Kashmir Revisited

Gasha, a new play that looks at fractured ties in a troubled land, will be staged at Prithvi Theatre this week

In recent years, Abhishek Majumdar a Bangalore-based theatre director and writer has done a remarkable job of bringing the unheard murmurs of troubled-torn Kashmir to stage. He has written two plays about Kashmir Rizwaan, which was staged by the students of Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, and Djinns of Eidgah, which was developed during Royal Court International Playwright's residency, London, and Writer's Bloc. While working on the latter, which is a story told from the perspective of the Kashmiri Muslim youth, he realised the possibility of another play a look at the valley from the point of view of the Kashmiri Pandit youth.

However, to develop this idea into a play, Majumdar roped in Irawati Karnik, his co-participant at Writer's Bloc, nearly a year ago. "Abhishek had a clear perspective on the subject. But I needed to find my entry into it," says Karnik. Her initial preparation consisted mostly of reading up writings on Kashmir in magazines and books. Later, she went to Srinagar, interviewed people from different walks of life and stayed with the families of Kashmiri Muslims. Now, all this work has resulted in Gasha a two-actor play written by Karnik and directed by Majumdar.

The play, presented by Bangalore-based theatre group Indian Ensemble Production, opened at Bangalore's Alliance Francaise earlier this month and, will be staged at Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai on Tuesday and Wednesday. Soon, the play will also travel to Bareilly and Delhi.

What aided the process of putting this play together is the presence of actor Adhir Bhat, who performs this play along with Sandeep Shikhar. Bhat, a Kashmiri Pandit, was a part of Djinns of Eidgah too. "He proved to be our biggest asset in accessing the very many stories and contradictions that lie behind the Pandit exodus," recalls Karnik. The play was initially meant to be a monologue. "However, after writing the first draft, the team realised that there were two distinct voices in the text and it would perhaps make more sense to have two actors perform the play," says Karnik, who has tried to keep the play minimalistic not just its aesthetics but also its arguments.

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