How a Parsi theatre group in UP’s Dankaur has been weaving social fabric for nine decades

Parsi Theatre group,Dankaur,Drona Natya Mandal

A rehearsal session at Drona Natya Mandal at Dankaur in Greater Noida; Parsi theatre is known for giving importance to width of the stage, number of curtains and chandeliers and wooden cutouts.(Sunil Ghosh/HT Photo)

Purblind to the shimmer of metropolitan cities and away from modern-day art spaces, a Parsi theatre group in Dankaur, a small town in west Uttar Pradesh, has been cultivating a culture of theatre among its people and weaving in social messages through their performances for over 90 years.

Every monsoon, during Janmashtami, Hindus and Muslims sit with each other inside the premises of a temple to cheer for the artistes of Drona Natya Mandal, the local Parsi theatre group, which has enthralled audiences with its social, historical and religious plays over the years.

To reach Dankaur, one has to take a left turn towards a service road, about 15 kilometres after entering the Yamuna Expressway from Zero Point in Greater Noida, which leads to a dilapidated archway — welcoming you to the sleepy town. Dankaur, like many other small towns in India, remains relatively unknown, much like the vibrant culture of its people and the rich tradition of its performance arts. Here, the two communities bond over festivities and music as the town, with a population of about 15,000-16,000 people, cherishes the handful of artistes who have become local celebrities in their own right.

“The people of Dankaur have been anchored to each other since centuries and it has been made possible due to the common culture of music and performing arts. The theatre group continues to escalate that legacy and does the important job of bringing communities together,” says Qadir Khan, a resident and social activist from Dankaur.

The theatre group organises five plays every year during the 12-day Janmashtami celebrations at the Dronacharya temple. The temple complex, consisting of five to six smaller temples and a large temple for Guru Dronacharya, is the principal community centre in Dankaur, where people from all communities come to celebrate festivals. It was in the news recently when police officers had to be deployed after the district wing of the Hindu Yuva Vahini had objected to the long-standing tradition of organising Qawwali inside the temple premises.

A view of Drona Natya Mandali which is 93-year-old Parsi theatre group in Dankaur, in Greater Noida. (Sunil Ghosh/HT Photo)

“We try to keep the content (of the plays) relatable to our audiences because of the mixed population, which is why our historical and social plays set in the Mughal or the British era are people’s favourites. Among our famous plays are ‘Veer Haqiqat Rai’, ‘Sikandar Poros’, ‘Amar Singh Rathod’, ‘BA Pass Mazdoor’ and ‘Danveer Karna’. One of our most memorable characters has been a Qazi in the play ‘Veer Haqiqat Rai’ — people have memorised the character’s sublime dialogues,” Manoj Tyagi, president, Drona Natya Mandal, says.

The theatre group, comprising 25 members, all men from Dankaur, has performed over 150 different plays since its foundation in 1923 by late Mangat Ram, who hailed from Sikandarabad and has worked with Prithvi Raj Kapoor in erstwhile Bombay before returning to his roots, as per credentials seen by HT.

Parsi theatre art form was introduced by Parsi artistes in India in the mid-19th century where larger-than-life sets and cut-outs were used and epics were enacted for long hours. The Mandali boasts of being one of the rare surviving Parsi theatre groups in the era of modern, nihilistic performance art forms.

“We strictly follow the basic layout of the Parsi theatre art form, where details such as width of the stage, height of the pillars, number of curtains and chandeliers, wooden cutouts as well as timing of each scene are predefined. We need an interval of at least 15 minutes after each scene as changing sets is an arduous task. We are continuing the tradition started by Mangat Ram. Today, theatre is in the veins of Dankaur,” says Tyagi.

However, all members of the group have day jobs.

They work as clerks, accountants, shopkeepers, entrepreneurs, advocates and farmers. However, when it comes to casting for the plays or day-to-day management of the group, their dedication is unwavering.

One such local celebrity is Mukesh Jain, a bespectacled man in his late forties, who works as a clerk in the town’s postal department Monday to Saturday, 10 months a year. For the other two months, he is a senior artiste in the Drona Natya Mandali, where his job is to supervise the group as its treasurer.

“We maintain the running cost of the theatre group out of our own pockets as this is something embedded in our culture. The cost of costumes, make-up, props, sets and backgrounds, sound system, is borne by us. Every year, we deliver performances that become the talk of the town,” says Jain.

Similarly, 50-year-old Shalendra Govil, whose who runs a clothes showroom, screens potential artistes.

