Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Dastangoi - The Lost Art of Story Telling

Mahmood Farooqui (right) and Danish Husain performed the dastangoi at the NCPA last Friday.

I initially read about "Dastangoi" in Time Out Mumbai, my source of knowledge for events in Mumbai. Then Dan Hussain posted an invite on the Caferati message board.

Exchanged a couple of mails with Dan in which he told me I didn't need to understand the language to enjoy the performance. I was a bit sceptical, but thought why not attend ? The performance at NCPA was free, so could leave at the interval if I could not make sense of it. Plus inlaws were in town & they love theatre and understand a fair amount of Urdu.

So the 6 of us bundled ourselves into the car at 4:15 to reach NCPA by 6:30.

The next 2 hours were completely spellbinding. As most people who know me would tell you, my knowledge of Hindi is recently acquired & I can barely manage the colloquial stuff, so I was wondering if I would be able to understand any of the proceedings. Inspite of Dan's assurances, my doubts persisted till Mahmood began to weave his tapestries.

Dastangoi is very difficult to describe. It needs to be experienced. But let me try to give you an idea of what to expect. Its a cross between a theatre performance & a poetry reading. The words are wonderfully descriptive and conjure visions in your head. The perfomers are seated but use expressions, gestures, tone of voice & myriad other techniques to transport you into a realm of fantasy consisting partly of "tilisms" (alternate worlds), aiyyaars, sorcerers & magicians.

"Dastangos were those who told ‘dastans’ (stories). Recounting tales of Amir Hamza, the Prophet Mohammed’s uncle, they told narratives of his battles with infidels, sorcerers and other pretenders to divinity.” says Farooqui.

"In the dastani worldview, good and bad are evenly matched, infinitely. When an evil sorcerer dies, a new one rises to replace him. When someone on the righteous side is killed, another one is quickly found to replace him. Hamza is the lead character, he is the Lord of the age."

"Dastangoyee is about four things: Razm — warfare, Bazm — assembly of singing, dancing and seducing, Tilism — magical effect or artefact created by the sorcerer, and Aiyyari — chicanery, trickery, disguise. The aiyyars, the tricksters, are employed by both sides."

If you would like to read more about the subject, do read
Mahmood's interview with Mumbai Mirror
Mahmood's interview with Mumbai Mirror
Mahmood's interview with Tehelka

If you would like to watch a performance, you are in luck. If you already caught the NCPA perfomance, then consider this the next couple of episodes.

Dastangoi: A Presentation of the Lost Form of Storytelling
(A Part of Katha Collage II)


The Sea of Eloquence – An Evening of Dastan-e-Amir Hamza
July 1 & 2, 2006 at 9:00 pm, Prithvi Theatre, Juhu, Mumbai

Tickets available at Prithvi on the day of performance itself.

The oral narration of Dastan-e-Amir Hamza was a popular past time in most parts of Central, Western and South Asia and North Africa since medieval times. Originally composed in Persian, the Dastan-e-Amir Hamza describes the battles of Amir Hamza, the Prophet Muhammad's Uncle, against infidels, sorcerers and other pretenders to divinity.

Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the Dastan-e-Amir Hamza was singularly successful in entertaining a whole range of people, from the commoners at chauks and nukkads to the elites in their palaces; it was performed at the steps of the Jama Masjid where Dastangos gathered. While their neglect as literature is inexcusable, they have been wholly obliterated from the canon of performing arts. As anecdotes of Mir Baqar Ali, the last known Dastango of Delhi, testify, their performances required an exceptional command over rhetoric, delivery, mimicry, ventriloquism and spontaneous composition.

The present performance of Dastangoi builds upon some recent shows that were enthusiastically received in the Capital. The performance consisted of portions of the best-known daftar, or chapter, of the 46 volume Dastan-e-Amir Hamza, the Tilism Hoshruba, the 'Enchantment that Steals away the Senses', which is itself in seven volumes.

The performances have come about as a result of a collaboration between S.R. Faruqi, the foremost living authority on these Dastans and the only person to possess a full set of all the 46 volumes, and the performers. Faced with neglect and systematic devaluation we now have very scanty evidence for the way in which these Dastans were compiled and performed. Even basic things such as movements, gesticulation, stage setting are wholly unknown. The current performance is therefore merely an exploration of an Art form which, astonishingly in a culture where poetry was regarded as the supreme art, was considered by some to be of a higher order than poetry itself. Dastangos were supposed to be a repository not just of language, common speech as well as literary, but also of social mores, craftsmanship, and all other forms of knowledge.

