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Gasha (Hindi/Urdu/Kashmiri.140 Minutes)

March 5, 2013

24sm_gaash_JPG_1372191fFor me Gasha turned out to be a curious sound. Pronounced as Gaa-Sh-Aa it is the name of the latest play produced by the Bangalore based theater group Indian Ensemble. As a nominated entry under several categories (including Best Play and Best Director) at the ongoing theater festival organised by the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards, it was performed last evening at the Kamani Auditorium. The production tries to explore the convoluted frames of the conflictual socio-political zone i.e. Kashmir and makes an earnest attempt at laying bare the subjectivity and the everyday lives of people severely affected by the ongoing conflict in the region. The only two actors we see on stage are Adhir Bhatt (as Gasha) and Sandeep Shikhar (as Nazir). Gasha is the attempt by the scriptwriter Irawati Karnik to bring to light the various facets that come to constitute the fate of two childhood friends. Gasha and Nazir are neighbors from a locality in Srinagar who are separated because of Gasha’s family leaving Srinagar for Mumbai in the wake of ‘militancy’. The narrative goes back and forth in time. Gasha’s family revisits their hometown after a gap of twenty years for the ritual worship of the much revered deity Kheer Bhavani. At the Srinagar airport, Gasha chances upon a loader whom he identifies as Nazir. The encounter makes him think of events past and of the days gone by. For the audience it is a pleasant and yet a very serious detour across the landscape of such remembrance.

Needless to say that the script beautifully peels quite a few layers deep into a number of issues. The director Abhishek Majumdar succeeds in making Bhatt and Shekhar impeccably don the role of several characters- of children in a classroom, of Bukhari sir- their teacher, of Gula- the Muslim attendant at the Kheer Bhavani shrine, of the angry-old controlling Arjun Mama and the most endearing  of them all- Dadi Jaan. An innovative stage design, intelligent handling of the lights, an apt sound arrangement and a minimalist use of stage props are other noticeable aspects of this production.

Apart from making for insightful angles from which to look at the Kashmir issue, the play leaves the audience with interesting material for further reflection. The characters for instance ask some very evocative questions in jest, as exclamations or dumb anguishes, satires or even as morose ramblings. Notice Gasha’s mother asking- “Bhala Koi Churaai Hui Kaaleen Pe Namaaz Kaise Padh Sakta Hai?” (How can anyone offer prayers on a stolen carpet?) or Arjun Mama asking Gasha “Daikin badi company kaise ho sakti hai jab maine uska naam hi nahin suna?” (How can Daikin be a big company when I have not even heard its name?” and further on “Tu Kashmir ka Mausam bechta hai?” (You are selling the weather of Kashmir) referring to Gasha’s job in a company that manufactures  air conditioners. All the more funny is Arjun Mama scolding a seemingly uninterested Gasha to concentrate in prayers before the Goddess and to “feel the tiger”!

I see the play to be about the problems with our reliance on memory as a tool to reconstruct and make sense of all that happened years ago.  It presents in vivid details the ways in which children make sense of their world. There is this just right dose of genuine comedy sprinkled all across the duration of the play. The ways in which violence gets appropriated by the imagination of a child is well documented through very subtle injunctions in the script and in facial expressions that aptly correspond to it. Where should a child play and where should he study, what has happened to schools in Kashmir post militancy and what are the possible future careers that the ‘unschooled’ children in Kashmir will have in the years to come, Gasha is a nuanced comment on all these social issues.

Yes, the briefcases as props seem too many in some scenes, they are dragged too often on the wooden floor, the repeated falls and the thuds of the actors at times insert a break in the flow. Despite these glitches, Gasha is a play  that has a message, ranks high on entertainment quotient and oozes a meaning that might require repeated attempts in order to be gleaned. I sincerely hope that the team comes up with more such creative productions and do the little possible so as to bring sanity back to where it belongs. In troubled times, sanity often happens to be the resource that becomes scarce. Even when available, it gets under or over-represented in discourse. The impact of counter currents that an artistic work like Gasha is capable of creating remains to be estimated. I wish this team all the very best for its future productions.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. March 5, 2013 7:04 pm

    Very interesting for us here in the west who try to understand the mind set and problems faced in other parts of he world. Also interesting about of the artistic achievements. Thank you.

    • March 5, 2013 7:07 pm

      I am sure it must be!

      Cheers!

  2. March 6, 2013 9:13 am

    That sounds like a very interesting play ! Is it showing in Bangalore now ?

    • March 6, 2013 9:18 am

      Yeah it is interesting. Not very sure about the next place. I have included a link to the group’s blog in the post. May be you could keep a tab on it there!