“The core team begins practising in public two months prior to final performance. This attracts a huge crowd, including people interested in theatre. We select new artistes from the lot and train them for two hours every day. I decide the roles for them,” says Govil.

Each member of the core team has his own tale to narrate as to how he came to join the theatre. All the stories have a pattern — they were attracted after watching the veterans of Dankaur perform on stage. Soon, they were trained by the older generation.

“I started watching plays in Dankaur at the age of four and was hooked. I decided to join the theatre group. My first role was at the age of 10. I played the character of Shabari, the woman who fed fruits to Lord Rama in the jungle. I have been part of this group since then and my friends recognise me by the characters I have enacted so far. This is how we inculcate the culture of theatre in the kids,” says 27-year-old Sandeep Bhati, who works as an insurance agent.

The theatre group has its own set of in-house rules.

“It is compulsory for each debut artiste to perform the role of a woman character. We believe when a man enacts a woman on stage, he shreds all hesitations and opens up. We want that from our artistes,” says Tyagi.

Women of Dankaur, however, have not made it to the core team of the group yet as the Parsi theatre form has long held the “tradition” of male artistes performing female roles. “We invite women artistes from Delhi whenever the character demands mature treatment. The smaller female roles are still given to our male artists,” adds Tyagi.

The artistes say they have immense respect for the departed members of the group. The theatre group office has several portraits of veteran artistes who worked with Mangat Ram. “We consider Narayan Das Manglik our inspiration — his versatility is unmatched. Other artistes such as Gopal Krishna Gaur and Mohammad Illiyas have also left a mark. Today, people remember the departed souls of Drona Natya Mandali by the roles they played,” says Purshottam Singh, an elderly member of the group.

One of the key elements of the Parsi theatre style is the energy with which artistes deliver their dialogues. “It’s almost unbelievable how one man started the tradition of theatre in Dankaur. Since then, we have taught this art form to children without any formal training. The former members of the theatre group have trained us to deliver dialogues without sound systems and we continue training the children that way. They have left a legacy behind and we manage to fill that void,” says Tyagi.

As the Drona Natya Mandal inches towards 100 years of existence, it has become an intrinsic part of the town where children watch the show spellbound with stars in their eyes, men whistle for their local heroes and women bond over shared festivities.


Month-Long Feast In Colaba Celebrates Parsi Lagan Fare

The pop-up curated by Perzen Patel, known for her catering service The Bawi Bride Kitchen, will feature dishes authentic to the community and common to a Parsi wedding menu

Mumbai Food: Month-long feast in Colaba celebrates Parsi lagan fare

Mamaji’s curry and rice

If marriages are about two people, then Indian weddings are about two people, their families, and possibly, everyone on the mailing list, too. The Parsi community is not be left out either, offering an exquisite feast at lagans.ADVERTISINGinRead invented by Teads

“I am from a catering background and when we were in college, we had to do 50 outdoors each year. Everybody wanted to go for Parsi weddings because that’s where we would get to taste the best food, and especially those big patra ni pomfrets. So, Parsi food has always been something that I really enjoyed,” shares Sumit Gambhir, co-owner of Bombay Vintage at Colaba, ahead of a month-long pop-up, Lagan Nu Bhonu, beginning today at the restaurant. The pop-up curated by Perzen Patel, known for her catering service The Bawi Bride Kitchen, will feature dishes authentic to the community and common to a Parsi wedding menu.

Kolah nu achaar na pattice

Kolah nu achaar na pattice

“You are likely to find dishes like the patra ni machchi, jardaloo chicken, and pulao dal at a Parsi wedding. And while this pop-up is about wedding food, it is also about the more rarer dishes that you would find at a Parsi wedding. Earlier, guests or relatives settled overseas would come and stay with the family and the wedding would become a three-to-four-day affair. So, these dishes are the ones that would be served to guests for lunch or dinner at home, rather than the food that was prepared for the main ceremony,” Patel clarifies. And this comes through in the eclectic menu with dishes such as kolah nu achaarna pattice, a traditional carrot and dry-fruit pickle that she has re-imagined as a cutlet, Mamaiji’s curry and rice, a prawn curry recipe Patel inherited from her grandmother, and dhandaar and lagan no patio, a tangy tomato curry served with rice and a Parsi version of the yellow dal, that will be on offer.

