies in the background music, which feels overly Westernized, artificial, and jarring. At the same time the faux Sangrur dialect seems contrived.Nevertheless, this is a minor flaw in an otherwise groundbreaking film.

“Maur” will be remembered as a milestone in Punjabi Cinema, placing it in the same league as iconic films like “Chan Pardesi” and “Laung Da Lishkara.”

Jatinder Mauhar’s “Maur” showcases the power of cinema to mould popular heroes and folk memories in light of historical struggles to inspire contemporary movements. As we witness the journey of Jeona Maur and his battle for justice, we are reminded of the ongoing fight for equality and dignity. Maur, once a folklore character etched in our childhood memories, now takes on a new form, representing the indomitable spirit of those who resist tyranny and fight for a better tomorrow.

Harjeshwar Pal Singh is an assistant professor at Sri Guru Gobind Singh College, Chandigarh, where he teaches history. He is an avid political commentator.

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