Flourishing in Urdu in the 16th century, Dastangoi is an oral narrative tradition, with a repertoire of epic stories full of magic and adventure. While the form largely disappeared over the last few centuries, it has been ‘rediscovered’ over the last 15 years, largely through the work of writer and director Mahmood Farooqui, who hosts a performance tonight in the city.
Describing Dastangoi as ‘a near perfect fusion of performance and literature,’ Farooqui explains that “It’s different to other Indian storytelling traditions because narrators rely purely on their voice with no aid of music or visuals, and it has always been entirely secular.” Research and promotion of Dastangoi has been aided by an India Foundation for the Arts grant, which enabled Farooqui to hold workshops in cities India-wide, as well as publish a book. “You could really describe the revival as a reinvention because I brought in two people to tell stories in pairs, and hence the form got a new theatricality,” he says.
Keeping this theatricality in mind, tonight’s performance will see Farooqui on stage with Danish Husain, and the stories in the line-up include Dastan Mehtaab Jaadu Ki, about ‘the king of musicians’, and Dastan-e-Chouboli, an adaptation of a Rajasthani folk tale. Translated into Urdu by Farooqui, he’s added poetry and the writings of classical Urdu poets to the original Rajasthani text, bringing it in line with the conventions of a Dastangoi performance. “It’s best-suited for adults, and you can expect an evening full of laughter, poetry and feminine emphases,” Farooqui signs off.
At Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Malleswaram. 7.30 pm. Donor passes (Rs.300 upwards)