He was a master story teller and, quite fittingly, Manto’s own story will be brought to life with a Dastangoi performance. Marking the birth centenary of Sa’adat Hasan Manto, Mahmood Farooqui’s Dastangoi group will perform Mantoyiat (Mantoism).

This group aims to revive the lost art of Dastangoi, a form of storytelling that originated in Persia and travelled to medieval India. The word Dastangoi is a compound of two Persian words Dastan and Goi which literally translates as telling an epic. These epics were often and were in essence like medieval romances everywhere. Dastans would narrate tales of adventure, magic and warfare and follow the hero through many quests, travails and lovers. There are no props, no music and no action, and the dastango, or the storyteller, held the audience’s attention with the sheer force and power of his narrative techniques. This art form, while once popular in the 1800s, died out by the next century, giving way to radio and television, and more impersonal forms of storytelling.

Mahmood Farooqui 40, a filmmaker and a theatre artist, learned about dastangoi from his uncle, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi. The form’s simplicity appealed to him, along with the idea that it needed no infrastructure. The first Dastangoi was performed in 2005, and since then, the fanbase has only grown. Farooqui’s group has adapted the art form to tell contemporary stories. Farooqui writes his own script. Writing a dastangoi story is very different, he says. “You have to see how the words sound to the ear.” Every story is narrated in pure, refined Urdu, which many people don’t understand very well. But both Farooqui and Hussain believe that the audience understands much more than they think they do.

Manto’s story isn’t the first one that Farooqui and Danish Hussain are going to bring to life. They have narrated dastans on Binayak Sen and Faiz Ahmad Faiz in the past. With Manto, Farooqui and Hussain have chosen to pepper the stories of his birth and life with anecdotes. The performance has them switching charmingly and effortlessly between first, second and third person narratives. Of Manto, Hussain says, “He was a rebel. The establishment never warmed up to him.”

Bottomline: Farooqui and Hussain pepper the stories of Manto’s birth and life with anecdotes.

Mantoiyat: A Dastangoi Performance

When: August 11 and 12, 2012

Where: India Habitat Centre, New Delhi