Monday, 28 October 2013

Dastangoi at IHC and Studio Safdar (26 and 27 Oct 2013)

When evenings merged with tales, trickery and magic

At about 4:30 pm, a crisis of sorts hit our home as Nadeem got a phone call from his 'Ustaad' Danish Husain. Nadeem and Manu (Manu Sikandar Dhingra) were performing at India Habitat Center (IHC) on Saturday, 26 Oct 2013. The two of them have been 'dastangoi partners' so far, growing as a performing pair with the years. The evening was set for Saturday and everything was going as usual when that phone call tossed up a mild storm (it could very well have been a great storm for Nadeem) as Danish announced that Manu couldn't make it for something urgent had come up. And that, Nadeem will now perform with Danish. I was stumped. Can't say what was going on in Nadeem's mind though. Danish is a giant in the field of theatre and dastangoi, one of the Ustaads along with the revivalist of this art form, Mahmood Farooqui. It's like an amateur been told that she is to play Steffi Graff!

Besides, Nadeem and Danish have never rehearsed together, forget about performing together. The guys had just an hour to go through their lines and determine who would deal with which portions of the text. I was nervous. But once they took the stage, they kept the audience so engrossed! And I knew why masters are masters. Danish was excellent. He kept the audience in splits with his wit; and the short notice could not jolt the performer that he is, although he was supposed to have been partying with friends only a few hours ago before he was called to save the situation. And I must confess, really, that Nadeem was a good support. They gave was two wonderful sessions of storytelling from the magnum opus 'Tilism Hoshruba', the world's first and longest magical fantasy.

It was an evening well spent. The show was organised as part of India Habitat Centre's celebration of Indian languages.     

Nadeem Shah and Danish Husain at IHC, 26 Oct 2013. Photo Credit: Nicky Chandam

Dastangoi at Studio Safdar yesterday (27 Oct 2013) was another experience altogether. Nadeem and Manu did one story, and I was attending their performance after a long time. I realised that they have really come a long way as a pair. Nadeem is finally beginning to do justice to the fact that he performs with a seasoned actor like Manu. There were two other stories that were being performed by Fouzia and Valentina. The young Fouzia is the first female dastango ever and Valentina made her debut yesterday. They were fantastic. I was overwhelmed because two women were performing and they were so good! Their storytelling held such power over their audience that it was empowering for me, and I am sure for many other females in the audience. 

Powerful performance by Fouzia and Valentina. Superb debut by Valentina. Studio Safdar, 27 Oct 2013

Fouzia and Valentina after the performance. Studio Safdar, 27 Oct 2013.

Zaara with Fouzia, the first female dastango.

Nadeem Shah and Manu Sikandar Dhingra. An engrossing performance. Studio Safdar, 27 Oct 2013.

This is how my daughter Zaara kept busy as her father performed. Seen here with another female dastango Poonam (who wasn't performing that day)

Eating samosas :)

"The word Dastangoi refers to the art of storytelling, it is a compound of two Persian words Dastan and goi which means to tell a Dastan. Dastans were epics, often oral in nature, which were recited or read aloud and in essence were like medieval romances everywhere. Telling tales of adventure, magic and warfare, Dastans mapped new worlds and horizons, encountered the unseen and protected the hero through many travails and lovers as he moved on his quest. The hero’s adventures could sometimes parallel the mystic quest, at other times the story narrated a purely profane tale. In the process of telling the story the narrators freely borrowed tropes and themes from other stories, thus it was that Rumi’s Masnavi and Arabian Nights both came to contain many stories from the Panchtantra tradition. While Dastans had many principals and many stories, the story of Hamza began to stand out early on." - Text  by Mahmood Farooqui (Source:  

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