The Dastangos of old performed in an oral culture where memory, sound and directness were much prized. As modern actors we neither have skills to memorize whole daftars, nor the inventiveness to do spontaneous and extempore improvisations which are the hallmark of oral performances.

Mahmood Farooqui
New Delhi

Mahmood Farooqui is a self-trained actor and performer whose most recent foray into acting consisted of a role in Mahesh Dattani's English film, Mango Soufflé. Initiated into theatre as a schoolboy, and as stage manager, by Mohan Maharishi, former director of the National School of Drama, he directed several plays at school and college, and prepared for the final entrance workshop of the NSD, before founding his own amateur theatre group called Dastak Theatre. After completing his M Phil in Indian History from Cambridge University, Mahmood went to Mumbai and performed in IPTA's Aakhri Shama and the Company Theatre's Hindustani presentation of Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead. Earlier this year, he was given a Fellowship by Sarai, CSDS to work on the Dastan-e-Amir Hamza.

Danish Husain has done theatre with the best names in the country - Habib Tanvir, M.S. Sathyu, Barry John, Rajinder Nath, Sabina Mehta Jaitley, Aziz Quraishi, et al in a wide variety of roles. His latest assignments include a play called Raja by Rabindra Nath Tagore and a movie, Losing Gemma, by Granada Productions for a British TV Channel called ITV. He also performed at Bonn Theatre Festival in May 2006 as part of Habib Tanvir's Agra Bazaar troupe. Besides being an accomplished actor Danish is a poet and a writer, whose work has been published across a cross-section of media, including Tehelka and other journals. He is a member of few collaborative blogs and a writer's group called Wriyaz supported by the British Council. Danish holds a Master's degree in economics from the Delhi School of Economics and an MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi.

Get to know the performers at
Mahmood Farooqui's Blog
Dan's poems & his Discontents
Dan's Proseonama

Time Out Mumbai is finally online

After waiting and waiting for the Mumbai edition of Time Out to come online, they finally did so.

Check them out at

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Some Must Visit Blogs of fellow travellers

As you know by now,
I'm one of the finalists for the travel contest.

Still waiting anxiously for the results, in the meanwhile I browsed some blogs of my fellow Contestants and each one of them has some really interesting work posted. Either travel descriptions or breathtaking photographs.

So here go some links to their blogs, in no particular order.

# I've been a fan of Akshay's work since a long time. I've linked to his photo features on my Whazzupmumbai blog very often.

# Harshad runs his own trekking company & has covered a lot of Shivaji's forts around Bombay and Pune. I don't understand most of the technical specs of cameras that he talks about, but his photographs are BRILLIANT. Some of his pictures of butterflies (if you have ever tried to photograph even one, you will know how difficult it is) are going to be published in books written by naturalists Isaac Kehimkar & Krushnamegh Kunte
Browse through Harshads blogs :
Through His ViewFinder
Trek blogs of his various outings in the Sahyadris and Himalayas, along with photographs

# Sahil's picture on the site, doesn't do him justice. He hardly uses any words on his Blog : Myopic Endeavour preferring his pictures to do the talking. He's a really interesting person & so much fun to talk to.

# Mridula has been travelling & blogging about her travels since over a year. On her blog, she says "For me travel is a form of escape, from my daily routine" I think she has put so eloquently, what we all feel. She is a consistent trekker and her blog has lots of stories, tips & pictures which tell the tale. Wish I could have met her, but that will have to wait till I take a trip to Delhi.

# Altaf has a different take on life ...the way he sees it. He's currently in Kaintholi on a Global Xchange program & living like a local so he has some really interesting stories to tell.

# Sheetal blogs on Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing-wax where she blogs about the happenings in the twin cities of Hyderabad & Secunderabad. My Ex-City

# Divya blogs at Chronicus Skepticus Currently a Visual Merchandiser, who's also been a copywriter, a visualiser (at the same time), a web-designer, an editor, and a (garment) production manager.

