Storytelling school

An evening of storytelling – Journal

KARACHI: In a book about eccentric old Delhites from before independence, when the distinguished oral storyteller Mir Baqar Ali (1850-1928) is asked why he no longer practices his art, he replies: “The living do not attach Doesn’t matter, should I go to cemeteries to tell stories? And why should the living care? No one knows urdu language [the way they used to] and despise the past. They don’t think the people of the past were human. The philosophy of life has changed. Doesn’t the complaint seem true even in the second decade of the 21st century?

Fortunately, a group of graduates from the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) are trying to keep the art of oral storytelling alive. Nazrul Hasan, Fawad Khan and Meesam Naqvi are now prominent Napa alumni who also taught at the institute. They have been performing on stage, television and in film for over a decade. So when they indulge in the art of dastangoi (oral storytelling), they never disappoint. Their performance on Friday night at the academy was worthy of applause. The only difference was that this time around they showed off their skills in an open space where, until recently, there was a concrete canopy. It had its little flaws related to acoustics (and the incessant coming and going of members of the electronic media), but overall it didn’t affect their effort.

Two plays were performed on Friday; the first from Dastan-i-Tilism-i-Hoshruba and the second called Haveli from the book Aab-i-Gumm by Mushtaq Yousufi. They spent more time on the latter, which is understandable – compared to the former, it’s less ancient in terms of chronology and relates to modern audiences with the right amount of humor. Yousufi sahib’s tickling one-liners and inimitable style for tackling important issues with feathery touches (like migration) has no parallel. Participants liked it.

The shorter first act allowed the public to recognize that the three artists take both language and literature seriously. Nazr and Fawad performed the first and Meesam joined them for the second track. It was fun.

The show’s three-day run will end on Sunday (today).

Posted in Dawn, February 13, 2022