Thus spoke the artist:
Abbas taught me what it means to be courageous
One of the bravest soldiers in the army of Imam Hussein, Abu Wahab, was a Christian not long before the Battle of Karbala. He converted to Islam, however, in order to be able to protect the grandson of the prophet of Islam, and observe the Arab codes of chivalry and gallantry, which dictate that one cannot leave the side of an isolated man surrounded by blood-thirsty enemies. Abu Wahab died a martyr in Karbala.
“One of the most emotive memories I have is from a ta’zieh on the day of Ashura in Damghan; the person who was enacting the role of Abu Wahab passed away as soon as his character’s part in the performance came to its heroic end,” said Danial Janqoli, the 17-year-old actor, who has shown signs of prowess in the dramatic art at an early age.
He points out that no one in the audience suspected anything, until the actor’s body was being carried away from the place. “This is an honor all of us who serve our Lord wish for, to die where we spent a lifetime commemorating his passions,” he said.
Born to a religious family hailing from Tafresh in Markazi Province, central Iran, where ta’zieh is big, the 11th grader started to act in passion plays since he was six years old.
“One day, my mother decided to read the script of ta’zieh of Ruqqayeh with me, when I couldn’t even read the words myself. But I memorized the whole script very quickly, and she knew then that I had a natural talent for this.”
In a short while, Danial managed to memorize more than 20 scripts.
“Until I came of age, I played 40 different roles of the children in Karbala, and could recite 3,000 lines by heart.”
Impressive as that may be, it didn’t come easy. Since child actors who could play in ta’zieh were in high demand, Danial was invited to act in different plays all year long, and therefore, he had to constantly revisit and practice the roles.
“But I enjoyed every bit of it, because ta’zieh has been, and will always be, my one and only passion,” he said.
As it turns out, even before he could form meaningful words, he used to be cast in ta’zieh. He fondly talks of the first costume his mother had him wear for the occasion.
“I was just six months old. My grandmother had sewn the dress for me so I could wear it and play the role of Ali-Asghar.”
In the middle of the ta’zieh, the actor who played Imam Hussein put the microphone in front of the crying Danial, in order to impress the already grieving audience.
The teenage actor maintains that in order to be a successful ta’zieh actor, first and foremost, one has to love the descendants of Prophet Muhammad, and only then try to work on other aspects of the art, like having a trained voice, musical knowledge, and acting skills.
“Also, horse-riding. In Tehran, though, there are not many ta’ziehs in which you could see horses, but in Isfahan, it’s a different story. You have to be able to ride horses.”
What has he learned from playing in ta’zieh all these years?
“I learned courage from Abbas, patience from Zeinab, and love and sacrifice from Qasem and Abdullah.”
“I also learned to disregard the earthly possessions from Hurr ibn-Yazid.”