Ghost Whisperers in a Paradise Lost in Conflict in The Djinns of Eidgah

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DoE Cast: The cast of ‘The Djinns of Eidgah’ (L-R) – Vince Jerad, Kunal Jaggi, Nessya Dayan, Soroush Toloue & Kevin Kashani. Photographer – Jesse C.

TORONTO: The internationally acclaimed play ‘The Djinns of Eidgah’, by Abhishek Majumdar, is making its North American debut at the Hamilton Fringe Festival on July 16-26. Played out previously in India and the UK to great success, it is produced by Toronto-based InDev Productions in its maiden foray into theater.

The play interweaves true stories and testimonies with Sufi storytelling and is set in the Kashmir Valley, painting a portrait of a beautiful land and an innocent generation lost to conflict. A poetic tale of love and loss, rebels and ghosts, the play is shrouded in mystery and revelatory with light.

Bilal and Ashrafi are orphaned siblings, their parents lost in the conflict in Kashmir. Ashrafi has never fully recovered from the trauma. She is sweet and innocent, or does this belie something deeper? Bilal dreams of leaving Kashmir with his sister and staunchly avoids getting involved in the conflict, but destiny has other plans. Dr. Baig, Ashrafi’s therapist, is haunted by his own demons. He dedicates himself to Ashrafi, but who is he really trying to save? Two soldiers of the Indian army guard a graveyard of Kashmiri rebels. They do their jobs with duty, but being under the constant shadow of death will take its toll.

All these characters are ultimately forced to face their own demons and desires, by a voice of passion and speaker of truth – the Djinn. (In Arabian and Islamic mythology, Djinn is an intelligent spirit able to appear in human and animal forms, and to possess humans. Eidgah is an open-air mosque to perform prayers on the Muslim festival of Eid.)

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Vince Jerad and Kevin Kashani during rehearsals before
‘The Djinns of Eidgah’ opens up in Toronto on July 16.

Kunal Jaggi, the Producer and Founder of InDev, and also one of the actors, stumbled upon this play by accident on the internet. “I knew that the theatre scene in India was thriving, but still had not really heard of any contemporary playwrights except for Mahesh Dattani. I found myself googling writers and stumbled upon Abhishek Majumdar and read Djinns,” recalled Jaggi. “The first time I read it, I had to take breaks because it was so raw and so in your face! I immediately knew that I had to do everything possible to put this story up.”

Tanisha Taitt, a veteran theatre director in Toronto came on board after reading the script and finding herself drawn to the mysticism and spirituality in which the play is veiled. Ingryd Pleitez, the Assistant Director and Stage Manager, loved the powerful imagery and poetic nature of the text. Rua Wani, the Associate Producer, hails from the Kashmir Valley and was struck by the honesty and insightfulness of the play. Heather Bellingham is the Production Manager and Victoria Wang the Sound Designer.

The ensemble cast features a diverse and talented group of Toronto actors: Kevin Kashani as a soldier suffering from PTSD, and the Djinn; Vince Jerad as a soldier and one of the boys on the local football team; Soroush Toloue as a psychiatrist and often the voice of reason in the chaotic world; and Nessya Dayan and Kunal Jaggi as two orphans scraping through life with little to hold on to except each other.

The characters confront and push each other’s buttons unapologetically, revealing their deepest demons, insecurities and passions – all of which are brought to a head in a riveting climax.

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