Once upon a time…

Kamal Pruthi

Kamal Pruthi   | Photo Credit: 16dmc Kamal


Kamal Pruthi is striving to resuscitate the art of storytelling in homes

Popularly known for his role as “Kabuliwala”, theatre artist and storyteller Kamal Pruthi started storytelling at Bangalore’s Rangashankara Theatre in 2004 along with the literary forum Garma Garam Chai. Recently he quit his corporate job to turn to freelance storytelling. After travelling around seven States and performing 48 shows, the multilingual actor is in the Capital now. Here Kamal talks about his latest initiative – the Storytelling Movement – which is aimed at bringing back the culture of storytelling into our houses.

Excerpts from the interview:

What is the link between theatre and storytelling? Why did you shift from theatre to storytelling?

I think the link between the two is that of performance. Every actor cannot be a storyteller; every storyteller cannot be an actor. I shifted from theatre because I think there are very few forms of theatre that are experientially engaging – storytelling is one of them.

Why did you choose the character of Kabuliwala?

I feel that today there is no character with which kids can relate or look forward to, except for Santa Claus – which is also a time-specific character. Kabuliwala is a character which provides experiential entertainment and keeps coming back. He engages with the children, and makes them a part of the act! The preparation that went into the role was tremendous – I did the costuming of Kabuliwala, had to learn bits of Pashto language along with Kabuli dance. I have also tried to pick up the Afghani accent by engaging with local people and journalists.

Which is your most preferred location for performing? Irrespective of the geographical location, for me the audience which has been conditioned to the art of storytelling is the preferred one. However, the feeling of catering to first timers is extremely satisfying as well as challenging at the same time.

What is your take on evolution of storytelling? The art of storytelling has died inside homes, it’s not how it used to be in my time. Today nobody uses the form. The general perception about storytelling is that it is not a saleable thing or even a profession. Many reputed schools, ask me to perform for free! They often demand videos of my performances to be sure of the credibility of my acts. It is not considered a mainstream entertainment medium, it’s still considered an educating medium – which is what I am trying to change through the storytelling movement.

What is the museum theatre format?

There are a lot of surprise elements in this format and there is no sequencing. The stories come from anywhere and are mostly set in places to which people can relate. Many people today practice this form through heritage walks and perform at historical sites. The form involves a lot of spatial mathematics and preparations. But the basic idea is to engage the audiences experientially – which is the vision with which I started the Museum Theatre Company in 2012.

What kind of stories will be shared through the Storytelling Movement? Is the movement also focusing on bringing up the neglected folktales?

The choice of stories depends on the storyteller and I personally use stories which children can relate to. Today there is a lot of redundancy that we have in our story database, due to which children are not able to relate to the stories being enacted or read out to them. This is what the movement aims to do – a lot of research goes into finding the stories that kids will be able to relate to and can implement in their lives. This is very important to me as a storyteller. In the process, I think a lot of neglected stories will come to front.

There is a traditional correlation that people draw between storytelling and the habit of reading. How much contribution do you think your movement will make to this correlation?

I believe this process is extremely gradual. This is not an automatic quick fix solution, which is what many people expect. Storytelling seeps into the subconscious and the results come out only many years later. The movement aims to provide the basic nutrition for the habit of reading, which will have its impact in the long term. It’s what I call ‘intellectual nutrition.’

Storytelling is dying in the digital age. How much impact do you think you are making as a storyteller towards this?

If the impact is good, the future becomes good too. But, there are stakeholders involved in the process of impact. The major stakeholders today like parents, schools and teachers are very resistant to make a contribution to the movement. As a storyteller, I am giving the movement all that I can, a little push from the parents and teachers will help it gain momentum.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 10:25:05 AM |

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