The Djinns of Eidgah was written by Abhishek Majumdar in 2013. But as this show makes its debut at the Fringe this year, the timing couldn’t be more right. Kashmir valley has seen continuous violence and military presence since the 1947 India-Pakistan partition. Last week, the Indian government blacked out all communication in Kashmir and revoked its special status. Whether or not you follow the politics of the region, this is a great show that mixes fable with reality to inform and educate.
Bilal and Khaled are young men who want to practice and eventually play football on an international stage. But in this heavily militarised region, they must meet curfew times and restrict themselves to certain places. Meanwhile, Bilal’s sister Ashrafi goes for counselling everyday to help recover from trauma. Two doctors, Dr Baig and Dr Wani, are some of the few remaining practitioners here, but they too, must reconcile with their political ideologies.
The cast seems to take a while to settle in. The initial scenes involving Khaled and Bilal seem clipped, as if dealing with an unfamiliar script, although that might be a blip on the day of this particular performance. As the narrative unfolds, djinns appear and disappear, leading the characters into the dark spaces of their minds. They flit near the Eidgah (cemetery) but exert their control over the characters through their memories and their trauma.
Suchitra Seb, who plays Dr Baig, has a particularly nuanced character. Her family’s tragedy and how it shapes what she believes in is the ultimate example of people processing war at a personal level. We are also faced with two Indian army soldiers who are posted here. There is a great delineation of emotion between them too. In particular, Linnea Lagerqvist does a great job at playing a torn and conflicted soldier. The final altercation between the soldiers and the doctor is especially poignant.
The play presents an honest portrayal of how the politics in this region is not black and white. A very topical show to watch this year, and with references made to folklore, it is sure to entertain.