Perzen Patel

Perzen Patel

Not long ago, Gambhir also hosted a pop-up highlighting traditional fare from the kitchens of the city’s diverse Catholic communities in the city, from Goans to the East Indians. “We are inspired by the communities and the people who have helped build Bombay as a city. People tend to think about chaats and street food when they think of food in the city, but there is so much more. We are trying to collaborate with people who are passionate about their culinary heritage and who come from different backgrounds,” he says, reflecting on what urged him to host these regionally inclined pop ups.

ON: Today, 12 pm to 1 am
AT: Indian Mercantile Mansion, Regal Circle, Colaba.
CALL: 22880017

Suman Mahfuz Quazi –


“Mistakes,Failures, Insults,Frustration,Rejection…Are part of Progress and Growth. Nobody has ever achieved anything worthy without facing these.”


All of us has watched

The mass migration

Of innocent human beings

Fleeing war hatred violence

They are herded like cattle

Through or stopped at  the gates

As though being taken to the

Slaughter house to meet their fate!!


Some of us”Zoroastians” (Women)

Are suffering the same fate

When arriving at the juncture

Whether to follow or not

Follow the Faith?


Those who believe

In a Pure Chaste Religion

If at the gates one was

Denied entry or one’s

“Precious cargo”

Snatched  away

What would your

Options be?

Defy the law or with

Your precious cargo

Return back to your country


Atash Behrams & Agiaries

Can someday be rebuild

But the utter sheer destruction

Of humanity as well

The cost can never be “Refilled”.


Open one’s eyes wide

Observe the world

Around you

Very cozy to shut

The world out

And live in your

Cozy little cacoon


Choicest Happiness

Farida Bam

Cyrus Mistry makes a comeback, starts VC firm

Mistry Ventures LLP to invest in and nurture start-ups across the world

Making his comeback into the corporate world, Tata Sons’ former Chairman Cyrus Mistry has started a firm Mistry Ventures LLP that will invest in and nurture start-ups in India and across the world.

The venture capital firm will provide strategic insights and advice to businesses, incubate new ventures, and provide seed, early stage and growth capital to start-ups.

Incidentally, the announcement coincides with the second year of Mistry’s ouster from Tata Sons, following a boardroom coup on October 24, 2016.

“The intent to deliver profit with positive social impact will be embedded in each of the ventures we promote or partner with,” Cyrus Mistry said in a statement.

“Mistry Ventures will do more than just invest in companies. By interpreting some of the major global and local trends and understanding their impact on industries and companies, we will incubate new businesses, forge partnerships and make investments across sectors. Mistry Ventures will focus on providing mentorship and infusing unique capability sets to help start-ups craft the appropriate business experiments needed to validate, scale and bring products and services faster to market,” he said.

The VC firm is jointly promoted by Cyrus Mistry and his elder brother Shapoor Mistry, both promoters of Shapoorji Pallonji Group (SP Group), a conglomerate operating in the engineering and construction, infrastructure, real estate among others. The group also has presence in energy and financial services sectors across 60 countries.

The new firm has roped in Ashish Iyer, Senior Partner and previously Global Leader, Strategy Practice at the Boston Consulting Group, to lead the firm. “Iyer has worked with companies across sectors globally and brings deep expertise across domains and capabilities such as strategy, go-to-market, digital and innovation among others and I am very excited to have him on board,” Mistry added.

Mistry, who was the sixth chairman of the Tata Group between 2012 and 2016, was ousted following a board room coup on October 24, 2016. On December 20, 2016, through family-run firm Cyrus Investments he moved the Mumbai Bench of National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) against Tata Sons and others for oppression and mismanagement.

In July this year, NCLT dismissed Mistry’s petition, ruling in favour of Tata Sons, following which the former chairman moved the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) in New Delhi.

VP confers Lal Bahadur Shastri award on Fali Nariman







Stressing on probity in public life, Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu on Monday hailed late PM Lal Bahadur Shastri for his “integrity and moral uprightness” and said the education system needed to highlight contribution of leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

Addressing a gathering after presenting the 19th Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration to eminent jurist Fali S Nariman, Naidu said Shastri didn’t have two sets of principles one for public consumption and other for personal life.
“Even after 52 years of his demise, we still remember him for his values, commitment, courage, and also dedication,” he said.
He said India has a rich tradition of respecting women dating back to the Vedas and Upanishads and that the country should not lose sight of such historical traditions.
Nariman said he was happy “not just because Lal Bahadur Shastri is a great name in India’s history, but also because it (the award) is to be presented by another great son of India, Venkaiah Naidu”.



For over two decades, the ZTFE has been lobbying the UK Government to include a Zoroastrian representative as part of the faiths and belief groups at the annual National Service of Remembrance held at the Cenotaph, Whitehall, on Sunday closest to 11th November.

