Review: Djinns of Eidgah at The Royal Court
‘A play that is necessary as Kashmir is a place that has fallen off the map in Western politics.’
This two act multi – faceted exploration (at the Royal Court) into the political landscape of Kashmir, youth radicalisation, faith and mental health left a lot to take away and digest.
Weaving Islamic storytelling, a technique using heavy metaphoric imagery in its language – and the Dastaan (a long tale), it works effortlessly as a theatrical device as we’re taken on a mystical journey where Djinns speak to the mortals.
Based on real stories Abishek Majumdar centred the focus around two orphans, both dreaming of their own freedoms. The Djinns of Eidgah takes place during the time of Eid and in heavy current conflict. With the children constantly surrounded by soldiers and violence this piece tackles those issues which conflict countries face; a new generation of children who have lost their childhood resulting in eventual hatred.
The promenade set up created an uncomfortable yet intimate experience and using minimum props left that experience unique to the individuals imagination.
The piece as a whole looks at the bigger political picture by questioning the centralising clash between two countries and what it is about this place that makes it so wanted and what its like for the ordinary Kashmiri to live on a day to day basis.
Religion and superstition play an important role in the reality of everyday lives in Kashmir as well as many predominantly Muslim and Hindu countries – Majumdar chooses Djinns as a way of combining these two elements and illustrates a sociological understanding of becoming comfortable and accepting the idea of death as a destined inevitability. Which is almost formulaic considering this is a daily occurrence for the vast majority in Kashmir.
For the west it appears to be the opposite. With many rejecting faith and superstition it’s perhaps no wonder why many find the idea of death an uncomfortable topic to discuss. Perhaps deep down we all know that existence is meaningless and everything we do leads to nothing.
We see hope emerge in its truest form, as a result of the most horrific and tormenting of experiences. Ashrafi demonstrates her inner human resilience in this passage – the last conversation she will ever have with her captured brother before he is murdered.
Ashrafi: Abbajaan, came to me today…the first time after he died Bhaijaan, and you know what he said?(…) I will never go away Shefu…never. I am a star and your Bhaijaan will become the moon this Eid. And forever we will be there ad appear on every single Eid.
Bilal: Yes Shefu
Ashrafi: You will die Bhaijaan?
Bilal: (Smiling) Yes. Yes Shefu. I will
Ashrafi: …keep my Hafiz with you Bhaijaan…he will make the pain lesser.
Bilal: It seems you are older to me Shefu. (smiles)
Ashrafi: I am Bhaijaan…I am very old. I am as old as this land itself. If they get the land, I will become the moon, if they get the moon, I will become the sun…they will never get me Bhaijaan…they will never get us. We will all become Djinns…Djinns…at the Eidgah….Allah made Djinns before he made Men.
This moment felt like a release and fulfillment of her desire and hopes; a metaphor for freedom and was, for me, one of the most memorable of scenes – perhaps because of its climactic quality.
The beauty of this play also lies in the protagonist’s development and journey as we see why he made the decision he did in the end. Although speaking to my mates who came with me afterwards, some felt the direction of the piece was leading towards understanding radicalised thinking rather than presenting both sides of the argument. I found the balance to be quite even because of the doctors character. however this feeling could come from the play’s explanatory content possibly written for western audiences. A bit too explanatory but for good reason as we see scenes unravelling feuds over cultural choices and traditional decisions made.
If anything this play was definitely a lesson into the understanding of the ‘Country’s’ current state.
A few ‘fun’ facts about Kashmir:
India, Pakistan and China are currently allocated portions of Kashmir which they control.
Kashmir became an important centre for Buddhism during its inception and a Buddhist emperor has often been credited with having founded it.
An estimated 68000 people have been killed in kashmir since 1989.