Vikram Sridhar’s love for theatre and folktales helped him realise his dream of starting his own initiative — Around the Storytree.

“You are so full of stories,” are the first words anybody would say if they met Vikram Sridhar. But besides choosing to tell these stories, he has also decided to make a career out of it.

An avid reader, it is no surprise that Vikram also co-owns Tahatto, a theatre company. Translating his passion for stories into storytelling came as a pleasant surprise though. In addition, he has a full-time corporate job too.

Vikram talks to NXg about his love for tales and how there are not many takers for the art of storytelling despite India being a culturally-rich nation.

IT to theatre to storytelling... Tell us about this transition.

Having gone through the standard route — school, graduation and B-School, I carved my way into the corporate world.

Yet, there was an innate interest that had me hooked to watching performances of all genres. What began with helping out a theatre company eventually led to forming a group called Tahatto in 2009 along with five like-minded friends. Over the last four years we have worked, learnt and produced plays and grown as a team.

In fact, our recent production Romeo And Juliet, No Strings Attached won The Hindu Metro Plus Writers Award and was also featured in the Chennai and Coimbatore editions of the fest this year.

My interest in the social sector made me reach out to children of various capacities over the years. And on one such occasion I was invited to tell a story. It was a folktale from Bengal. And by the time I completed this session in a government school I found myself to be quite a storyteller.

According to parents, storytelling is what kids do when they make up excuses. But you have taken the art of storytelling to the next level.

True. Parents usually forget how innovative their kids have been while coming up with these stories. It has been encouraging to see the power of oral storytelling in an era of iPads and touch phones. Different sections of people I have met have shared their views on the importance of oral medium and that it can never die. We have grown up listening to stories. To an extent, even Bollywood and Kollywood provide us with stories in different formats.

How viable is storytelling as a career?

If we look at it internationally, there are a lot of full-time professional storytellers whereas here, there is hardly any. All I can say is that it’s slowly growing in India and there is viability in it with acceptance. There are various activities happening at every corner in the city.

The key USP for storytelling is that it goes back to history and culture and to the memories of grandparents and events in life that are best remembered through stories. Technology can never match direct human-to-human interaction through stories can never be equated to how much ever we have advanced with technology.

What is your speciality as a storyteller?

It is extremely important to believe in the stories we tell. And for me, the need to break certain stereotypes around the stories we hear was strong.

As children we tend to build notions about animals, say a fox, crocodile or snake from the stories we hear. And I found my confidence in storytelling through animals. These led to certain types of stories I like to narrate. The world of stories is an ocean and the journey through other forms will take time and learning.

Describe your sessions…

A high-energy interactive session breaking stereotypes of the stories that we have heard or are bound to hear. This session will have both children and adults listening.

How does one hone his/her skill as a storyteller?

In India, there are only one or two certified institutions, which help train you to become a storyteller. And they have done great work in training thousands of people. But it’s just the beginning. After that it’s an independent journey for a storyteller.

In terms of skill, I try to work on various aspects, which goes into oral storytelling like voice, body and content, besides attending similar sessions and workshops.

Five years from now…

Wow! Five years is quite a long term to predict. But I see myself growing as a versatile storyteller reaching out to more children and adults. I definitely aim to work along with others to bring back oral storytelling as an art in a contemporary form.

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