      Regards,

    • April 23, 2013 8:31 pm

      26th April: 7:30 PM
      27th April: 7:30 PM
      28th April: 3:30 & 7:30 PM
      Telebookings: 9886324733
      Online Bookings: http://www.bookmyshow.com, http://www.indianstage.in
      Tickets Available at the venue

      While everything around seemed headed towards a slow collapse, in a shed on an island in the middle of a lake, two boys built their world. Twenty years later, it is quite another past that stands in their way. Two whimsical narrators scramble madly to recreate what happened. Set against the background of the Kashmir imbroglio, ‘Gasha’ is an account of the fractured friendship between two boys, a Kashmiri Pandit and a Kashmiri Muslim, and their need to affirm their story.

      [The play is the Third and final part of Kashmir Trilogy, the first two parts being Rizwaan (2010, First Festival of Contemporary Indian Theatre in Paris) and Djinns of Eidgah (Royal Court Theatre, London). Gasha, can be viewed independent of the first two parts.]

      Winner of the Best Play, Best Ensemble, Best Original Script at Meta Awards 2013

      Riad Mahmood Education and Arts Foundation Presents
      An Indian Ensemble Production

      Written by: Irawati Karnik
      Conceived & Directed by: Abhishek Majumdar
      Scenographer: Payal Wadhwa
      Dramaturg: Subhashim Goswami
      Performed by: Adhir Bhat & Sandeep Shikhar
      Costumes: Divya Jain
      Lights: Mohammed Mustafa
      Music: Abhijeet Pakrashi
      Asst Director & Production Manager: Virginia Rodrigues

      Performed at
      Bareilly National Theatre Festival
      Vinod Doshi Memorial Theatre Festival, Pune
      Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai
      Alliance Francaise, Bangalore
      Mahindra Excellence Theatre Festival, New Delhi

      • April 23, 2013 9:27 pm

        Thanks ! But unfortunately I am traveling out of Bangalore, precisely on those days :(

  3. March 7, 2013 12:37 am

    Not sure how much Hindi/Urdu differs when it comes to listening but I am pleasantly surprised to see audience for that in South. I hope the play & overall concept (popular language propagated in south) finds its way to further south to Chennai & Trivandrum. (No offense fellow south Indian friends, My first blog post was advocating Tanglish :) )
    On a bit serious note though Amit, Let me first admire your post. Your pen keeps getting sharper after every post. Your narrative makes the art even more interesting. Hope they give you enough credit for that. On the play, it seems like the play talks about the smolders after the arson. We tend to demonize the arson for devastation often overlooking the act of an arsonist. If I interpreted the review correctly, the play portrays “situation” as the lead antagonist; however in this conflict the real face of antagonist is clear to us. While it’s ok for art to exercise freedom of expression, there needs to be a caution in portraying sensitivity otherwise a serious conflict could be misrepresented by the stage.

    While it’s OK for a play to be sensitive, it’s unjust to play with sensitivity. (My two cents)

    Coming out of seriousness,
    Happy New Year!! Meeting you for the first time in 2013, where have you been? So will 2013 will be “the year”? Can’t wait to welcome you into our fraternity; :)

    • March 7, 2013 8:28 am

      I do partly agree with you Yatin. Your observations on the power that the ‘representation’ of the ‘situation on stage’ itself can wield is most striking. I agree with that. I so wish you had seen the play. A review surely cannot detail the narrative and therefore what I wrote about it is also ‘one’ view of it.

      Happy New Year to you too!!

      And your encouraging words and appreciation of the writing are most welcome. They matter!
      :)

      • March 7, 2013 5:18 pm

        Thanks for agreeing partially, I guess that means half the battle is won right there. :)
        New York does not seem to be a big market for Hindi Play. We often see Gujarati theater playing at local auditorium. On your recommendation I’ll make a point if they are around. And if they didn’t portray Pandit’s plight correctly, you’ll have a long email waiting in your in-box. We often tend to be over polite talking about Kashmir and that’s sort of injustice towards KPs.

        • March 7, 2013 11:39 pm

          Sure thing Yatin. Do let me know of the reactions in case you get a chance somewhere. btw did you hear of this new book by Rahul Pandita. You might find it interesting. I am yet to read it too.
          http://kafila.org/2013/01/30/our-memories-come-in-the-way-of-our-histories-gowhar-fazili/

  4. March 10, 2013 9:15 pm

    Very well written Amit. I hope I’ll get to see it if they came to Delhi for a second round.Your write-up surely raises our interest in the play.

    • March 10, 2013 9:43 pm

      I hope they do…you liked the review, that is great to know of. This was the first time I was trying my hands on a play. Shall try to post more of such reviews. In case you get to attend a show, do let me know of your reactions. Thanks!

  5. March 15, 2013 5:23 pm

    sounds interesting!

    • March 15, 2013 8:28 pm

      It surely was!

  6. March 28, 2013 5:47 pm

    Eh,this are the times I wish my college was in a metro!hardly anything ever comes down to BBSR,

    • March 29, 2013 10:55 pm

      Delhi aa jaao na after your B.Tech!! Aish Karaange!!
      :)

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