Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dastangoi Workshop--Bombay 10th, 11th Sep 09

A two day preliminary workshop for budding Dastangos--

Venue- Prithvi House, Prithvi Theatre, Bombay

Time-10th/11th September 2009, 10-6

How to Apply-Write a mail to stating why you want to join the workshop, in as many words as you please. Entries first received will be given preference. Maximum number 30.

Workshop Plan--First session, general intro, a demo performance of a story by myself and Danish Husain.

Second session-Reading audition for the entire group. Sample page will be provided on the spot.

Second day-First session-Selected candidates will read longer passages.

Second session-Plan ahead for those selected, stories will be handed out and finally a creation based on the form will be performed to provide a direction for creating and performing your own stories.

Meanwhile those coming in should start preparing to enunciate Urdu alphabets. Ask around and get your KHES and QAAFS and GHAINS going...

Get the correct pronunciation of the following words--

Khatm, ghairat, sabaq, qissa, khana-kharab, takalluf, aqriba, khatm-shud.

See you there

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Rare Urdu review

The Voice of America Urdu journalist Zafar Syed had interviewed us when we went to Washington earlier this year and has written a very well informed piece on Dastan-e Amir Hamza. This is one of the few occasions when we have been reviewed by the Urdu press. There is no point blaming them really, it is a kind of third world condition...

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Meeting with Tim Supple

Tim Supple was here this morning to talk about his new project, a stage adaptation in English of Firdausi's master epic, the Shahnameh. He has been bringing stories on stage for almost a decade, (for more go to

So what is the difference between his storytelling and ours? There is drama and there is telling. Drama is inherent to telling and all drams are acts of telling. So we get at actors who are adept at telling and performing. Adept at telling prose and poetry, blank verse and rhymed prose. But actors who must inhabit a remote, even discredited medieval world, whilst necessarily avoiding the appeal of quaintness. The medieval stories, even when they seem lighthearted and single layered, are not without their gravitas. There is nothing more serious than transporting people to a make believe but different world. Success at that, to my mind, supercedes any hardcore realistic topical production.

So how does one orientate people to a world that is now familiar. Does one employ a prologue, is an explanation required for telling stories that are now old, sometimes unfamiliar? Do we need to justify what we are doing? Must we turn them topical, make them 'useful' to our own world?

Besides that there is the question of Persian and the question of Iran? For about a hundred years Persian was an ecumenical, world language. Spoken, used and understood from Morocco to Indonesia, from Samarqand to Bosnia. Does it belong to any single country? Does Latin belong to any one country in Europe? By sheer volume of production the Indian subcontinent produced the largest amount of Persian scholarship for about six hundred years, larger than any other country in the world. Histories, poetry, epic stories, essays, moralistic tales, memoirs, religious literature, there is no genre of Persian scholarship where the Indian output is lesser, at least in quantity, than any other part of the world. So does the Shahnameh belong to India or to Iran.

While it specifically narrates the peculiar history of old and ancient Iran, and glorifies it, the Shahnameh was known and celebrated in many parts of the medieval world. But what of Sadi's Bostan and Gulistan, or Rumi's Masnavi, they are not specifically about Iran, they are still taught to school children in India, do they belong to Iran or to India or to both. The nationalisation of language is a nineteenth century phenomenon and today, as we aspire to a multi cultural world, we must retrun this heritage where it belongs: equally among Indians, Bangladeshis, Malaysians, Central Asian, Asia Minor, the Caspian Sea countries, to all of us.

Bedil, a poet born in Patna and bred in Delhi is the national poet of Afghanistan. The Thousand and One Nights, known today as a purely Arabic text, was first printed, in Arabic and in Urdu and English, in India in the nineteenth century. Aladdin is our story as much as anybody else.

So let us own what is ours but let us not be exclusive about it.

More on the Shahnameh as we get to it. Meanwhile I am reading and researching another Masnavi, the poetic form in which the Shahnameh as well as Goswami Tulsidas' Ramcharit Manas is composed, from eighteenth century India. Another master text which took its author Mir Hasan twenty years, like Firdausi's thirty, to compose and for which, again like Firdausi, he felt that he did not get an adequate enough award.

More on that soon...