CHENNAI: Becoming a doctor, or an engineer was the classic middle-class dream in India, and many 90s children succumbed to it. Storyteller Vikram Sridhar was one of them. “I did what was expected of me. I became an engineer and did MBA from IIT Madras. But I was simultaneously working in my areas of interest — theatre, conservation and social work.
I knew I had the knack to tell stories and that it was my real calling,” says Vikram, the co-founder of Tahatto, a Bengaluru- based theatre company, which will conduct a storytelling session, ‘RANIs of India’, in the city on February 10. The art of storytelling, according to Vikram, should not have the baggage of social conditioning. Storytelling has to be pure.
“I had (and still have) a problem with the way stories are told in India. I feel that most stories here are laden with stereotypes, and stereotypes are dangerous,” he says, and cites instances of Africans not getting a place to rent in Indian metros because of narratives that portray them as bad or vile. “I travelled to five northern states in India on a month-long storytelling spree recently and shared the story of the origin of butter chicken to children in villages.
And you should have seen the hatred on their faces when I said that butter chicken originated in Peshawar,” he shares. “When I asked about the neighbours of India, they were quick to say China, Nepal, and others, but they spat in disgust at the mention of Pakistan.” Talking about his upcoming performance, Vikram says, “Can you name any valiant queen of India other than Rani Lakshmibai? Difficult, right? We are so used to glorifying our male rulers, and I want to change this. Indians are so oblivious to the other side of history, especially about women.”
Storytelling has come a long way in India, and until recently, in Chennai, especially, storytelling sessions were only conducted for children. “But it continues to be relevant to both adults and children. So, in December last year, I conducted a storytelling session on gender empowerment where the attendees’ age ranged between 20 and 70 years,” he shares. “The audience loved it. It was supposed to be an hour-long programme, and got stretched to two hours because people really loved it.” All content in his sessions are well-researched and based on facts.
“Yes, I do add a bit of masala to make it interesting, but I make sure I don’t say things just for the sake of it,” clarifies Vikram, who also focuses on audience participation to make his sessions interactive. “I want people to come tell me if they didn’t understand any segment of the programme so that we can discuss it. That makes storytelling fun too!”
Vikram Sridhar’s one-hour storytelling session ‘RANIs of India’ will take place at Backyard, Adyar, on Feb 10 from 8 pm onwards. For details, call: 73584 58117