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Readers, tune in to stories

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi  



So you enjoy reading when you travel. For a change, how about listening to a story when you are travelling or cooking or walking; a tale complete with background music and dramatic effects. Award-winning director and writer Sreebala K. Menon is opening a new chapter in story telling with an audio book that can be downloaded with the help of an app on your Android phone.

Audio books are no longer a novelty in Kerala but Sreebala wanted to make it a unique creative experience for listeners of all ages. So she brainstormed with some of the top filmmakers in Mollywood, including mentor Sathyan Anthikkad, to find out how she could enhance the experience for a listener tuned in to a story.

“Instead of merely reading the book or turning it into a radio play, I decided to adapt a story into an audio book; a narration that was supported by music and professional voices. Serendipity came in the form of my brother-in-law Jojo James’ online book store keralabookstore.com. They provided the technical support for Kelkaam audio books,” she explains.

Jojo and his partners designed an app for downloading audio books that would be up for sale on the website of keralabookstore. Once the story is downloaded, it remains on the phone and can be listened to as and when you want to listen to a tale, a poem or a novel.

“It is the same when you buy a book. It remains with you and can be read anytime. In this case, the book can be listened to according to your convenience. However, the audio book cannot be shared on social media. Each person would have to download it on to his/her phone. It was Sreebala chechi who came up with such an innovative idea,” says Jojo.

He adds: “Our online store, which is about four years old, promotes Malayalam literature. In fact, it was our romance with reading and literature that persuaded us to quit our jobs in the IT field and begin a venture like this. So when Sreebala, herself a well-known writer, came up with this novel plan, we were more than happy to work with her. There are issues of copyright and so we had to be careful while selecting the stories. To begin with, we decided to focus on children’s literature.”

After consulting writers and readers, Sreebala decided to adapt Ashita P.K.’s Mayilpeelisparsham, a moving story about Unni Maya, a little girl who can’t stop herself from drawing, and her life with her grandparents in a rural environment. “Author Priya A.S.’ daughter can’t stop talking about the story. A chapter from that book has been included in the curriculum for students of class five studying the State syllabus. We felt that children would enjoy learning more about Unni Maya and her world. It is an evocative tale that appeals to children and adults alike,” adds Sreebala.

Sathyabhama, a veteran broadcaster, and Damodar Radhakrishnan, an RJ working in Kochi, have read the story for Kelkaam’s first venture. They take turns to read the 12 chapters for the two-hour narration. “But it is not a radio play with male and female readers giving voice to the characters based on gender. We have a male and female voice to break the monotony and both Sathyabhama and Damodar are very good at what they do. In fact, Damodar reads Benyamin’s Aaadujeevitham for Kochi FM,” says Sreebala.

Playback singer Pushpavathy Poypadathu (who shot to fame with her song ‘Chembavin punellu choru’ in Salt N’ Pepper) has composed the music for the audio book while keyboard player Anoop Kumar arranged the music. The team behind the venture was insistent on choosing the best in the field to give voice to Unni Maya’s story.

Jojo says that the team is working to give voice to more stories in Malayalam. But, as with this first one, they want to bring in the best of artistes to echo the characters in the tales. “Our consumer base includes readers in India and the Malayali diaspora as well. In addition many visually-challenged readers have also expressed interest in Kelkaam audio books. This is just the first step for us,” he says.

So now you know what to do when your child comes up with that familiar line: ‘Tell me a story.’ There is hardly a child who does not like listening to a tale. And the charm of a story that is narrated is that it opens up the child’s imagination, filling it with people, voices and situation. However, narrating a story is an oral art that is rapidly falling silent in many houses as parents become too busy and grandparents live too far away. That is when audio books came as music to the ears of many parents who wanted to introduce their children to the enchantment of stories. And now here is an opportunity to listen to stories while on the go.

The audio book Mayilpeelisparsham will be launched by filmmaker Sathyan Anthikkad and cinematographer-director Venu at 5 p.m. at the Russian Culture Centre on April 3.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 8:32:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Readers-tune-in-to-stories/article14213376.ece

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