“Mera Wajood Jhelum se hai Ganga Ya Yamuna se nahi”

On his experience of being in a rehearsal for the play – ‘Gasha’, by Basav Biradar.

The line “Mera Wajood Jhelum se hai Ganga Ya Yamuna se nahi” gives us a sneak peek into what Gasha  is all about. The mood is very intense in the tiny rehearsal space despite there being more people than the room can handle. Abhishek pats the actors on the back and in his characteristic way asks them to try the same scene differently. Using this as an opportunity I scanned the room and could not help but think that Gasha the play is lucky to have such a great team. The synergy is visible between the actors, the writer and the director as Ira pitches in to remind the blocking that both the director and actors have forgotten.

The last of Abhishek Majumdar’s Kashmir Trilogy “Gasha” is the story of two friends (A Kashmiri Pandit and a muslim). There is an attempt to bring in the perspective of the “The other side” or in other words Kashmiri Pandits. The set is packed with suitcases and intends to tell us that the journey the characters make through the play is an essential element of the story. During the much needed tea breaks Ira tells me that Abhishek presented her the idea of collaborating for a Kashmir play during Writer’s Bloc 3. After she agreed there was no looking back, the team of Gasha has travelled to Kashmir couple of times for research and have been devising the play for more than a year now. Subashim joined the team as the dramaturg and Adhir as the actor. Later on Sandeep also joined the team as an actor. As the rehearsal resumes and moves onto the next scene one finds that the transitions are innovatively designed to be fluid and are being continuously fine-tuned. Both the actors transition into different characters very smoothly and we get a glimpse of the Kashmiri pandit who has to do a Puja of a newly bought CRPF gun and the know it all contractor Gulla who is trying to convince Gasha that he should return to Kashmir which is his home.

The most interesting part of watching the rehearsals is the realization that even after months of rehearsals there is so much more that can be done with a play.  The team is constantly trying new blockings, adjusting props, rethinking the lines. As you would expect from such a production there are some very interesting design elements, for instance in the airport scene the two characters are supposed to be talking to each other but on the stage you see them standing far apart and creating a fantastic image for the audience.

Adhir plays the lead character Gasha who has returned to Kashmir after a hiatus and notices that there are still people (read as Kashmiri Pandits) who still think of Kashmir as home and India as a huge army bent upon arresting any change. The play successfully lends a human face to the people of Kashmir (both pandits and muslims) and makes us rethink and revaluate our prejudices and judgements about Kashmir and its children.

As the clock strikes 10 pm and hunger takes priority over creativity another long rehearsal comes to an end. As Abhishek rightly put it is interesting to watch rehearsals because this is the time we see the team fail even though for a moment. It gives us the opportunity to understand how the team overcomes the minute glitches. It is a treat to see collaboration at work. I am looking forward to the opening of Gasha in Bangalore and more importantly to the next rehearsal.

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