Kashmir has been torn between the claims of two nuclear giants, India and Pakistan. Consequently, Kashmir, whose legal status is still undisputed, is the single most militarized region in the world. Just this year, the situation shifted seriously close to active warfare two times – the second only a few days ago, and it is still unfolding. Seeing this play now is even more urgent and relevant than ever before.
The narrative runs along multiple story-lines. On the one hand, it is about young Muslim football prodigy Bilal and her teammate Khaled, who are torn between wanting to become professionals in Brazil and the strife for Kashmiri freedom from India. On the other hand, the story centres around Ashrafi, Bilal’s little sister, who, after her father was murdered in her arms, lives in an imaginary world of Islamic dastaans, surrounded by mythological creatures. She is treated by two psychiatrists, Dr Baig and Dr Wani.
The narrative is powerful. It points out complex political connections and gives face and voice to the Kashmiri. It tells the story using Islamic folklore, adding a metaphorical dimension to the brutal reality of constant curfews and patrolling soldiers.
The piece uses a minimal amount of props on the stage, the emphasis remaining on the young actors. In the first few scenes, the acting and stage direction feels somewhat artificial, making it hard to fully engage. However, as the play progresses, the actors demonstrate striking and raw performances. Imane Bou-Saboun in the role of Bilal communicates emotions sometimes too real to be theatre. Tanya Brown in the role of Ashrafi smoothly switches between a child trapped in the world of fantasy and a little girl scared to death. The dialogues of Suchitra Sebastian as Dr Baig and Ananya Mishra, the djinn, walk through the complete scale of human emotions. As a strong dramaturgical touch, the two soldiers always remain either side of the stage, making it impossible to forget about their imposing presence. They are played by Rowan Gow and Linnea Lagerqvist, who stunningly bring to life the monsters behind the guns and the struggles between obeying what they were taught to believe, and new reason.
The Djinns of Eidgah is a beautiful, personal, unique piece of political theatre. It gives a chance to understand the brutality of an oppressive regime, breathing life and humanity into the recent news reports.
Abishek Majumdar: The Djinns of Eidgah is on at Sweet Grassmarket – Grassmarket 1 (Venue 18)
On 12-18 August, 16:15
Tickets available here
Image: Siddharth Soni