This play was performed over the weekend at the Jamshed Bhabha hall at NCPA.
As the year winds down to a close, so does Aadyam’s 5th season. After taking Mumbai on an emotional trip with three very distinct plays earlier this year, their final production is a musically-driven story of romance interspersed with drama, both real and surreal and is set in Kashmir.
The play begins very dramatically with the reciting of the famous couplet “Agar Firdaus barooyay Zameen ast, Hameen asto, hameen asto hameen ast….if there is a heaven on earth it is this, it is this! The play Zoon, is set in two eras and two stories run side by side. Zoon is a dramatic Hindi re-interpretation of the true story of Habba Khatoun, the nightingale of Kashmir, who later became their queen. In the year 1570, Yousuf Shah Chak, the warrior king of Kashmir was captivated by a peasant girl, Zoon, and he fell in love with the beauty of her voice and the richness of her rhyme. They married against all odds. However, their love was destined to be short lived as it was thwarted by a jealous Akbar, the great emperor of Hindustan. Renamed Habba Khatoun, Zoon went on to become the legendary last poet queen of Kashmir.
In the parallel story of this play, the scene shifts to the present, where in a maidaan somewhere in Kashmir, the stage is set for a dramatic retelling of Zoon’s legendary tale. Five young college students wait to be assigned their roles for the show, but they seem to have caught the attention of an army soldier stationed nearby. In another corner a mysterious woman sits silently. Who is she and what is she doing there? In a dramatic retelling, the two stories collide, and a much loved historic tale from Kashmir, springs to life.
Purva Naresh, the writer and director of this play admits that it is “a difficult play to mount, produce, and put together because it is a story across centuries and the vision requires telling a tale through many lenses – personal, traditional and the experimental “. This explains why this play often comes through as being very disjointed but despite that, the Herculean effort to put the play together is quite visible. Perhaps a bit of editing could sort out this problem. Another minus point was the sound quality, but I am sure that that is bound to improve in future.
Yash Khan as Lohar Chak and Ipsita Chakraborty Singh as Zoon, are excellent in their respective roles, as is Harsh Khurana as Zahoor, the shikara wala. Chirag Garg as the soldier was also impressive and so was Amanjeet Proch as Fatima, one of the students. Nivedita Bhargava has a mellifluous voice, and her singing stood out. The authentic costumes have been made by Delhi designer Nakul Sen, and the most dramatic costume was the one worn by Emperor Akbar (Mir Sarwar), as it had a trail almost a mile long! The music also is very apt and it has been composed by Pt. Kishan Singh Langoo, who is from J&K. A live band enhanced the experience of the wonderful music. LED projections of a garden, a beautifully lit Shikara, and flower beds that could be rolled on and off stage together with a functional stage set, added to the very “real” Kashmir experience. These tales of Kashmir need to be told to highlight the plight of a people who today “live in their memories “, as the Malin, (Gardner woman) rightly says. Hats off to Aadyam and Purva Naresh for exposing us to this fact and bringing to life this lesser known tale from Kashmir. Look out for further shows. Tickets on Insider and Paytm.