By Deepa Gahlot
Many plays about Kashmir have been staged, almost all expressing anguish over the beautiful state fractured by militancy—some angry, some pessimistic, some hopeful.
Pashmina, written by Mrinal Mathur and directed by National School of Drama alumna Sajida, is marked by its simplicity and poignance. It is one of the winners of the playwriting competition organised by Sanhita Manch (an organisation set up by NSD alumni Rasika Agashe and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub).
A middle aged couple, Vibha and Amar Saxena (Barnali Medhi, Joy Maisnam), are planning their annual vacation. They travel to a new place every year and bring back something unique from that state. Vibha is reluctant to go to Kashmir. There are dreamlike glimpses of a young boy, to establish that they have lost their only son there, and though their life is outwardly normal, they live every day with that grief.
When they do make up their minds to go to Kashmir, they decide to get a Pashmina shawl. Taking a tip from a Kashmiri neighbour (Sonu Pilania), nostalgic for his lost homeland, they decide to go to a particular seller of shawls. In their hotel, they meet a loud Punjabi couple Ravinder and Preeti Dhillon (Shivprasad Gond, Jaspreet Kaur), who first crash their table and then hijack the Pashmina shopping trip.
Ravinder is the typical bragging Delhi businessman boasting of his wealth and connections, proud of beating down the shopkeeper (Mohan Joshi) on the price of a shawl. The Saxenas finds the price of the shawls beyond their budget; the shopkeeper understands that these are not the usual bargain-seeking tourists. They make unspoken connection wrought of shared loss and sorrow. A valuable Pashmina shawl becomes a symbol of healing on both sides.
The play touches the viewer, without overstating anything, or manipulating emotions. The staging is minimalistic; though the production could have done with better music and avoided the typical Kashmiri folk dance. The actors get the tone of the play just right and bring to their performances quietude, dignity and, in the case of the Punjabi couple, the crassness required for their scenes. The serenity of the moment in which a token of love is offered by one man and accepted by another, is what stays with the audience long after the show ends.
Playwright: Mrinal Mathur
Cast: Joy Maisnam, Barnali Medhi, Shivprasad Gond, Jaspreet Kaur, Mohan Joshi and others
Staged as part of the Sanhitamanch Rang Mahotsav, Pashmina is directed by Sajida and put up by the Treasure Art Association, Delhi
Posted on Aug 17, 2018
P L Deshpande Sabhagruha
Time: Thu 16 Aug 07:30 PM
Location: Ravindra Natya Mandir, Prabhadevi, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best known entertainment journalists. A National Awardwinning film critic, Deepa has watched more movies and theatre than most people in the country. An author of several books on film and theatre, she has had an extremely successful run as head of theatre and film at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, during which she helped nurture several original productions. For Xyngr, Deepa Gahlot reviews theatre and cinema.