On his trail to preserve a long lost treasure trove: storytelling

Picture credit: geneix.com

By Bhavana Akella

Scrolling through the anals of past, one might have run into the era of story tellers. However, with the advent of technology and the kindle era beleguring the long lost tradition of storytelling, we in this century has almost been bereved of those snippets wherein a bunch of garrulous children were found stupified at the gimmicks of a story teller reciting a story.

Picture credit: artinaction.org.uk
Picture credit: artinaction.org.uk

In a bid to bring back the art of storytelling, renowned theatre artist Kamal Pruthi unravels his attempt at reving the art. “A storytelling movement (of the kind he has started) was necessary to fight the advent of technology, which has been dumbing the children down,” says the pagdi clad theatre artist.

Leaving the world of IT, Pruthi has devoted his life to the art of storytelling.He is also arguably one of the few storytellers who perform in German, Hindi and Urdu and has been bringing back the culture of storytelling in many households and schools across the country.

Donning green kurta-pajama with a pagdi (turban), this 33-year old ‘Kabuliwala’ is a favourite amongst children across the country every time they see him with his vibrant jhola (cloth bag), which they know is full of stories.

“With mobile phones and other devices taking over, dadajis and nanajis (grandparents) don’t get to tell stories to their grandchildren anymore. A family getting together over stories seems like in a long-gone era,” Pruthi told IANS.

The monkey shows and the acrobats who performed while telling their tales were experiential mediums that have almost become redundant now, he said, adding that children of the present generation have not heard as many stories as their parents would have. The hunger for knowledge can only be satiated through stories, he reiterated.

“I’m a modern day madaari (conjurer). My job is to intellectually entertain the humble souls of kids – many of whom have never heard stories before,” Pruthi said.

“Kids of this generation are energetic and need something to keep them engaged. The 90-year-old Santa Claus who entertains them comes only once a year, but kids know Kabuliwala is always there,” he added.

Being a professional theatre artist for over a decade now, he believes the medium is not experiential enough for the audience, and thus he had to take a step ahead through his storytelling.

There have been some challenges, though.

Retelling the story of Sadat Hasan Manto’s “Toba Tek Singh”, in which after partition in 1947, a man has to decide whether India or Pakistan is his home, Pruthi recalled the challenge he had faced while representing 18 characters in the story.

“The real challenge is when a storyteller has to perform so many characters and tell their stories,” he said.

“A story can be called a strong one only when it can travel,” Pruthi explained, adding: “Not all actors can be storytellers, and also not all storytellers can be good actors. Unlike a theatre show which requires investment, storytelling can be quite economical and can be done on a terrace, a garden, or even below the staircase.”