Direction : Rasika Agashe
Writer : Mrinal Mathur
Cast : Manish Chaudhary, Anamika Tiwari, Mohd Yasir I Khan and others

PASHMINA Play Review

Deepa Gahlot


Written by Mrinal Mathur, the hour-long play PASHMINA, was one of the 2018 winners of the playwriting competition organised by Sanhita Manch (an organisation set up by NSD alumni Rasika Agashe and Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub).

In keeping with the aim to produce the top three winning plays, PASHMINA had been directed by Sajida, the filmed version on Nine Rasa, has been directed by Rasika Agashe with a different cast, some changes to the text (she cleverly shifts a key moment of revelation to build up suspense) and box sets because the original minimalistic staging would not have worked for a television screen.

A middle aged couple, Vibha and Amar Saxena (Anamika Tiwari , Manish Chaudhary), 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 is an inexplicable hollowness to their existence, so that even their everyday exchanges about seem labored, as if they were making an extra effort trying to be normal.

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 (Shaurya Shanker), 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 Sweety (Param Singh Baidwan, Manjeet Yadav), who first crash their table at an expensive restaurant, leaving them with an eye-wateringly high bill, 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 (Mohd Yasir I Khan) on the asking price of a shawl. The Saxenas finds the rates of the shawls beyond their budget; the shopkeeper understands that these are not the usual bargain-seeking tourists. They make an unspoken connection wrought of shared loss and sorrow. A valuable Pashmina shawl becomes a symbol of healing on both sides.

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 is marked by its simplicity and poignance. The play touches the viewer, without overstating anything, or manipulating emotions. 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 and sacrifice is offered by one man and accepted by another, is what stays with the audience long after the play ends.

(Deepa Gahlot is a journalist, columnist, author and curator. Some of her writings are on
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