Be it enchanting tales in Hindi and Urdu dramatics or puppetry— storytelling in any form has a magical charm of its own. On World Storytelling Day, some of the Delhi-based artists talk about how the art of storytelling, how it’s changed with time, and some of the formats they prefer to use. A few have even shared a couplet and a story for you to read.
Ankit Chadha (Dastango)
The capacity of audiences to appreciate the telling of long tales has declined. The artists too do not have the same level of skill as the olden masters. With the patience disappearing, storytelling is becoming an ‘item number’.
Recently, at a performance, there were people recording the show on their mobile phones. I said to them that this love from the audience really inspires me. That day is not far when I will perform the whole show on selfie mode on my phone. Most got the hint and put the phones back. We need to honour that the essential experience of storytelling - ‘seena-ba-seena’ (heart to heart).
A couplet by Ankit
Mazaa jab thaa ki mere munh se sunte daastaan meri
kahaaN se laayegaa qaasid dahan mera zabaan meri
Jaishree Sethi (Storyteller)
Storytelling requires adequate space, ambience and interested listeners.The same story comes out differently in different settings with different audience. It is about the exchange of energies. The response from the audience energises me and helps me tell better.
A story by Jaishree Sethi
A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and drove the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car, shouting, “What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?” The young boy was apologetic. “Please mister ... please, I’m sorry... I didn’t know what else to do,” he pleaded. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop...” With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car. “It’s my brother,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.” Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.” Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out his fancy handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay. “Thank you and may God bless you,” the grateful child told the stranger. Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the little boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home. It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message: Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!
Dadi Pudumjee (Puppeteer)
Storytelling has changed tremendously through the times. Today, besides the storytelling, the performing arts helps the storyteller in making their art stronger, vivid and more powerful.
All art forms narrate a story in their own way, and puppets and puppeteers, are some of the oldest storytellers of the world.
Kamal Pruthi (Storyteller)
I use theatrics and folk format in the league of Pandwani and Alha Udal. In musical folk formats created by me like Zabanikhela (Urdu form of children storytelling) and Kabuliwala (Afghani folk style) where the characters of the storyteller, his language and dialect, costuming, accompanying folk music, folk dance, acting skills, and use of props play more prominent roles. Right now I’m looking for a life-sized donkey made of paper mache or other workable material for my performance of Mullah Nasruddin.
Changing scenes according to the audience responses during live performances happen all the time. And that’s not just the beauty of it but the demand of this format of interactive form of storytelling where audiences play an important role to take the story forward. If I were to perform same story in same format all over again, I as a performer will lose interest soon. So to keep myself and my audiences happy and engaged, it is important for me to keep innovating ways of performing the same stuff in different ways. And most of innovation can happen only while performing not during rehearsals.
Once, just before the performance, I found out that there was a young boy in my audiences who was a repeat audience had and heard the story which I was about to perform, I changed the complete performance, the complete story for him so that he should not go back saying Kabuliwaala performed the same story. I don’t do it now though!
A story by Kamal Pruthi
Once upon a time when nobody existed, only a young boy and a charming girl, lived in a beautiful jungle, they bathed in the lakes, loved and immersed in themselves under the sun, mated around the river and sat under the tree, ate natural fruits, and decorated each other with flowers. They wore nothing but covered beauty around them. The creator of the jungle gave them only one warning, go everywhere in the jungle, but don’t climb this huge devil tree. The devil tree looked really beautiful from the outside. Despite of warning, both climbed the tree one day and started plucking the fruits and flowers from it. As soon as they ate all the delicious looking fruits, they looked down to see that the whole jungle was empty, the waterfalls had gone, the jumping deer and other animals were out of sight, the river was dry and everything beautiful they cherished had vanished. It was as if nothing existed before. They wanted to climb down the tree and go to the beautiful jungle and play like before but could not find the way to come down. Soon, the devil of the tree appeared and said “Welcome to the social media”.
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