Encasing the medieval art of story-telling, Danish Husain and Mahmood Farooqui bring alive the memoirs of Saadat Hasan Manto — one of the greatest Urdu writers of the 20th century through Dastangoi, the lost art form of Urdu storytelling.
Dastangoi, the term is a compound of two Persian words Dastan and Goi which means to read aloud epics and tell tales of adventure, magic and warfare. Mantoiyat is going to be the tale of the life that Saadat Hasan Manto lived.
Mahmood Farooqui, a Rhodes Scholar, historian, filmmaker and with Danish Husain [poet, actor, theatre director], have reinvented this fascinating medieval courtly ritual which died in the early 20th century. A two hour long performance titled Mantoiyat which involves the recital of anecdotes from Manto’s life is their way to pay tribute to Manto.
‘This is a tribute to Manto on his centenary. To bring him to life through words and recital of his work we had to review his work extensively,’ said Danish Husain. To bring it all alive through Dastangoi has been an even more challenging task. There is no literature that defines or talks or presents anything about Dastangoi. There has been a very scanty reference to it. There was no prototype, no existant format that they have followed. Even the traditional clothing that has been picked up is a probable dress code that might have been worn while performing Dastangoi. This is not exactly the revival but the re-invention of this art form.
‘Dastangoi does not technically involve two story-tellers. It involves storytelling only by one person. So, we are not exactly following a laid format,’ added Danish.
Trying to revive the magic of Manto who did not care about the allegations of obscenity on him and bluntly refused his writing to be pornographic — this dastan will recall the ideologies and writings of Manto.
‘It is completely based on Manto’s writings and the account of his life — how much Partition grieved him, his love for Bombay, why he met such a bad end. Narrating the story in Urdu is not as different as people think it is. Urdu as a language is used without realising in the wider culture and people are ignorant of the fact. Seeing youngsters turn up for such events is overwhelming. It clearly marks how widely read Manto is,’ said Farooqui, creator and director of Dastongoi.