Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Dude, or long delayed homage (on this blog!)

November 17

Imagine a storyteller on the steps of a grand mosque. Not just any storyteller but a dastan-go, a teller of epics, of tales full of razm, bazm, tilism and aiyyari; war, romance, magical effect and trickery. Imagine crowds gathering for hours on end to hear a master dastango tell his action-packed, bawdy stories.

For half an hour on a Saturday morning (November 12) dastangoi was not an art lost to Delhi's dimly remembered past, but alive and well and gathering serious crowds on the north steps of the Jama Masjid as Mahmood Farooqui (Rhodes scholar, theatre and film actor, columnist, historical researcher) performed/narrated the tale of Amar Ayyar constantly evading the traps set for him by Aazar Jaad; almost eighty years after the death of Mir Baqar Ali, Dilli's last dastango.

Mahmood was performing on the invitation of INTACH who had organised a heritage walk for children from the Spastics Society. For the past year or so, with the aid of a fellowship from Sarai-CSDS, Mahmood has been researching this lost art of story telling , and particularly the vast Dastan of Amir Hamza published in 46 volumes by the Naval Kishore Press in Lucknow, a completely ignored part of the Urdu literary canon. This has since resulted in many performances, at the IIC, at Sarai, at colleges, and finally at the Jama Masjid.

Needless to say, despite the high flown Urdu of the dastan, the children were spellbound. as was everyone else who stopped to gawp. As has been the case with every other performance. "This makes one thing clear," says Mahmood, "the 'gap' between Hindi and Urdu does not exist in dastangoi."

And Mahmood is willing to tell his dastans at every opportunity he gets. Special angarkhas have been stitched especially in Lucknow.
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