Kathakar 2022: India’s unique story-telling fest gets off to a spectacular start
Michal Malinowski, a professional storyteller from Poland, performing at Kathakar International Storytellers Festival in Sunder Nursery, Delhi on May 20, 2022.

Kathakar 2022: India’s unique story-telling fest gets off to a spectacular start

New Delhi, May 21, 2022

Kathakar 2022, a marquee event to revive the traditional style of storytelling in a world dominated by hi-tech gizmos and gadgets, got off to a rousing start in the national capital on Friday as a bunch of professional and passionate raconteurs from the country and abroad began showing their mesmerizing craft to underscore the fact storytelling has a template that is similar across the continents and cultures.

Undeterred by unexpected rains and gusty winds, the participants and the audience were in an exuberant mood as the 14th edition of the annual event returned in its pristine physical form after a two-year-long disruption caused by the COVID pandemic, stringing some amazing stories and music from the deserts of the Thar, Multan and Poland.

Union Minister for Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju kick-started the two-day event on Friday evening, recalling how he, during his childhood, would come down from his village in the hills to Tezpur town in Assam to watch cinema.

“Those days it was not accessible easily and when we would get an opportunity to come down to the city, where four cinema halls were operational, I would end up watching five movies in a day as we were to make the most of it,” he said.

“Stories emerging from villages are very powerful as life is totally different there…I love folk songs and stories that are connected to our lives. Whenever I meet filmmakers, I urge them to make movies based on stories from villages," he said, while looking at acclaimed filmmaker, writer and producer Imtiaz Ali, who was sitting beside him on the stage.

The minister sprang a surprise by singing a song along with famous songwriter and composer Mohit Chauhan from the blockbuster Hindi film "Sholay" - "Yeh dosti hum nahi chhodenge".

Chauhan, who is the patron of the festival and also the cultural envoy of Mongolia in India, reminisced about how the two of them during their free time would sing folk songs and cherish the folk tales.

Union Minister of State for Culture Meenakshi Lekhi, who lit the lamp along with Rijiju to mark the beginning of the event at Sunder Nursery, adjacent to the imposing Humayun’s tomb, also shared some incidents of her college days, telling how she, in order to prove her point of view on ghosts, accepted a challenge to visit a graveyard in the middle of night during a college trip.

"I agreed but was caught by the teacher accompanying the students on the trip, and the plan to visit the graveyard could not materialise," she said, laughingly.

Lekhi and Rijiju along with other guests also launched the book, "Curious Tales from the Desert", written by Shaguna and Prarthana Gahilote, who are also the curators of the festival along with their sister Rachna Gahilote Bisht.

Sharing his thoughts on the occasion, Imtiaz Ali said since both the Union Ministers present at the event wanted the filmmakers to come up with more films on ghosts, he would certainly think over the idea and come up with good stories on the subject.

Earlier, Sanchi Peswani, a Mumbai-based actress who has worked in several Hindi and Tamil movies and Gujarati plays, presented a folktale. Through dramatic presentation, she captivated the audience, including a fair sprinkling of school children, by narrating the story of Jeetu Pandit, the main character who was very greedy and would go to any extent to secure things at cheaper rates or for free. The story talks about how Jeetu even endangered his life along with others just to secure coconuts at a cheaper price.

Michal Malinowski, a professional storyteller from Poland, presented two stories that dispatched the audience, especially the schoolchildren into raptures. One of his stories revolved around a blind person who was able to transform an arrogant hunter into a better human being. The storyline was so simple yet impressive that children and others present in the audience followed it with the artiste.

On the second and the last day of the event on Saturday, there will be storytelling sessions by theatre artiste Sikandar Khan and Shantanu Moitra. Sikandar Khan will be narrating folk tales of Rajasthan, including the ones from Padma Shri and Sahitya Akademi Award winner Vijaydan Detha.

Shantanu Moitra, music director of blockbusters like 3 Idiots, Parineeta and PK, will present Stories from the Himalayas. Madan Gopal Singh and his troupe Chaar Yaar will present desert Sufi music. There will also be a folk music performance by Mohd Rafiq Langa and group.

On both the days, an exhibition of paintings by Mongolian artist Bat-Amgalan Orsoo was on display at the venue.

The festival, which strives to unravel the mystique and grandeur of story-telling traditions of divergent cultures, was first launched in 2010 under the aegis of UNESCO as part of Ghummakkad Narain, a travelling literature festival in memory of ardent reader Thakur Vishva Narain Singh, the first Braille editor in India.

Among those who have addressed the festival in the past are late President APJ Abdul Kalam, Shashi Tharoor, Margaret Alva, Sunil Shastri, Nandita Das, Sushma Seth, Emily Gravett, Joanne Blake, TUUP, Joseph Baele, and Xanthe Gresham, among others.


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