Friday, August 21, 2015

Interview with storyteller, Vikram Sridhar

An author, an illustrator, a publisher, a book seller, a reviewer - all are important in getting us closer to stories! However, in addition to a book, the role of a story teller is seldom looked at seriously.

We, in Bangalore, are blessed to have some amazingly committed and creative story tellers and Vikram Sridhar, is one of them! Here Is an interview with Vikram, that we hope all will enjoy!

Welcome to Saffron Tree, Vikram.

Tahatto - please tell us more about the name of your theatre group?

Tahatto is a like a sound .. Tahatto dhim tha dhimmi thakka thaha thaha tho dim thath thai .

It can be sound in multiple ways and that’s were the word comes from . The chant goes back to some say to the kings era where they were welcomed using the chant.

What are we if not for the sounds through which we communicate

You have two distinct lives - each using your brain and your heart in different proportions. How did you reach this happy place of balancing the two? Was the journey a tough one?

It is an ongoing journey. But it was essential for me to identify it at every point of time , and its like a see saw, which gets priority at which point of time as there are other stake holders involved at every point . Right through my school and college days I realized there is a difference in what some people study and what you want to pursue. I can go on rattling on this .. While there was a safe journey through the brain , there was the journey through the heart which I kept and keep nourishing . Be it conservation , theatre or social work . Having no direct precedence in my family or people around , I tried my best balancing them . And you always keep hearing certain words like "Its an hobby " , "you can do these in your college days" etc. . But the fact is I start pursuing these deeper only after my under graduation.

While reading A Bhil Story by Tulika recently, you invited the children attending an event to name the rooster based on colours - red, blue, purple? So how do you start a session typically?

Ha ha , yes , At the end of - it these are folktales ( the bhil story) and they come to us, being passed from generation to generation. So, in order to give it to the next, we have to make it theirs . Typically, some parts of the story I open it out and take names from the audience if it’s a folktale . And most of my sessions will start with an audience interaction and between themselves . How often do we connect with unknown people . Be it children or adults , we’ll always find something to connect and this gives me a great start to the session

You like animals, you mentioned. Why do you sit on the back of an elephant's back - please share with our readers!

The part of animals I like is ETHOLOGY. To put it in a sentence, ethology is the science of animal behaviour. It has nothing to do with anatomy or evolution, just their natural behaviour . I was someone who scored least marks in biology but wanted to be a doctor I take a chance, wherever and whenever, to spend time observing them. Be it dogs , elephants, even a dragonfly . And without a camera. It’s a great feeling and connection to just observe. On a deeper context, there is something called Inter Species communication which we are making redundant now. This just helps me to connect with that. For example, wilder beast and zebra, langur and deer, egret and buffalo, cats and dogs etc. .

And to the fact of sitting behind the elephant, here is the story. I had been to one of the grand puram’s in Kerala to witness it from the magnitude and also to understand how the elephants were being treated. And you’ll always find crowds in the front, huge ones . And on the back side it will always be empty . And I always love that spot. For one, there is so much of the elephant that I could observe from the back side ( I am not going to go deeper !!) like how it stands, what this mahout is doing etc .

Recently I did something like that in Gujarat to observe Flamingoes. They were hundreds of them on a sewage drain. And there was no way for me to get closer unless I find a way to enter. I found a safe stone amidst the drain. And its only human poop I can't bear the smell . So I sat there - right amidst those flamingoes - with my nose closed . A lot of things in nature are not picture perfect ..

You also conduct theatre workshops for adults. Are you trained or self taught? Any Tips for those who want to do it but either cannot decide or cannot find time?

As a group yes, we do workshops for adults. My training is from various productions, workshops, spending time with artists over the last 10 + years . And just being in the space over time. If you really like to do something - now is the time. You have to make time for it, if not a week long workshop, do a 3 hour one. Bangalore has a lot of workshops happening which will give you an introduction to the form and you can take it on from there. There is no tomorrow for something you like now right . What if you don’t like it tomorrow.

Storytelling - why is it important in today's day and age of television and internet?

The shortest distance between two humans is a story. Be it TV or internet - we are still seeing human forms in them or using them to connect with other humans. And over time, it is like the filling in a sandwich. Initially we add butter or cheese to bind the 2 breads, and now there are 10 layers of vegetables and butter and cheese that the mouth cant handle the 2 breads and we might have to remove one of the breads . That’s how I see technology, sometimes. In the current world, where technology is flying in the air, Storytelling just does the simple act of connecting 2 people. Like Ayn Rand said . "Money is a tool and it cant be a driver". I’m rephrasing it to "Technology is a tool , it cant be a driver."

It is like water. We drank from streams long back, then wells , now bottles. Stories can't be obsolete. Their forms might change but the root cant be changed

Your views on change (that we discussed once) were fascinating. You said "this generation has a choice - unlike previous ones. We can choose what we wish of the past and discard what we wish of the future." Please elaborate.

It's like this. Today we have a choice to drink coconut water from a coconut from a coconut vendor for about Rs.20/- or go to a super market and buy it in a tetra pack for about Rs.75/- which can be even stored. No previous generation had this choice. This is a generation of choices, be it the number of TV channels, variety of clothes, communication gadgets, eating options etc . Never before this was there. You can just look back 20 years. Even 3 meals is a new age concept. Having said this, we are still confused and bored at many levels. That’s what I meant. Choices have made us more confused. And that’s where the responsibility comes in. We have the best of the past and it is what we choose and pass on that will make a better future. Some statistics say the rate of extinction is the highest now. So the worst of the future is also ours. SO its us to make the right choices for a better tomorrow because this is an era of choices.

Thank you, Rachna for this delightful interview with Vikram!

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