Djinn Spotting in Delhi!

Scene from the playAuthor William Dalrymple’s classic portrait of Delhi has been adapted for the theatre.

[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Aladdin’s lamp is out of the trunk. Those who relish William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns can re-live the book in open-air performances in which djinns are being summoned from the ruins. More than fifty actors, including real-life snake charmers, calligraphers, hijras and qawwals are strutting their stuff at the Indira Gandhi National Center for Arts – with the Maati Ghar monument, a synthesis of Mughal and modern architecture, as an apt backdrop.

Doubting Thomases may wonder at the wisdom of transforming a city’s portrait into a two-hour play, but Dalrymple has given his blessings to this ambitious Dreamtheatre production. Rudra Deep Chakrabarty, the young, curly-haired director, has claimed to recreate the book’s most evocative moments. “I have given the narrative its real sound and music, its characters their true lingo and accent.” His confidence springs from a cast that boasts of veteran actors Tom Alter and Zohra Segal. As the play’s Dalrymple, Alter has never before met the author and has denied copying his mannerisms. Segal, descendant of a Mughal general, is exercising the ultimate revenge by playing an Anglo-Indian lady.

So, has the djinns appeared? Go and find out.

“City of Djinns” is to run till April 26 at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), Janpath road, New Delhi; 9899798510.