Reporting live from #KLF2015, white tent wall next to me wobbling and the star speakers sparkling on the stage like so many Swarovski crystals. Bani Basu, Sarah Rundle and Richa Wahi have taken the stage for Weaving a Tapestry: The Art of Storytelling. The speakers have taken up several question rich with implications and, of course, stories: Teri Pratchett’s comment on how life imitates art prompted Sarah to give an example of films influencing culture, while Bani Basu commented on how she and Sarah have completely different approaches towards stories, she as a writer and Sarah as a teller. Culture-specific storytelling too has peeped in as a topic of discussion; Sarah points out differing perspectives on violence and Mrs Basu on how words and terminologies evolve over different cultures.
Sarah speaks about what I like to call “live editing”: each time that she tells a story, it changes slightly, according to the audience, ambience and her own mood! She also mentions a very interesting phenomenon: the revival of story telling and the springing up of “storytelling clubs” all across the UK: where people go to seek warmth, companionship and, of course, stories.
Bani Basu mentions folktales and the practice of aural storytelling, reminding me of college lectures by Professor Ananda Lal: the traditional practices of retelling the epics and the puranas (the ancient Indian texts) through verbal performance. A fascinating practice that now has been re-interpreted and restarted as slam poetry, I think!
Theatre and the stage as a medium of storytelling is discussed: the re-interpretation of stories on stage results in ifs and buts but no complaints from Bani Basu: she acknowledges the theatre team’s creative freedom. Sarah talks about how she structures her stories while performing them: she says she looks for language that creates a pleasing phonetic effect, such as onomatopoea and alliteration.
How does the role of a storyteller change with stories, subjects and purposes? In reply, Sarah Rundle talks about the warmth of storytelling and honesty, or an atrocious lack of it, in the “storytelling” of advertising! What is the role of the audience in storytelling? Sarah, with her trademark humour, mentions how a story comes alive through a personal connection with the audience, and Mrs Basu, just as mirthfully, admits that she likes the distance between her and her readers!
And Sarah goes on to showcase her story-telling brilliance as she tells us a story about the eternally poor woodcutter and his eternally nagging wife. The part where Sarah recreates the voice of the nagging wife IS THE KIND OF STUFF I LIVE FOR (imagine a mixture of a banshee and Mick Jagger’s best shriek). Someday, I will be as good, as entertaining, as free and as engaging a speaker as her: but today, sadly, is not that day. The story ends with a lion becoming a therapist and an apparent expert in numismatics for the woodcutter, and dining with his family.
It was a wild ride, okay?
More in 5 minutes. Stay tuned for live updates from Kolkata Literature Fest 2015.
PS: #KLF is too sophisticated a place to have mosquitoes in the tent. But it does. Oh the ironies and conundrums of live events.