"Raag Darbari" raised serious concerns over country's socio-political environment
Whether it was through the inimitable village patriarch Vaidya ji, or his disillusioned nephew Ranganath, the 1968 novel "Raag Darbari" raised serious concerns over the country's socio-political environment at the time. But, the reason why Shrilal Shukla's late 60s work continues to be relevant even after half a century is because it was never a comment on a single political party but one on the entire state structure, feels dastango Mahmood Farooqui.
Farooqui, who has adapted the satire for 'dastangoi' -- a 16th-century Urdu art of storytelling, told PTI that the reality of how the system works, painted by Shukla in his quintessential deadpan humour, has hardly changed over the years. "The ruling class -- people from politics, corporate, media, and intellectuals, don't change. They are not affected by who is in power. "The book is not about one political party but the entire state structure. The interaction between state and society that was then, hasn't changed much even today," the 40-year old performer-director said.
Farooqui, along with journalist and dastango Darain Shahidi, presented a contemporary adaptation of "Raag Darbari" here recently. The dastango duo added a contemporary touch to the famed novel by including satirical poems by famous writers and poets including Baba Nagarjun and Kedarnath Singh. Talking about the process behind transforming this novel of over 300 pages into a 120-minute dastan, Farooqui said that it was always a "challenging task" as novels were meant to be enjoyed alone and a dastan has to be told in a gathering.
"It is next to impossible to read a novel and hold the crowd at the same time. To tell it in the form of a dastan, you have to make changes to it. "And it needs to be done in a way that those who have read the novel return with something new, and those who haven't, know the essence of the story," he said. In its dastan form, the novel took shape of a 45 page script over a period of five months. The storytelling art, which "disappeared" after the death of dastango Mir Baqar Ali in 1928, was revived by Farooqui in 2005, thanks to the extensive work done by his uncle and poet Shamsur Rahman Faruqi.
While in the last 14 years dastangoi has become an essential part of cultural events like Jashn-e-Rekhta, Farooqui believes now is the time to put "checks and standards" to maintain the quality of the art. "I am happy that this art has revived in India and reached Pakistan, Canada among other places. But the problem that we face now is since there are no masters of this art, every person sitting on the stage considers themselves to be a master.
"It is both a good and bad thing. Good as it encourages and interests more people to learn it, bad as there are no checks and standards," he said. He added the onus for taking the art forward also lay on the audience who should screen every performance that they watch and "not accept anything in the name of dastangoi."
(With inputs from agencies.)