Photo credit: Mumbai Mirror
Mahmood Farooqui (right) and Danish Husain performed the Dastangoi at the NCPA last Friday, 23rd June.
So the six of us bundled ourselves into the car at 4:15 to reach NCPA by 6:30.
The next two hours were completely spellbinding. My knowledge of Hindi is recently acquired and I can barely manage the colloquial stuff, so I was wondering if I would be able to understand any of the proceedings. Inspite of Dan's assurances, my doubts persisted until Mahmood began to weave his tapestries.
Dastangoi is very difficult to describe. It needs to be experienced. But let me try to give you an idea of what to expect. It's a cross between a theatre performance and poetry reading. The words are wonderfully descriptive and conjure visions in your head. The perfomers are seated but use expressions, gestures, tone of voice and a myriad other techniques to transport you into a realm of fantasy consisting partly of "tilisms" (alternate worlds), aiyyaars, sorcerers and magicians.
Farooqui on his blog explains :
Dastangos were those who told 'dastans' (stories). Recounting tales of Amir Hamza, the Prophet Mohammed's uncle, they told narratives of his battles with infidels, sorcerers and other pretenders to divinity.
In the dastani worldview, good and bad are evenly matched, infinitely. When an evil sorcerer dies, a new one rises to replace him. When someone on the righteous side is killed, another one is quickly found to replace him. Hamza is the lead character, he is the Lord of the age.
Dastangoyee is about four things: Razm -- warfare, Bazm -- assembly of singing, dancing and seducing, Tilism -- magical effect or artefact created by the sorcerer, and Aiyyari -- chicanery, trickery, disguise. The aiyyars, the tricksters, are employed by both sides.
If you would like to watch a performance, you are in luck. If you already caught the NCPA perfomance, then consider this the next couple of episodes.
Dastangoi: A Presentation of the Lost Form of Storytelling
(A Part of Katha Collage II)
Photo credit: Dan Hussain
The Sea of Eloquence - An Evening of Dastan-e-Amir Hamza
July 1 & 2, 2006 at 9:00 pm, Prithvi Theatre, Juhu, Mumbai
Tickets available at Prithvi on the day of performance itself.
The oral narration of Dastan-e-Amir Hamza was a popular past time in most parts of Central, Western and South Asia and North Africa since medieval times. Originally composed in Persian, the Dastan-e-Amir Hamza describes the battles of Amir Hamza, the Prophet Muhammad's Uncle, against infidels, sorcerers and other pretenders to divinity.
As anecdotes of Mir Baqar Ali, the last known Dastango of Delhi, testify, their performances required an exceptional command over rhetoric, delivery, mimicry, ventriloquism and spontaneous composition.
The performances have come about as a result of a collaboration between S.R. Faruqi, the foremost living authority on these Dastans and the only person to possess a full set of all the 46 volumes,
Invitation Credit : Mahmood Farooqui, New Delhi
Mahmood Farooqui is a self-trained actor and performer whose most recent foray into acting consisted of a role in Mahesh Dattani's English film, Mango Soufflé.
Photo credit: DNA
Danish Husain has done theatre with the best names in the country - Habib Tanvir, M.S. Sathyu, Barry John, Rajinder Nath, Sabina Mehta Jaitley, Aziz Quraishi, et al in a wide variety of roles.