An Urdu rendition of ‘Alice In Wonderland’
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With white rabbits that talk, caterpillars that smoke the hookah and a Queen of Hearts, writer Lewis Carroll knew better than anyone perhaps that the imagination has no restrictions. Well known for reviving Dastangoi, the almost lost art form of Urdu storytelling, Mahmood Farooqi and team are now adapting two of Carroll’s most celebrated children’s stories—Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass—to their style.
Dastan Alice Ki (Alice’s Story) begins with Alice’s journey in Wonderland and revolves around her evolution on the chessboard to become a queen. The performance, by dastangos Poonam Girdhani and Ankit Chadha, will open in the Capital on Tuesday.
The brain behind it is ustad Farooqui—it was he who thought of presenting Dastangoi shows that grown-ups (their primary audience) could enjoy with their children. “The reason I chose Alice’s stories to begin our work for children is because her adventures are tilismi (magical) in nature, and the flavour of fantasy is similar to what we find in traditional dastans,” he says.
Team Dastangoi, which has previously put up performances like Mantoiyat, Dastan-E-Amir Hamza and Dastan-E-Chouboli, has been staging Dastan Amar Ayyaar Aur Amir Hamza Ke Bachpan Ki, also known as the Bachpan Tale (Childhood Story), from Dastan-E-Amir Hamza for children for eight years. This, however, is the first time that it is focusing on children’s literature as a genre, to facilitate Hindi/Urdu learning among them.
“When I visit literature festivals for children, I see how most of the offerings are for an English-speaking audience. Therefore, we intend to adapt a lot of English texts into Hindi and Urdu dastans,” says Chadha, who quit his full-time job in digital marketing to join the team in 2010.
To encourage youngsters to adopt Dastangoi as a way of life, Chadha last year started training two youngsters from the Nizamuddin Basti, one of them a 13-year-old boy named Affaan. He debuted at Humayun’s Tomb with the Bachpan Tale earlier this year.
Even as this performance opens next week, the team members are already putting their heads together to adapt other notable literary works for children such as The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Haroun And The Sea Of Stories by Salman Rushdie, and Satyajit Ray’s evergreen fantasy-adventure comedy film, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne.
Dastan Alice Ki, 26 August, 7pm, at The Attic, 36, Regal Building, Connaught Place (23746050). Limited seating.