Once upon a time, in a far away land, named Persia, there were people called the Dastangoes who narrated Dastans (stories). They used well articulated diction of Urdu and Persian which was instilled with magical elements. This made dastangoi, art of oral storytelling, a very widely known form of entertainment.
“Dastangoi is an art form used to tell any kind of story, but it is popular for fictional story of Dastan-e-Amir Hamza” says Kafeel Jafri, who will be performing an episode from this 46 volume long story, on November 9, in Shoonya Space in Bengaluru.
Dastan-e-Amir Hamza was written in 16th century, and when it came to India, it was primarily in Persian and Arabic languages. But the Indian dastangoes (storytellers) completely adapted it in Indian context and circumstances. Back in the days it was made rich in terms of the language and the narrative but it has been adapted to the Indian audience.The priority is given to making the language simplistic and colloquial.
“In stories like Dastan-e-Amir Hamza, on one end there are magicians and on the other there are tricksters. They keep battling each other. The magicians set up magical traps, like an attractive house, full of ornaments and treasures, in which they hope the tricksters, will fall into. How the tricksters get out of this trap makes the story interesting. “says Kafeel. The story is even more appealing because of the use of standard language which is composed of both prose and verse form.
“Dastan-e-Amir Hamza was developed by the dastangoes of the time exclusively by their power of improvisation and their literary knowledge of both prose and poetry. And even the common man of those days understood these highly ornate forms of tales because they had amazing vocabulary.” Says Kafeel.
He says, “like any other theatre form, dastangoi is also dynamic and it is evolving. But essentially the power of the act is in the actor’s methods of depiction and enunciation of Urdu and Hindi. Then of course there is the acting skills that is, the voice and its modulation, the body language and facial expressions comes into the picture.”
Kafeel explains how an interactive audience has played major role in motivating him forward in this profession. He says, “I have performed Dastan-e-Amir Hamza before in Bengaluru and there were three kids in first row. Since there was of magic involved, these kids were consistently engaged in the act. Whenever I threw questions at the audience, they were the first ones to reply. It added some sort of magic to the performance in itself and brought the whole audience together. “
The dastangoes who revived the art form wore white angarkha with white topi. “The core or the forefront of the art is the text and the delivery of it, I think the costume should be kept as less distracting as possible as it will better for the performance.” Says Kafeel.
Like any other story telling form, the dastango has to enjoy telling the story. He needs to have that child like joy while performing. Kafeel displays that brilliantly in his art.
Even though the art form died due to various reasons like standardisation of English language and discarding of indo-Aryan languages like Urdu, it was too beautiful an art form to stay buried underground and was raised in Indian cities like Lucknow and Delhi in 2005 by Mahmood Farooqui, and ever since it has been gaining recognition across the country....