Artist Mahmood Farooqui returns to the stage with Dastan-e Karn Az Mahabharat

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A number of art forms have lost the battle to the changing digital world, and the story of Dastangoi, an art form of Urdu oral storytelling is no different.

Submitted: June 25, 2018

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Submitted: June 25, 2018

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A number of art forms have lost the battle to the changing digital world, and the story of Dastangoi, an art form of Urdu oral storytelling is no different.

Dastangoi was all but dead in the 21st century, as people hardly knew anything about the 500-year old art. It was the artist Mahmood Farooqui, who revived and spread this art-form across the Indian subcontinent. He worked hard to give a new lease of life to this amazing oral art of storytelling. But, soon destiny turned hostile, and Farooqui was confined to prison, dashing his hopes of a revival of this art form.

However, Farooqui was acquitted, and he returned to the stage with a bang. This time, he came up with Dastan-e Karn Az Mahabharat, a thoughtful mediation on the life of warrior Karna. Bringing several episodes from the life of Karna through Dastangoi, Farroqui painted a beautiful picture with a 90-minute solo performance. A real image of scenes seemed to be unfurling in front of the viewers as Farooqui brought forth the identity crisis, generous nature and warrior skills of Karna.

He beautifully scripted the dilemma of Karna, when he was asked to stand by his brothers, but he wanted to stand by his friend, Duryodhan. Through his words and animated hand movements, Farooqui brought out the anguish of Karna.

“Many people have attempted to engage with Karna's life and his dilemma. His personal duty asks him to be grateful to Duryodhan, whereas the public duty demands to deny his friendship,” explained Mahmood Farooqui. 

According to him, the story of the Pandavas and Kauravas, offers a parallel to the conflict of India’s Hindu-Muslim conflict.

Creating something based on The Mahabharata was the long cherished dream of Farooqui. He was looking for a chance, which he ultimately found while being lodged in the prison. It gave him more than adequate time and the jail library gave him different volumes of The Mahabharata and The Ramayana. He started reading the epics, and ended up writing a part of the script. The dynamic art lover used 5 languages in the new Dastan, which included Urdu, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and Hindi.

The translation of The Mahabharata and The Bhagavad Gita helped him mix his story-telling skills with the history. Understanding of the language made the job easier for him. Farooqui’s performance was hardly affected by the external factors that he had to combat with, while coming back to the stage after many years. It seemed as if the artist hadn't gone anywhere as he started right from where he had left.

“I am lucky to have worked with prisoners whom I trained during my time there,” said Mahmood Farooqui. Interestingly, a part of Dastan-e-Karn was performed in the prison for the first time. Since then, he has performed the act thrice, with a lot of success. Despite the setbacks, he has well and truly started the revival of Dastangoi.


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