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A simple story can change your life. Here's how

May 19, 2020 15:35 IST

Complicated times can be helped by simple measures.
Like an online storytelling event that will keep children entertained and make adults nostalgic, says Amrita Singh.

IMAGE: Vikram Sridhar during an online storytelling event. All photographs: Kind courtesy vikram.sridhar.1/

Vikram Sridhar, a Bengaluru-based performance storyteller and theatre practitioner, believes simple but profound folktales continue to have a universal appeal, irrespective of age and other diverse forms of entertainment.

As he puts it, folktales serve a multi-pronged purpose: Children learn a thing or two about morality while adults revisit their faculty of interpretation through the lens of their social, political or personal context.

And while all cultural products -- books, films, dance, music, theatre -- either narrate or are shot through stories, Sridhar is working hard to revive the oral tradition, possibly the earliest and most basic form of storytelling.

With families all over the world under lockdown, Sridhar is now using his storytelling skills to entertain both children and adults, by narrating short and relatable stories of kings and queens, nature and animals.

The online event, titled Handmade Folktales: Online Story Performance by Vikram Sridhar, is being organised in collaboration with Artkhoj, a Bengaluru-based artist-aggregator which helps connect individuals and organisations with upcoming and established artists.

One can attend the live session on Zoom after registering for the performance through Artkhoj's Facebook page.

"We call it 'handmade' because each story is handmade and handcrafted by someone and then handed over to someone else, so that it can travel and reach many more ears," he says.

The mechanical engineer became a full-time storyteller a decade ago, when he decided that the purpose of his life could not be limited to working for a corporate organisation.

Sridhar's introspection made him realise that he had always been a storyteller, a talent he had known and employed even in conversations with friends and family.

He then began taking time out on weekends to visit different schools and narrate stories to children of all ages.

"I'm happy being the 'joker-uncle' for children while narrating stories with drama and passion. Making children laugh and learn by telling them stories brings me great joy," says Sridhar.

Despite oral storytelling's ability to educate, inform and entertain, Sridhar believes that its simple charm has eroded over the years, with folklore limited to time spent with grandparents or at performances organised in schools and colleges.

"Performing arts like music and dance still enjoy a large audience of varied ages, whereas storytelling is reserved for children these days," remarks Sridhar.

"And while children are still somehow exposed to stories, most adults have completely forgotten what it is like to sit back and simply listen to a story," he adds.

Through his collaboration with Artkhoj, Sridhar has been performing every two weeks since the country was locked down.

The first session held stories of well-known historical figures such as emperor Akbar and his witty minister Birbal, and court-poet Tenali Rama, and the second revolved around tales of Mahatma Gandhi.

Both sessions were appreciated by his online audiences.

The positive response has led him to thematically curate and then narrate stories once a fortnight, allowing him to continue working during a lockdown that has robbed many artists of their livelihood.

Through storytelling, Sridhar has been able to combine his passion for theatre, nature conservation and social work.

And oral narratives, especially folktales, are a fine fusion of all three of these elements.

In order to keep the performance interesting for both adults and children, Sridhar's narration of folktales is packed with songs, sing-a-longs and drama.

He use percussion instruments like the rattle and will narrate stories in English so that people from elsewhere in the world can join in to view the performance too.


Amrita Singh
Source: source image