'The Djinns of Eidgah'
Everybody on every side has been damaged by the Kashmir conflict. Kashmir's youth - their parents - onlookers to violence - the Indian soldiers - the tiny band of mental health professionals who seek to deal with the overwhelming numbers suffering from trauma.
That's the unsettling message of Abhishek Majumdar's 'The Djinns of Eidgah', which has just finished a run at the Royal Court. I saw the final production last night, excellently acted and staged. A really powerful piece of theatre, all the more effective from being staged in the intimate setting of the Jerwood Upstairs.
Djinns are spirits with a touch of the supernatural about them - linked to death, though not quite ghosts. An eidgah is a prayer ground. The eidgah in Srinagar - where some of the play is set - is the martyrs' graveyard, a burial place of those Kashmiris seen as having sacrificed their lives in the struggle for 'azaadi', freedom.
The plot borrows a little from Ashvin Kumar's documentary film, Inshallah Football. At its heart is a hugely talented Kashmiri footballer who doesn't throw stones (or does he?) and is determined to weave his way round all the political and bureaucratic obstacles to get to Brazil. But this play, unlike the film, is dark and forbidding, at times macabre - there's a scene in the hospital morgue. It reminded me of Mirza Waheed's equally chilling novel of modern Kashmir, The Collaborator. Both suggest a more accomplished, and provoking, reflection of Kashmir's current agonies in high culture - and that can only encourage a wider awareness and discussion (we've already seen a bit of that) of how those agonies are best addressed and redressed.
The djinns of Eidgah are as formidable as the spirited bookings and general success of the festival. Every year, millions of visitors flock to this place because it is where they get a glimpse at their ancestors. This is also the perfect opportunity for new arrivals to India that wishes to start afresh in their new country,
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