dastan: tall characters and even taller tales: a psychedelic dastan to stimulate the senses | Gurgaon News

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Gurgaon: High culture returned to Apparel House when Mahmood Farooqui and Darain Shahidi regaled a packed auditorium with a breathless, punchy and hypnotic session of dastangoi, that venerable and captivating style of storytelling.
Dastan-e-Chouboli, an adaptation of Vijaydan Detha’s interpretation of a Rajasthani folk tale – via a Rajasthani translation into English, which Farooqui later reworked into Urdu and gave the flavor of a dastan – has kept the audience well engaged with its flow- delivery of consciousness, flow of spirit and sometimes thunderous asides. It was a warm welcome to the place formerly known as Epicenter.
The dastan revolves around a princess named Chouboli, a woman of rare beauty but spared in her speech. She dared many men to talk to her four times in one night, the reward of which will be her hand in marriage. But seventeen times twenty-four princes tried and failed. Their punishment? Rotting in a dungeon grinding horse fodder. Enter an ambitious and self-assured Thakur, who, upon hearing the challenge, cannot help himself.
The Thakur’s wife, by the way, has to put up with her annoying habit of shooting 108 arrows into her nose ring every night. She takes revenge by subtly playing on her husband’s ego, but the dastan is not just a story of Thakur and Thakurain; it’s a story within a story (and a story within a story).
And it is brought to life by the nuance, diction, mastery of vocabulary and delicious turns of phrase of MM. Farooqui and Shahidi. Both, of course, are experienced dastangos with the invaluable gift of keeping a crowd in thrall, which is given to very few. Obviously, dastangoi is in their blood.
While the setting, settings and characters belong to an earlier era, the wonder of dastangoi is that the past can be brought gloriously to life through the sweetness of Urdu, the perfect language for this type of storytelling. Even then, Farooqui and Shahidi mischievously slip into their dastan reminders of the present – ​​like “surgical strike”, in reference to the hundreds of arrows flying around Dastan-e-Chouboli, metaphorically stamped with wit and satire, or Seths who can put Adani and Ambani to shame.
There is also dark humor in the telling of a tale of two men, a Rajput and a Jat, with a bond so unbreakable that when one beheads himself, the devastated other follows suit. Both are brought back to life but with a twist – the Jat’s head finds a home on the Rajput (and vice versa)! Again, Farooqui Saab and Shahidi Saab’s tone and timing are spot on.
So, while the Thakur also finds himself in the dungeon, it is the turn of the Thakurain in dastango, disguised as a man, that the taciturn Chouboli, so to speak, loosens his tongue, having been pressed (much against his wishes) to judge on the merits of each character in each dastan. Cue, a beat of drums and trumpets.
As wonderful as the 50 minutes of delicious vocal repartee were – like a dish with equal amounts of sweet, sour, peppery and bitter – it was even more so to see a full house again at Apparel House. It’s like picking up a gripping story left halfway. Hopefully this is some sort of revival.
Dastan-e-Chouboli was presented by Arts and Literature Foundation, Gurgaon, in association with Punjabi By Nature.
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