Characters. Conflicts. Resolutions. Life is a unique combination of these three elements, and so is a story, says Jeeva Raghunath, pioneer of the storytelling movement in Tamil Nadu. She is one of the co-founders of the Chennai-based group Kathai Kalatta, which has been reviving the art of storytelling by organising an international storytelling festival, Under The Alamaram, in Chennai. With participants from the USA, the UK, Italy, South Africa, Singapore and Kenya, the sixth edition of this festival is set to extend its roots to other major cities in the state.
Jumaini Ariff from Singapore, who is collaborating with Kathai Kalatta for the second time, believes that no story is too simple to be told. “Stories help people connect across boundaries. It is an important tool to share the beauty of a language, culture and values they behold. I use props to engage the audience while telling stories from Asian and Malay communities,” she says. Craig Jenkins from the UK became familiar with India through folktales and epics told by his storytelling teacher Dr Vayu Naidu from Chennai. For over a decade, he has been actively performing stories and researching on storytelling and gender education.
“Festivals like Under The Alamaram give a platform for people to connect with others through stories. This year, I will be telling stories on identity through songs, mime, comedy and movements, with a contemporary twist,” he says. Bengaluru-based Vikram Sridhar will be performing stories based on Indian mythology, history, folklore and nature with a theatrical twist. “If there is a world bereft of gadgets and yet delightful, where people can connect with sounds and love, it is stories,” says Vikram. He will be performing in the events conducted as part of the festival at Coimbatore and Salem. “There is a philosophy behind every story, even if it is meant for children.
When that is explained, adult listeners too will enjoy this art form,” he says. Ask what Jeeva has in store for the audience and she says, “As a storyteller, I always ensure to give what the modern-day listeners want. Before every event, I prepare a list of stories, which is certain to change depending on the audience’s age group.” The event will be held at the Museum Theatre in Chennai on September 1 from 7 pm to 9 pm.