I had the privilege of watching Dastangoi by Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Hussain for the very first time, some eight or nine years back. It seldom happens after watching a performance that you feel a sense of fulfillment.
The entire performance is etched in my memory, and I remember the performance as if I had just watched it yesterday. This is the power of Dastangoi. One can simply not forget how it transforms you to another realm. Dastangoi is a 13th century Urdu oral storytelling art form that evolved in the 16th century. The art form was at its pinnacle in the 19th century but is said to have died with the death of Mir Baqar Ali in 20th century. It was revived in 2005 by Mahmood Farooqui and has since then garnered a lot of praise, adulation, and admiration. In the Persian language, the word ‘Dastan’ means a tale and the suffix ‘goi’ is added to it. Thus, it translates to “tell a tale”.
I remember when I reached the auditorium, the entire stage was empty except for a cushioned mattress in the centre of the stage. During the entire performance, not even a single property was used to enhance the aesthetics of the performance. Yet, we all were enchanted by the story of ‘Amir Hamza’. I was laughing, crying, and was left at the edge of my seat. Dastangoi evokes the fantasy world where there are tricksters, fairies, princes, sorcerers, kings, slaves and warriors. However, it is still rooted in the reality of today’s times as it also talks about poverty and discrimination.
Since then I have watched other people perform Dastangoi too.
However, none of them have managed to be as successful as this duo in leaving an everlasting impression. Every year, Jashn-e-Rekhta has a Dastangoi performance by different artists. Although they are not quite as impressive, they will certainly leave you with an idea of how great and mesmerising this art form is. A performance that I have not been able to catch up with and is gaining a lot of appreciation is Topi Ki Dastan by Wings Cultural Society. This dastan is based on Topi Shukla by Dr. Rahi Masoom Raza.
If you get a chance to watch them, please do catch up with them. I guarantee you that the entire experience of watching Dastangoi will not be less entertaining than watching a movie in multiplex. You will be left saying “waah” for the nth time at the end of the performance for certain.
Feature Image Credits: Youth Ki Aawaaz