LAHORE, Dec 5: Four storytellers from India will perform at Alhamra Art Center, The Mall, on Dec 8, Moneeza Hashmi of Faiz Foundation Trust told Dawn on Wednesday.

At the ticketed event titled ‘The lost art form of Urdu storytelling’ the Indians -- Mahmud Farooqi, Murtaza Danish Hussain, Manu Sikander and Nadeem Shah -- will narrate stories.

Dastangoi (the art of storytelling) evolved around the tales of valour and adventures of Amir Hamza, a fictional character, a thousand years ago. Soon these stories spread out and the tradition could be found right from Bosnia, Morocco, Algeria to Indonesia and China. However, these stories became very popular in Indian sub-continent when they were rendered in Urdu and the art form as we know it reached its zenith in the 19th century North India. But it died with the demise of Mir Baqar Ali, the last known exponent of this art form, in 1928.

This attempt at revival of the art form is made by two gentlemen, S R Faruqi, the noted Urdu litterateur and Mahmood Farooqui, who conceived the modern format.

Their first Dastangoi show was staged in May, 2005 and since then Mahmud Farooqui, along with Danish Husain, has staged more than 400 performances across the world. After 2009, they expanded their team and now it comprised around 12 people.

They have also expanded the repertoire of their stories. Besides the traditional Tilism-i-Hoshruba and Dastan-i-Amir Hamza, they have also added new content to their stock.

A few of the contemporary Dastans they have created are based on the partition of India. An adaptation of Rabindra Nath Tagore's novel Ghare Baire, Dastan-e-Sedition based on Dr, Binayak Sen's incarceration and trial, an adaptation of Vijay Dandetha's version of Rajasthani folktale Chouboli, Dastan Jai Ram Ji Ki, based on A K Ramanujan's collected works and most recently Mantoiyat, a Dastan on the life and times of short story genius Sa'adat Hasan Manto have been added to their repertoire.

The show is directed by Mahmud Farooqui while performers include Mahmud Farooqui himself, Danish Husain, Manu Sikandar Dhingra and Nadeem Shah.

Farooqui is a Rhodes scholar and author (Besieged: Voices from Delhi 1857), a film director (co-director Peepli Live), but most of all the man who revived the lost art form of Urdu storytelling, Dastangoi. Danish Husain is a poet, actor (Losing Gemma, Peepli Live, Dhobi Ghat), theatre director (Krapp's Last Tape, Chinese Coffee), runs his own theatre company (The Hoshruba Repertory), and collaborates with Mahmood Farooqui for Dastangoi.

Both Mahmud and Danish are Sangeet Natak Akdemi's Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puruskar recipients for 2010.

Manu Sikander Dhingra runs his theatre company, The Hoshruba Repertory, manages and performs Dastangoi and owns a dry fruit brand.

Nadeem Shah teaches history and performs Dastangoi in his spare time.