Daastan Hijraton ki

A Unique Dastangoi Presentation by Jawaid Danish
Special Report by Padmaja Iyengar 'Paddy'

Dastangoi is a 16th-century Urdu oral storytelling art form and has its origin in the Persian language. Dastan means a tale and the suffix goi makes the word mean "to tell a tale".  At the centre of Dastangoi is the Dastango or the storyteller, whose voice is his mainstay in orally recreating the dastan or the story. This format of story-telling largely included tales drawn from the epics, fantasies etc. to engage audience attention. In the bygone era when digital media was unheard of, Dastangoi was a great source of entertainment and also enlightenment.

In India, this art form of story-telling saw its zenith in the 19th century, led by dastangos Amba Prasad Rasa, Mir Ahmad Ali Rampuri, Muhammad Amir Khan, Syed Husain Jah, and Ghulam Raza. Mir Baqar Ali was another leading practitioner of Dastangoi that received a set back with his death in 1928. However, the art form saw a revival in 2005 thanks to the untiring efforts of the Indian poet and Urdu critic Shamsur Rahman Faruqi and his nephew, writer and director Mahmood Farooqui, who have played a significant role in the revival of Dastangoi in the 21st century.

Renowned Theatre Personality and Poet Jawaid Danish from Toronto (Canada) was in my city of Hyderabad to present his Daastan Hijraton ki (Epic of Migration) at the Urdu Hall, Hyderabad on 9th April, 2017 and at the University of Hyderabad on 10th April, 2017. I had the good fortune to be an audience at his Dastangoi on both the days! How could I miss such a golden opportunity and the double bonanza?

Daastan Hijraton ki by Jawaid Danish primarily deals with the angst, agony, issues, concerns and insecurities of migrants to another country..in this case Canada. The trials and tribulations narrated in this highly relatable and contemporary Dastangoi, instantly engage audience attention, with Jawaid Danish himself switching into the various characters of the hour-long tale. And this is precisely what sets Daastan Hijraton ki apart from other Dastangois in which the narrator tells the stories with their highs and lows. But here is Jawaid Danish, himself playing the characters of the Daastan!

Padmaja Iyengar 'Paddy'
What stood out in his Daastan Hijraton ki, were the felicity and aplomb with which Jawaid Danish transformed into the various characters of his Daastan (story)!!! A tilt of his head and he was Jawaid himself, a change of posture and he was Abubakar Batliwala, the has-been Mumbai Bhai speaking the Bombaiya Hindi, a change in his tonal quality and he was Shubrati the cook from Meerut speaking in the typical Urdu-Hindustani dialect of North India, a slight gesticulation and he became young Banerjee from Bengal, moonlighting (actually sunlighting) as a cab driver by day and preparing to fulfil his medical school ambitions by night, or the poet Iqbal Shahryar with his Sheroshayari …, with all these characters interacting with Jawaid Danish playing himself from time to time!!! Each has a tale to tell of why he is in Canada and why he could not or would not go back to India.

Daastan Hijraton ki is excellently complimented and aided by Jawaid’s considerable theatre experience that has the audience riveted to their seats, traversing the journey and living the lives of the five characters portrayed by him, speaking different dialects or Boli Tholi retaining their authenticity and unique flavour. One can empathize with every character of the Daastan Hijraton ki, largely because of the way Jawaid brings each to life on the stage with a story one can easily identify with eg. the helplessness of the uneducated, hapless Shubrati from Meerut whose passport has been confiscated by his employer to ensure that he constantly remains in his employer’s stranglehold. With Batiliwala, the has-been don, one is transported to the underbelly of Mumbai and with the Bengali-speaking Banerjee to Kolkata…The magic of Jawaid Danish speaking all these languages and dialects effortlessly, truly holds us spellbound and in his sway throughout! His voice control and modulation as he seamlessly switches from one character into another, is truly commendable.

All in all, Daastan Hijraton ki is a masterclass act by Jawaid Danish!!! The Q & A Session that followed his performance at the University of Hyderabad on 10 April, 2017, when he patiently and comprehensively answered audience queries was interesting and enlightening. I feel fortunate that I got the golden opportunity to watch Daastan Hijraton ki on two consecutive days!!!

About Jawaid Danish
Jawaid Danish is a renowned theatre personality and poet from Toronto, Canada where he has been living for over three decades. He is the Founder and Artistic Director of Rang Manch, that promotes Indian theatre in Canada. He also organises the annual Hindustani Drama Festival, that showcases the varied and rich heritage of Indian theatre. All the leading theatre personalities from India, have been a part of this annual event.

A celebrated author of 12 books in Urdu, Jawaid Danish’s rich repertoire of works includes drama, travelogues and poetry collections. While he mostly writes in Urdu, his plays have been translated into English, Swedish, Hindi, Bengali and Kannada. Some of the plays from his award-winning book ‘Hijrat Ke Tamashey’ were adapted for a 13-episode serial produced by Omni 2 T.V., Toronto.  His latest book of plays is ‘Chalees Baba Ek Chor’. Besides, he has also produced a film ‘Bada Shayer Chota Aadmi’ the first Indo-Canadian Urdu Film.

Jawaid Danish is a recipient of several prestigious awards notably The Civic Arts Award – Pickering 2010, South Asian Theatre Festival Award – New Jersey 2008 and the Shiromani Sahitya Award – India 2007 and more recently, Sadaf International Award, Doha Qatar, 2016, Ghalib Award-Drama, New Delhi India, 2016 and AmuAward of Excellence, Toronto Canada, 2016.

My association with Jawaid Danish began when I was compiling poems for ‘Amaravati Poetic Prism 2016’ the International Multilingual Poetry Anthology published by the Cultural Centre of Viayawada & Amaravati (CCVA). When I requested him for his Urdu poem, Jawaid not only readily sent me his poem but also shared a recording of the poem in his rich baritone that also had the accompaniment of a singer who beautifully added a soulful musical dimension to his Urdu poem ‘Chehrey’. When this recording was played at the International Multilingual Poets’ Meet at Vijayawada on 13 November, 2016, it received a standing ovation and a spontaneous request for an encore. Such is the magic of Jawaid’s poetry and presentation!

Jawaid Danish is currently in India visiting various places and presenting his Daastan Hijraton ki (Epic of Migration) in the Dastangoi format, besides participating in literary events. To Dastangoi, often a narration of episodes from epics, fairy tales or fantasies, Jawaid Danish has given a contemporary touch by speaking of migration – its pains, pressures and pleasures! To him, goes the credit of reviving this unique story telling format in the West in all its glory, finery and fanfare, with his own theatrical touches and flourishes, donning the traditional costume worn by the Dastangos of the yore and thus recreating the magic of Dastangoi!

Jawaid Danish
Artistic Director, RangManch-Canada
Director, Panorama India
|||Padmaja Iyengar
Poet, Writer & Reviewer Hon. Lit. Advisor
The Cultural Centre of Vijayawada & Amaravati
Reach: +91 9948269211
Content courtesy: RareMyLiterature.Com