Review: Pah-La, Royal Court

Intriguing subject matter can’t quite elevate Pah-La above its frustrating structural issues at the Royal Court

“You are unsure whether you are here or not but you are absolutely sure that Tibet is yours”

I was a huge fan of Abhishek Majumdar’s hugely atmospheric The Djinns of Eidgah, so was intrigued to see him return to the Royal Court with new play Pah-La. Set in Tibet, it circles around the realities of political protest under an oppressive regime, particularly in light of native Buddhist philosophy. 

As Chinese interlopers arrive in Eastern Tibet to ‘re-educate’ the masses, the threat imposed on the local nunnery is personified in the form of Deshar, a woman who took the habit in defiance of her father’s wishes and shows similar obduracy now, to searingly horrific effect. Continue reading “Review: Pah-La, Royal Court”

Review: The Djinns of Eidgah, Royal Court

“Gar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast”

Interesting art can transcend basic notions of comprehension, cutting deep to a visceral place of goosebumps and adrenalin rushes that crosses linguistic barriers, just listening to this recital of a piece of Sufi poetry moves me in an unexpectedly extraordinary way even after repeated listens. The above quote of another piece also by poet Amir Khusro (If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here) which prefaces Abhishek Majumdar’s complex Kashmir-set play The Djinns of Eidgah which provoked a similar reaction in me upstairs at the Royal Court.

Not that the play isn’t in English, but rather its reach is ambitiously grand and encompasses subjects that I would be a fool to profess any substantial knowledge of. Through the trials of young Kashmiri orphans Ashrafi and Bilal, Majumdar’s writing explores the state of being ‘inbetween’ – whether in the brutal, and ongoing, realities of being torn between India and Pakistan; or in the fable-like hinterland between life and death, explored through the Central Asian oral history tradition of dastaan and the legends of Amir Hamza. Reality and fantasy are intermingled, politics and people dissected, both head and heart engaged to create a melancholic minor masterpiece.  Continue reading “Review: The Djinns of Eidgah, Royal Court”