Join Mahmood Farooqui in reviving Dastangoi at this festival in Juhu

19 June,2024 09:13 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Devashish Kamble

A four-day long celebration of Dastangoi presented by exponent Mahmood Farooqui will aim to revive the age-old art form in the city

A moment from performance Dastan-e-Alice

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In traditional white attire, a dastango walks onto the stage and takes a seat to present a story through the 13th century Urdu art form. Interestingly, the tales to be told in Urdu are the Mahabharata and Alice in Wonderland. As Delhi-based dastangoi exponent Mahmood Farooqui takes stage with many such surprises at the Jashn-e-Dastangoi starting today, he lays out what it takes to revive an art form.

"Any retelling of events that wields the power to captivate audiences through a simple narration can be presented as a dastan. How is the Mahabharata any different then? It has been passed down generations through simple storytelling. That's the beauty of it," shares Farooqui, who is set to return to Mumbai with his troupe after nearly a year.

Mahmood Farooqui

He believes dastans have a unique aural quality that sets them apart, "When a good dastango narrates a dastan, the story starts taking shape in your mind. Unlike a theatre play where the images are presented to you, a dastangoi ensures your experience is unique to yourself. This is why it doesn't need music, lights, or props to find a place in people's hearts."

Now in his 19th year in reviving the art form, Farooqui finds no dearth of talented, versatile dastangois in his contemporaries and proteges. Dastango Darain Shahidi, for instance, will join actor Aamir Bashir to present Dastan-e-Partition, a tragi-comic take on the partition of India in 1947 that marks Bashir's foray into the art form. In a performance that will follow, Shahidi will join Farooqui to present an adaptation of Srilal Shukla's cult classic book, Rag Darbari, through Dastan-e-Rag Darbari.

"Each of these stories brings to the fore a concern, a novel idea, or a forgotten history that we believe needs to be told, and retold in better ways," Farooqui notes. One closer to his heart, understandably, is a dastan dedicated to late Urdu poet and practising sufi, Mir Taqi Mir. For the artiste, it will mark a deserving tribute to the poet in his 300th death anniversary year.

While Farooqui looks forward to the celebrations, a certain discontentment reflects in his voice. The foresight of what awaits on the other side, perhaps. "Despite our efforts, the art form has failed to find a place in mainstream performing arts spaces," he reveals. "As dastangois don't fit into the constructs of theatre or musical performances, they remain undiscovered by the masses. It's only occasions like these that give us the chance to showcase the art form. We will try to make the best of it," he concludes.

ON June 20 to 23; 6 pm onwards
AT Prithvi Theatre, Juhu.
ENTRY Rs 500

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