A gathering of 60-odd people watched awestruck at Bandra’s Pioneer Hall as two pairs of performers, dressed in immaculate white kurta churidars and matching topis, narrated their colourful tale.
For over an hour they listened, laughed and wah-wahed as the performers, dastangos, continued with their story.
The lost art of dastangoi or Urdu storytelling has made a spectacular comeback on the city’s cultural circuit.
For Mahmood Farooqui, the performer who revived it in 2005, it all began with his fascination for Urdu literature.
Having been involved in over 120 performances in the last four years, he envisages a promising future for the art form.
“We are now trying to spread the art form and recruit more and more dastangos,” said Farooqui.
At Sunday’s performance, held as part of the Celebrate Bandra Festival, in partnership with Hindustan Times, two dastangos — Rana Senger and Sheik Usman — debuted on stage alongside Rajesh Kumar and veteran dastango Danish Husain.
Dastans, the stories the dastangos narrate, are essentially comic accounts, an oral form that was documented in 46 volumes at the end of the nineteenth century in Lucknow.
Dastans typically feature an aiiyyaar or trickster who is a dab hand at disguises and works to trap powerful magicians.
The narrative proceeds to tell of intrigue, ploys and counter-ploys till the magician is vanquished. Fluency in Urdu is not a prerequisite to enjoying the drama and humour that a dastangoi performance involves.
Alternating between voices, characters, and emotions, the pairs of dastangos did not merely narrate a story as the words storytelling imply, they dramatised it in the fullest sense of the word.v