A Gun, Football Shoes, and Many Tears
“The horror, the horror…”
Marlon Brando in ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979)
The Land of Kashmir – Paradise on Earth, or abyss? The land, where thousands of western as well as Indian tourists go looking for beauty and serenity, is paradoxically famous for its instability and terrorism, caught in the midst of Indo-Pak tensions.
The Djinns of Eidgah (written originally by Abhishek Majumdar) is a critically acclaimed play that reflects on the ongoing conflict in the valley of Kashmir, revolving around the brutality of war. Thrown into a land torn by the horror and desolation of war are two orphaned siblings, Bilal and Ashrafi, both of whom have had their fair share of horrors in the past. Ashrafi is a girl who is psychologically scarred by the death of her father and is being cared for by her brother. Another interesting character is Dr. Baig, a child psychiatrist, who suffered a great deal in this conflict. He lost his son to militancy and now, as he helps this young girl Ashrafi recover, sees the ghost of his dead son Junaid.
Throughout the play we come across the terror of war and the toll it takes on the people who have to live with it. We realise that it makes people conjure fantasies and believe them to be reality, because reality is too bitter a pill to swallow.
Aaina’s stage adaptation of the play was intense, keeping the entirety of Syndicate Golden Jubilee Hall on the edge of its seat. The atmosphere in the hall fluctuated from that of grave seriousness to dins of laughter. Credits to the actors who didn’t stray from the theme of the play and kept the audience wanting for more after every scene.
Umme Abiha, who played Ashrafi, was stellar in her portrayal of a girl with stunted mental development due to the horrific events in her childhood. Ashrafi’s relationship with her brother Bilal (Kunal Bhan) touched everyone’s heart. Kunal embraced the character of Bilal and effortlessly played the role of a boy torn between family and friends. On one hand, he had his sister whom he loved, and on the other hand, he had his friends who idolized him.
Another performance worth mentioning was that of Uday Pandit, who played the character of Dr. Baig, holding the entire play together. He eloquently portrayed a parent who has had to live through the horrors of watching his child die. Dhiraj Wadhwani and Prateek Uppal also did a marvelous job of providing short bursts of comic relief followed by a peek into the psyche of a soldier. Despite Aaina representatives claiming that it was an all English play while selling tickets, some of the jokes were in fact in Hindi, leaving the foreigners in the crowd baffled. Also, the general feeling among the audience was that the play was slightly stretched and needed a bit of editing.
Putting acting aside, the live band, Loud & Clear, provided the play with a deeply relevant soundtrack for every scene. Beautiful music juxtaposed with a great screenplay gave the audience goosebumps throughout the play. Apart from a minor glitch in the lighting department, the whole show ran seamlessly. The set was well designed, bearing in mind the small amount of space they had on the stage.
After months of hard work and pain for every Aaina member, the night undoubtedly did bring with it great joy and satisfaction. Everyone in the audience managed to relate to the play which dramatised human existence in Kashmir poignantly. Leaving everybody with moist eyes and a taste of melancholy in their mouths, Aaina’s main production The Djinns of Eidgah was a huge success.