In conversation with Ankit Chadha, a story-teller from Delhi
Ankit Chadha a passionate story-teller narrates the story about how it all started… his learning’s, new discoveries, his love to write, his love for Gandhi and Kabir, his experiments with a Dastan on mobile and his engagement with school children.
Ankit Chadha is a history graduate from Hindu College. His love for writing took him to act in several of his self-written scripts. He identifies himself more as a writer than an actor. “After my graduation, I joined a job. But I desperately missed writing… doing something for self-satisfaction. I also tried to start a weekend theatre group, but it did not work out. Then one day I came across a workshop on Dastangoi. At that time, I had just heard about Dastangoi. I attended it and realized I had to pursue it. So I started to attend training classes from my Ustad Md. Farouqui. And before I realized, I was a Dastango, a story-teller’.
Ankit Chadha preferred Dastangoi over theatre or street plays. What was the most appealing feature of dastangoi was its minimal requirements and simplicity. It doesn’t need sound, lighting equipment, props, costumes or a dozen of people around for a performance. Story is what is required for a story teller…
So, what is Dastangoi? It is a medieval art form of story-telling. The word dastangoi is made of two Persian words Dastan that means story and goi means to tell. These stories were orally transmitted and narrated by Dastango’s (story-teller) in the market places, festivals and other gatherings. The most popular stories in the sub-continent were the stories of Hamza. These stories were first written down by Munshi Nawalkishore of Lucknow , and 46 volumes were published in 1881.
But soon this art form died out… with the death of Mir Baqir the last proponent of the art form Dastangoi vanished. It was revived in 2005 by Mr. Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, a poet himself and his nephew, writer, director and my mentor Mahmood Farooqui . And today under his guidance there are about 12 professional dastangos in the country, performing in various centers, colleges, schools etc and keeping this art form alive.
Dastangoi has not only been revived, but it has also acquired new meanings, new stories and new dimensions. Stories have been performed on demand like one on Mobile, ‘Dastan-e-mobile’. He says “Initially it was really difficult for me to write a story on Mobiles… but then I wrote from my perspective… the perspective of a consumer… I also researched on mobile complains from users… and the story was received really well.. people were responding… they were laughing.. and it amazed me”
Ankit Chadha also gave a new meaning to Dastan by performing at the short theater festival in Delhi. He performed a ten minute story on mobile, and it was received really well…
He caught hold of his passion for writing when he started to write a story on Kabir, for the Kabir Festival in Mumbai. He states that after much searching for Kabir in books and you tube, what helped him the most was the day when his friend called to inform him that the Shahyr of the day on twitter was Kabir. He says that this gave him not only information about Kabir, but different opinions on Kabir. He says “And by the end of the day, I had a feeling I know Kabir”
“ Jab mein pothi parh parh muwa hone wala tha,
aur you tube pe betahasha buffering ke baad meri samajh aaya..
Moku kaha tu dhunde re bande, mein tou tere pass re …”
The story that developed around Kabir was very autobiographical in nature… He says ‘ I interspersed Kabir’s poetry my own way’.
While reading and writing Kabir, Ankit found his long lost love for Gandhi… for truth and love. He says that he feels in many ways Gandhi is Kabir reborn. ‘They feel like the same person to me’. I will very soon work a story to be told on Gandhi.
Ankit has also worked with school children of all ages and says he feels the most comfortable with them. They listen to the story with their hearts, don’t judge him and always want more. The only aspect to keep in mind is to keep validating that the children understand the language of the story. He says any story can be told to any age-group, what becomes important is to communicate in a language understandable to them.
With a vision to do more stories and a will to keep the art form of story-telling alive ankit chadha lives his dream of writing… he is really passionate about his work and is currently working on Gandhi and Amir Khusrau.