To commemorate the 400th birth anniversary of slain Mughal prince Dara Shikoh this week, Dastango Ankit Chadha on Friday presented a dastan on the prince’s life and struggles.
Based on scholar Supriya Gandhi’s research on the prince, the dastan began at sunset on the steps of Dara Shikoh’s library in Ambedkar University.
For the first time since the revival of Dastangoi in India, the old Mughal tradition of telling stories with pictorial representations was employed. “In Mughal times, Dastangos would narrate stories while showing pictures to capture the imagination of the audience. We are recreating this for the first time,” Chadha told Newsline.
Along with the Centre for Community Knowledge, the team also put up records of Dara Shikoh’s poetry in Urdu, Awadhi, Persian and Hindi along with headphones on a banyan tree outside the library.
Dastangoi’s revival completes a decade in India this year. To mark the historic event, founder Mahmood Farooqui is all set to launch what he calls one of his “most ambitious projects” so far — Dastan Raja Vikram ke Ishq ki (The story of King Vikram’s Love). The performance will be held at the India Habitat Centre on April 4th and 5th.
The story is a “cocktail” that mixes the legend of emperor Vikram along with the “Shakespearean” love poetry of Mir Baqi Mir and the folk tales of one of India’s greatest folklorists, A K Ramanujam.
Dastan Raja Vikram ke Ishq ki is a sequel to an earlier, much acclaimed performance titled Dastan-e-Chouboli, which was based on a story by noted writer Vijaydan Detha. In the first part, a beautiful princess, Chouboli, vows to marry only a man who could make her speak four times in a single night.
Farooqui has reportedly employed the Masnavi style of writing, where stories are narrated in verses, for this tale.
A Rhodes Scholar who attended Oxford and Cambridge, Farooqi founded Team Dastangoi along with his wife Anusha Rizvi and uncle Shamsur Rehman Farooqui over 10 years ago. Looking back, he feels a lot has been achieved.
“We have brought back the art of recitation that is so integral to our culture… We tried to create a popular language that has strengths of both Urdu and Hindi and is accessible to everybody.”
Farooqui feels the country today is facing a “huge crisis”. “We cannot recite Surdas to an audience in Delhi. We are cut-off from our medieval past. Dastangoi has managed to create a pool of stories that have been neglected because of the ideological impositions of colonialism. Our work is… political,” he added.
Farooqui also feels that unlike other performance forms such as folk arts, which remain restricted to communities or theatre and mainly caters to the “bourgeois”, Dastangoi cuts across class and caste divides.
On being asked why the language in some Dastangoi performances is so difficult, he said, “When we perform traditional stories, I don’t like playing with the language… We have tried to bring a marginalised language to the fore. But our attitude is this — if you don’t understand the language, then it’s your problem. Make an effort to learn it… ”