Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dastan in An Attic

saturday 9th december
6.30 pm The AtticAn evening of Dastangoi
by Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Husain from the Tilism-e Hoshruba daftar of the Dastan of Amir Hamza

Dastans are epic narratives and their recitation, including performance and narration, was a “Dastango”. Beginning with a now untraceable, original Arabic version, the story of Hamza, and his exploits against infidels, sorcerers and pretenders to divinity, spread first to the Persian and then to many parts of the Islamic world.
In India the story was already immensely popular in the sixteenth century and one of the first artistic projects commissioned by the Emperor Akbar was an illustration of the Hamza dastan, a work that became known as the Hamzanama, which consisted of over 1200 huge folios.

With its transmission into Urdu in the 18th and 19th centuries the Dastan of Amir Hamza came to acquire the mammoth size that is peculiar to Indic storytelling. In its structure it partook of the formal devices of classical music and Urdu poetry. In performance it connected with oral recitation forms of many different kinds-qissagoi, marsiyagoi, poetry recitation, naqal, bhandgiri-that dotted the Indian public sphere in the pre-colonial era.

Partaking of motifs and themes that proliferated in the shared pool of Indo-Persian storytelling tradition the final printed version of the Hamza Dastan in Urdu, by the Nawal Kishore Press in 19th century, ran to 46 volumes of over a thousand pages each, making it the longest fictional narrative ever printed in any language.

The Art of Dastangoi is at once the art of composition and of performance, parts of it are woven extemporaneously, as one is narrating/performing it.

Popular alike in the salons of kings and nobles and in the chowks and bazaars, of Delhi, Lucknow, Rampur, the art of Dastangoi is an inestimable part of Indian literature as well as its performance arts.

The revival of Dastangoi over the last one and a half year has been made possible largely because of the painstaking scholarly work of S R Faruqi, the only person to own the entire 46 volume collection, painstakingly built up in the course of his research.

Mahmood Farooqui is a Delhi based writer and actor. He has directed and acted in plays in Delhi , Bombay and Oxford and acted in the English feature film ‘ Mango Souffle'. He is currently researching a book on the Ghadar of 1857.

Danish Husain has been working with the best directors in Indian theatre - Habib Tanvir (Agra Bazaar), M.S. Sathyu, Barry John, Rajinder Nath, Sabina Mehta Jaitley, and Aziz Quraishi. His latest assignments include Mirza Bagh, an adaptation of Brian Friel's Aristocrats and the movie Losing Gemma. He is also a published poet and writer.

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