You will be forgiven for squinting in confusion at all the analogies. Mahmood Farooqui lets his words slip out in quick succession,covering swathes of topics and observations in a matter of seconds. This easy lucidity flows over on the Dastangoi blog,where Farooqui passionately waxes eloquent on the origins of Dastangoi,the forgotten art of Urdu storytelling that has been courting revival for the past six years in Delhi and Mumbai,thanks to Farooqui and a brood of 16.
That Farooqui was co-director and casting director for the commercially and critically well-appreciated Peepli Live is well known. But the Delhi-based Oxford and Cambridge graduate,and Rhodes scholar,is also the founder of a theatre group called Dastak,and has been actively involved in reviving the lost form of Dastangoi in India. Farooqui and Danish Husain are in the city on Sunday to perform Dastan-e-Sedition ,as a part of the day-long ‘Celebrating Right To Dissent’ event organised by the Lokayat group,in support of incarcerated public health specialist and activist Binayak Sen. Apart from a performance at the Film and Television Institute of India,this will be Pune’s first tryst with this unique style of storytelling.
So then,what is Dastangoi? It is a lost form of Urdu storytelling that met an abrupt end at the beginning of the 20th century. It is a form where the performers speak very fast in Urdu,and leave the audience catching their breath. It is a mix of narration,recitation and a little performance. It is not like conventional acting or emoting or like Kathakali. It is somewhere in between, says Farooqui. The Dastangoi blog articulately traces the origins,inspirations and content of this form. At the performance,the storytellers mostly sit still on a chowki,letting their voices and gestures communicate the dastans (tales) of magic,intrigue and more.
Farooqui credits Allahabad-based Urdu writer,poet,scholar and critic,Shamsur Rahman Faruqi,and his works for making the revival possible. I cannot claim exclusive authorship of what we will perform. These are devised stories that will relate a take on the subject at hand, says Farooqui. He admits that given the form of Dastangoi,there is a certain burden of explanation on the Dastangos. We can’t take it for granted that the audience will understand everything. But in the past six years,we have realised that we can’t worry too much about it. There are too many stories to tell and too little time, he chuckles.
Dastan-e-Sedition begins at 7pm at Kale Memorial Hall,Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics,on Sunday