A Well known “daastango” (storyteller) Mohammad Ismail Mir, who had kept the dying tradition of storytelling alive for the past many decades, used to be the household name in Kashmir.
Muhammad Ismail Mir, popularly known as Ismal Mir was a well known “daastango,” who was instrumental in keeping the “flame of the tradition of ‘dastangoi” alive in the state.
He was considered as a legend of his time who kept the dying tradition of storytelling alive for more than half a century.
His performances were very popular on television as well as radio and he also used to do stage shows.”
Mir was an expert in ‘daastangoi’—an old form of storytelling in prose and verse of Kashmir, dating back to several centuries.
It was his unique style that popularized the art of storytelling among masses.
Winner of multiple awards, Mir was known for reciting traditional Kashmiri ‘dastaans’ like ‘Himal Nagrai’, ‘Bumber Yamberzal’, ‘Aqla Wazir’ and ‘Aknandun’ in a style that would keep the audience spell bound for hours.
Mir was gifted with sharp memory, making him a treasure trove of tales.
During his heydays, with no modern means of entertainment, his ‘daastangoi’ was very popular attracting masses across Kashmir. His stories about righteous outlaws, epic-power struggles, legendary wrestlers and star-crossed lovers broadcast on Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar over the decades caught the attention of people cutting across age.
It was Mir who introduced ‘Saaz’ in ‘daastangoi’. He performed in almost all the states of India, and thus took the art outside the state. Mir’s two sons — Ghulam Hassan Mir and Abdur Rashid Mir — have taken up storytelling as a profession.
As a child, it is said, Mir was visited by a god-man in his dream, asking him to tell stories. Mir protested, writes Chitralekha Zutshi in her ‘Stories And Storytellers Of Kashmir’, saying that he was illiterate and didn’t know any stories that he could tell.
The god-man asked him to try, and as soon as he opened his mouth to protest yet again, stories poured forth from him.