Dastangoi begins its story again

  • B Sundaresan, Hindustantimes.com, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jan 31, 2015 14:07 IST

That speech is the foundation of written word is undoubted but in matters of art, the latter takes the lead; and storytelling, though ubiquitous, is not much of a business.

Fighting for the dying art of storytelling is dastangoi (Urdu for it), tradition that dates back to the 16th century. Dastangos (storytellers) Ankit Chadda and Poonam Girdhani were at the second Chandigarh Children’s Literature Festival on Thursday to tell those gathered the tale of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Urdu, to rich applause.

The art form was in decline since the early 20th century until Urdu literary critic SR Faruqi revived it lately by beginning to find its students. Dastangoi’s primary medium of communication is Urdu but Girdhani believes it is no barrier, because the story is in the way it is told.

Chadda and she have also presented AR Ramanujan’s Three Hundred Ramayanas at Magh Mela in Allahabad to an audience of devout sadhus. So what was makes dastangoi click? “Human beings are attuned to listening. You would notice a difference between reading a book and listening to it with all the emotions from someone,” said Chadda.But can dastangoi mount a challenge against the publisher-driven print world. “We searching for a space, like every new art has to,” says Girdhani.

“We are trying to make dastangoi an attractive brand, and our audience is increasing,” adds Chadda.Apart from entertaining, dastangoi is also helping conserve our oral traditions.

“All our religious scriptures were recited initially and only then transcribed.In these times when we have accustomed ourselves to texting, watching, and reading, can these recitals make a mark? That’d be a dastaan to tell.

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