# Rahul is the poetic soul among the finalists. Do visit his blog to read some of his original works of fiction.

# Apurv is the current editor of, a highly popular website most MBA aspirants would be aware of. Read his take on things at What Blog Men!

Gautam & Simona do not have blogs that I know of.

It was fun meeting 8 of the other contestants. (2 from Delhi & 1 came in later that evening) There were some excellent & passionate photographers amongst the group and when Harshad, Sahil, Akshay & Gautham spoke about lenses it was a foreign language to the rest of us. But we did share a lot of interesting stories about unusual places to travel, great photo ops, where & what to eat & a lot of other stuff like that. Most of us met each other for the first time, but we all had fun because of the kindred fellowship of travellers.

We ended with a fun lunch at Kobe's on Hill Road

Now all fingers crossed for the results. May the best man/woman win.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Ok Tata Bye Bye

Hi Everyone,

I'm so excited.

I've been shortlisted for a travel contest. Which involves travelling
& Blogging. Hardly ever been selected for anything earlier :)

Check out the contest and my profile on

(Yes they have spelt my name wrong in the link, trying to get them to correct it)

The final selection is next week. I'm not sure how they will do it.
But have a vague feeling that they may do so based on popularity of
the contestant & ability to draw viewers.

Requesting you to please view my profile & drop me a comment, even if
its just to say "All the best, Kim" or "Don't think u should go" But
please comment.

Hope there's a lot of you looking for something to do on a slow Friday

Please, please, pretty please. :)

Kim - the XL Blog

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Scholarship for females with 85% in science stream in HSC

Loreal is offerring 2 lakh scholarships for female students in the science stream who have secured 85% in PCM or PCB.

It is only open to students who have completed their HSC this year from either Pune or Bombay. (Bombay is their head office. Pune is their factory location)

Look up for more details.

All details haven't been updated. Last year they were offering scholarships only to Mumbai students, this year it has been extended to Pune too.

Look up the website for more details on how to apply

-----Original Message-----
From: For Young Women in Science (India) []
Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 10:41 AM
To: 'Karishma Pais'
Subject: RE: Scholarship

The L'OREAL INDIA FOR YOUNG WOMEN IN SCIENCE SCHOLARHSHIP was started in 2003 for young women from the city of Mumbai. This year, we have extended it to Mumbai and Pune and have increased the number of scholarships offered from 3 to 5.

We at L'Oreal believe in doing things consistently over the years. Also, our india head office is in Mumbai whilst our factory is in Pune. This initiative is part of our corporate social responsibility and we have limited it to only two cities as we have a strong base here.

All the very best!

Monday, June 05, 2006

PVR in Bombay/Mumbai at Juhu sucks big time

Where do I start with how terrible the Bombay version of PVR is ?

Maybe sequentially is best.

Ticket booking :
A little counter at the side of Dynamix mall on a one way street with no parking.
If you decide to use the parking of the mall before buying your ticket in advance, be prepared to shell out 30 bucks for waiting in line for 10 minutes to park your car and another 20 minutes to get it back. 1Rs per minute that you wait.
Advance booking rating : -10

Parking :
As mentioned above, it takes approximately 30 minutes for parking if you have visited the cinema for advance booking. During the shows, be prepared to wait 45 minutes to park your car and 1 hour to get it back unless you are prepared to miss the final 10 minutes of your movie, come rushing down and collect your car before the rest of the crowd comes out.
There is just one entry/exit point and 3 valets struggle to keep up. This when only 2 of PVR's 5 screens have been opened for viewing.
Don't even think of parking on the road. The area around is home to some high profile neighbours like Mr. Bacchan himself and Mr. Dev Anand which ensures police patrols on a regular basis and the possibility of bumping into a mamu looking for his daily bonus is very high. 30Rs parking or minimum 100Rs bonus - you decide.
Parkng Rating : -10

The theatre is located on the 3rd Floor of the mall with entry through the mall itself. To put it in perspective, the mall is solely a Shoppers Stop outlet.
The elevator is difficult to locate as it is hidden behind huge barriers of display material of Shoppers Stop. Even if you do locate the elevator, it only goes upto the 2nd floor (basement, ground, 1st & 2nd).
The escalators as in any mall makes you complete half a circambulation before you can take the next level up.
The elevators and escalators are stopped at 9pm. So if you plan to catch a show later than that, be prepared to walk up 3 flights of stairs and a walk around and around half a kilometre of shuttered window displays. If that wasn't bad enough, imagine doing the same while helping your parents and grandparents on this yatra.
Entry Rating : -10