I am glad to report that on Wednesday 17th October, the UK Government website, link below, reported that Zoroastrians will be represented from this year on Sunday 11th November 2018, being the centenary of the WWI Armistice.

This breaking news was reported in the press, including the The Times, Wednesday 17th October 2018, on page 25, as attached. Also the Business Standard in India, as pasted below.

It should be noted that this happy outcome would not have been possible without the relentless campaigning of our patron Lord Karan F Bilimoria CBE on behalf of our community. We must recognise and record our thanks!

Also our gratitude to the Faith Minister Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), for pursuing this matter with his counterpart at the Department of Culture, Sports and Media (DCMS).

Best wishes

Malcolm Deboo
President – ZTFE

Click Here for the link to the UK Government Website

Trains to halt at Sanjan Station



In order to facilitate members of Parsi community to attend the celebration of their Historic Annual Sanjan Day, Western Railway will provide stoppage of 2 minutes to Train No. 22953/22954 Mumbai Central – Ahmedabad Gujarat Express and Train No. 12921/12922 Mumbai Central – Surat Flying Ranee Superfast Express at Sanjan railway station on Friday, 16th November, 2018 for one day only.

CPRO, Western Railway forwarded by Mehernosh Fitter +919892301884🌹🙏

GWG – Mobed Welfare Scheme

Global Working Group (GWG)

Proposed Scheme for Welfare of Senior Citizen Mobeds


The Global Working Group (GWG), at their annual meetings, have decided to extend financial support to Mobeds, who having catered to the spiritual needs of the community, unfortunately in their old age continue to subsist in economically challenged circumstances.

The Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong, Canton & Macao have taken the initiative and successfully managed to convince a foreign based corporate to commit financial support for this proposal.

It has been decided by GWG – ZCK HK, to extend financial support to:

  1. Economically challenged Mobed Couples and Mobeds who are single or widowed, 60 years and over whose total income is less than Rs.50,000 per month.
  2. Economically challenged widows of Mobeds, 60 years and over whose total income is less than Rs. 25,000 per month.

The WZO Trust Funds have been requested to compile a Pan India list of Mobeds who meet the eligibility criteria mentioned above and are interested in receiving support, which will be disbursed on a quarterly basis.

Interested applicants will need to make available two passport size photographs, and should it be thought necessary, to make available bank pass books and other relevant documents for verification.

As the intent is to launch the proposed scheme from the quarter Jan / March 2019 onwards, Mobed couples, single or widowed Mobeds and widows of Mobeds, meeting the eligibility criteria and interested in receiving the support may please write immediately mentioning age, income, attach two photographs of each applicant and send the same to the address below, no later than November 30, 2018:

The WZO Trust Funds,
C-1, Hermes House,
Mama Parmanand Marg,
Opera House,
Mumbai 400 004.

In Memory Of A Parsi Philanthropist


Located in Karachi, Jamshed Road was established in 1922. Stretching between M.A. Jinnah Road and Jail Road, most of the houses that once stood on Jamshed Road have been demolished and replaced by high-rise apartment complexes and commercial enterprises, such as auto repair workshops, banks and grocery stores.

Jamshed Road is named after Jamshed Nusserwanjee, a prominent Parsi philanthropist of his time. Fondly known as ‘the Builder of Modern Karachi’ Nusserwanjee was the first mayor of Karachi and the president of Karachi Municipality where he served for 12 years and transformed the city into a great and important metropolis. He also developed a first cooperative housing society (known as Jamshed Quarters) which is located there, catering to the city’s growing middle class. What is more is that he was a close friend of Mr Jinnah.

Jamshed 2As you drive down Jamshed Road, you will see remnants of small houses built in classic British colonial architecture. Not only that, once you step off the road, you will see quarter-like houses that were once used by the officers and government employees in the Raj period, one of them is known as 1865, which according to the residents, was used as a storage place for arms and ammunition by the British army .

jamshed-1.jpgJamshed Road is home to a string of desi cuisine, which offers biryani, haleem, nihari as well as samosas and pakorays. A few bakeries are also located there for lovers of all things sweet. Recreational avenues are limited to a few parks. However, if you go to the adjacent M.A. Jinnah Road there you will find several parks, educational institutions, healthcare facilities as well as shopping and recreational avenues, in addition to the well-known iconic Quaid’s mausoleum, Islamia College and TDF Ghar.

Although traffic, hustle bustle and rapid commercialisation can take its toll, Jamshed Road still retains its old-world charm.