Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Pakistan Chronicles III

The Mohatta Palace, Karachi performance in progress.

The Magic of Dastaan goi

by Khurram Farooq

Who hasn't been fascinated with stories? Dating back to medieval Iran, the tradition of telling stories (Dastaan goi) has always held an enchanting charisma. Narrators or dastaan gohs since those times of grandeur have carried this art of conveying events in words, images, and sounds and have recited magical tales around camp fires, street corners, in coffee houses and even palaces.

Last week in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, the magic of Dastaan goi was shared by a talented duo from India, Mahmood Farooqui and Murtaza Danish Husain, who enthralled their audience and captured the imagination of their Pakistani fans.

The Dastaan goi evenings were the latest fundraising events held by STCF, a dedicated group of Supporters of The Citizens Foundation (TCF), which is one of the largest non-profit organizations in the field of education in Pakistan. TCF has built more than 300 purpose-built schools nation-wide and provides quality education to about 40, 000 economically less-privileged children dwelling in urban slums and rural areas of the country. The funds raised from the events went towards TCF's nation-wide Education Program.

Held in Karachi on the 3rd and 4th of April at the Mohatta Palace Museum and FTC Auditorium respectively, these evenings had a charm of their own. The timeless beauty of Mohatta Palace and the unfolding excitement of Tilism-e-Hoshruba held the audience spell-bound. At FTC Auditorium, in stark contrast to the night-black stage drop, the Dastaan gohs donned white and settled on a simple white masnad with bolsters surrounded by glittering silver ware and burning candles. They wove their tale so beautifully and animatedly that at the end of their narration, the avid listeners requested an encore, a request graciously obliged by the story-tellers.

On 5th April 2007 at the National Library Auditorium in Islamabad, it was yet another night of splendor. In their impeccable Urdu, Mahmood and Murtaza, took everyone back to the world of sorcerers, demons, warriors, Laqa the giant and many more. Filled to its capacity, the auditorium witnessed a successful event.

In Lahore, under the starry nights at Bagh-e-Jinnah Open Air Theatre, Dastaan goi was held on the 7th and 8th of April. Consisting of one of the oldest theatres of the city, Bagh-e-Jinnah came alive with the imagery created by Mahmood and Murtaza. Over 800 enthusiasts enjoyed the magical evening at Bagh-e-Jinnah.

Anusha Rizvi from India was the Executive Producer, costume and set designer of these events. Formerly a television journalist, she is now an independent filmmaker and is currently working on her first feature film for which she has also written the script. Mahmood Farooqui is a Delhi based Dastaan go, writer, actor, and theater director. He is currently working on his first book based on the Uprising of 1857. Danish Husain on the other hand is a man of theater also based in Delhi, who has distinguished himself as an accomplished dastaan go. He is also a published poet and writer.

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