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Qissa-Kahani & The Art of Dastan-goi

Murtaza Danish Husain

Everyone enjoys a good story. As an adult, some stories stay with us more than others. What is it that excites us about these stories? We know the ending, we know the characters, we know the plot but they still delight us, warm our insides with a tantalizing feeling within when we hear them. Probably part of the excitement is in the process of the story unfolding, the way the plot unravels and how each knot unties itself. It is the narrative that binds us to the tale. I am an actor and a storyteller. A friend and I are trying to revive a dead art form of storytelling called Dastan-goi. Dastan is Persian for “a story” and go means “to tell”. Thus, Dastan-goi literally translated means storytelling. The Anatomy of A Story What is it that excites us about a good story? Every story has a structure – the beginning, the main text, and the end. An excellent analogy that describes this structure as the bait, bone and bomb1 . This structure is almost followed universally irrespective of the medium used for presenting the story. The medium could be oral storytelling or a longish episodic narration or an anecdotal recount of an event. Medium could be written/ printed text with varying genre – short story, novel, and epic poetry. It could also be visual presentation like films and documentaries, graphic novels. Whatever the medium be, it is imperative for storytellers to have a beginning that straightaway hooks their audiences to the tale. We are competing for our audience’s attention and we cannot afford to have a limp beginning. The bait has to be strong enough for them to get interested in the tale. The bone is the plot of the story. A strong plot holds the story together. It strings the various characters and disparate elements of the tale in a strong narrative thread. Thus, we won’t be heading far with an interesting beginning if our plot is not gripping. Finally is the bomb. What really glues us to a tale is the surprise element in it. Where the tale transcends an ordinary recount of an event and comes to stay with us forever. Where it becomes our tale. Oral Storytelling and Dastan-e-Amir Hamzah2 When I started performing Dastans, I began by memorizing the tales from the epic collection Dastan-e-Amir Hamza. Initially, it seemed an onerous task. Though I am ...

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