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Special to the tribune
Kashmir strife takes centre stage in London
Shyam Bhatia in London

A play centred around two Kashmiri teenagers, who are unable to escape from the cross-border conflict that fuels the civil strife surrounding them, has received mixed reviews at the start of its run in London.

‘The Djinns of Eidgah’ by Bangalore-based playwright Abhishek Majumdar is being staged at the Royal Court and is linked to the theatre’s ongoing workshop, organised with the help of the British Council and others.

The story is about two orphaned siblings, “stranded and defined by the troubles in Kashmir”. Eighteen-year-old Bilal is a star football player with a promising future whereas his disturbed sister Ashrafi is trapped in the past of her father’s violent death, forcing him to choose between fulfilling his sporting potential or allowing his sister’s trauma to lead him down a path of Islamic radicalisation.

Another major character is Ashrafi’s psychiatrist, Dr Baig, who believes passionately in reconciliation, despite his personal agony of dealing with the djinn (ghost) of his so,n who died while fighting for the violent mujahidin.

Majumdar’s prose has been characterised as ‘dense, tough and strange’, English director Richard Twyman has been praised for his “mature sensitivity”, and Danny Ashok and Aysha Kala, who play the teenagers, are among the actors described by one reviewer as first rate.

Yet other critics say the play needs more context, implying that Majumdar assumes his English audience knows more than it does about how India and Pakistan have been unable to resolve their differences over Kashmir and how their ongoing tensions have added to the misery of the Kashmiri people themselves. These are the critics who have given the play a mere three-star rating.

More positive reviews, which take the play to a four-star rating, focus on how the director successfully manages to incorporate the worlds of fact and fantasy against the backdrop of the day-to-day human suffering that underpins the ongoing conflict.

In the words of one such impressed reviewer, the play is “theatrically hypnotic”, another describes it as “magical.” A third reviewer describes the play as “gutsy and pummelling”, but then goes on to comment controversially, ‘When its good, it’s good and when it’s muddled it still makes a pretty overwhelming case for Kashmir’s peaceful secession from India.”

A review in The Guardian (London) said: You could hardly expect Majumdar to propose a solution to the Kashmir conflict. What he has done is to explore its effects in vividly theatrical terms.

In the spotlight

  • Bangalore-based playwright Abhishek Majumdarls play ‘The Djinns of Eidgah’ about two orphaned siblings from Kashmir is being stage at Royal Court
  • The play highlights the fallout of long-pending Kashmir issue on youth, who face danger of Islamic radicalization
  • Critics characterise the plot of play as “dense, tough and strange”, some believe the play needs more context





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