Time Management :
The show we picked was the 10.30pm show of Fanaa. Its a given in multiplexes, that the theatre doors are opened a minimum of 5 minutes before the printed show timing. Most multiplexes give you around 10 minutes. So logically you would arrive at least 15 minutes before the show is supposed to start. If you have been forewarned, then you would come at lesat 45 minutes earlier to be able to park your car.
At 10:30, there were no signs of the doors opening. 10:40 and you can still hear the muffled sounds of something playing inside the hall. 10:45 a couple of people from the previous show start coming out. At 10:50 they want to shut the doors to clean up the hall. But the 500 people who have been STANDING outside since at least 10:15, are in no mood to wait any longer, so they just start barging inside.
Time Management Rating : -30 (for each extra minute)

Facilities Management :
As mentioned above, the hall doors were forcibly opened by irate customers who had been standing outside for more than 15 minutes after the time the show was supposed to start.
Essentially you have 500 people waiting in a space which has seating for about 45 and no air conditioning running. There is standing space, but the air was getting staler by the second.
Once inside the hall too, the air conditioning was turned off. For the first 20 minutes it was cooler than outside, where we had been standing for 45 minutes, but it soon became quite stuffy inside too and the movie in true Yash Chopra style meandered for 3 whole hours (with interval)
Facilities Management Rating : -20

Snack Bar / Candybar :

Have you ever had the popcorn at PVR in Delhi ? The best in the country. PVR in Bombay ? Don't even go with zero expectations. The popcorn is soggy not crunchy. The caramel flavoured version has an extremely watery caramel. This isn't a "Bombay's humidity" problem. If Cinemax, Imax, Fame Andheri, Fame Malad and Fun Republic all within a 5 km radius can give good crunchy popcorn, then why not PVR ?
The samosas just look huge, the filling ? Lets just say I've had better food in hostels.
The burgers - terrible. The chicken burger patty only feels like potatoes patty so be ready for a carb overdose.
If you need napkins, you need to ask specifically for them.
Chilled water - not available - only room temperature.
Most snacks are served cold. You need to specifically instruct them to heat up food if you want it at a decent temperature. Then be prepared to wait another 10 minutes while the sole microwave struggles to keep pace.
Snack Bar / Candybar Rating : -30 (nothing is edible)

Washrooms :
Only 3 stalls in the ladies loo. So although they are slightly wider than most other cinema loos, be prepared for a long wait for your turn. ALso be prepard to miss part of the movie. Cleanliness can be judged by the people to loo ratio. Now you can get an extremely vague idea as to what people in slums have to adjust with in their common loos.
Washrooms Rating : -10

Exit :
No matter which show you attend, be prepared to climb down 3 levels of stairs, since there is no other exit option. Even to get inside the main mall is not possible once you get in the Exit stairwell.
Exit Rating : -10

Overall Rating : -130

PVR definitely needs to do some drastic revamping if they want their customers to come back and are even considering opening the next 3 screens. (4th Floor) PVR Priya, Saket, Anupam and the other one in Gurgaon used to be my favorite movie multiplexes. But Mumbai ? Me, I'm not going back even if they give me a free ticket to visit.

If inspite of this post you still want visit,
Dummies guide to watch a movie at PVR Bombay :
Go early - at least an hour earlier. You can then pick up your tickets at the same time. Park in relatively less time.
Eat at Brio downstairs before you go up.
Use the washrooms on the groundfloor next to Crossword.
Choose an early show & go up before the escalators and elevator stops working.
Unfortunately you have no option but to climb down. Unless you carry a crutch and ask them to let you out from the entry door, then take the escalator to the second floor and the lift t the ground floor.
Leave 10 minutes before the climax so you don't get stuck in the return crowd at parking.
No parking woes if you use autos.

Disclaimer :
All images used in this post are for illustration purposes only. PVR has not sanctioned or approved of this post. The views expressed are those of the author alone.