The 7th edition of Kathakar – International Storytellers Festival, Delhi edition concluded on 3 December at the IGNCA, New Delhi. Kathakar is the only oral storytelling festival in India and is a part of Ghummakkad Narain - the Travelling Literature Festival which was started under the aegis of UNESCO in 2010. The festival over the 3 days reached out to over 9000 children and adults, with special sessions at the Aanchal school for the disabled, Noida Deaf Society.
In keeping with the spirit of the festival, it will travel to Mumbai on 9 and 10 December to be held at the Harkat Studios, Bhau Daji Lad Museum and the NCPA.
On Day 1 the festival was inaugurated and the book, ‘Curious Tales from the Himalayas’ was launched by Shri Kiren Rijiju, Hon’ble Minister of State for Home Affairs, H.E. Harinder Sidhu, Australian High Commissioner to India, Shri Vishal Bhardwaj, film-maker, Shri Mohit Chauhan, musician and singer, Shri Giriraj Singh, Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, Manoj Tiwari, Member of Parliament and Dr Sachchidanand Joshi, IGNCA.
Shri Kiren Rijiju while inaugurating the festival said, “I attend a lot of events but this is the most interesting so far. I am really happy to be here and lend my support to this festival. ” He added, “I have learnt a lot of things from this festival this evening and will use it in my interactions with school children when I meet them next. I meet a range of students from primary school onwards and sometimes one doesn’t know what to do but now I have an idea about how to interact with them.” Shri Rijiju also talked about how “Arunachal where I come from stories are the main entertainment because there up in the mountains for miles you have no one to meet and talk to. In the cold and the mist where you see no vegetation, no people, stories are great companions.” He thanked Kathakar for inviting him to the event.
Shri Vishal Bhardwaj was delighted to be at the festival and pledged his support to the festival in the years to come. He said, “stories are a powerful medium and transform lives.”
Narrating a folktale in Bhojpuri which has now been turned into a folksong, singer turned politician Manoj Tiwari said, “ this is such a delightful setting and when I got a call from Mohit Chauhanji and Prarthanaji to be part of this I immediately agreed because I wanted to come and tell a tale.”
The dignitaries joined a panel on connecting cutlures through stories along with the two authors of the book, Shaguna Gahilote and Prarthana Gahilote, where each panelist told their favourite story. Vishal Bhardwaj told the story of Enid Blyton which inspired Makdee in the story, in the Enid Blyton story, the sister ate magical jelly alphabets and turned into a cat. Kiren Rijiju talked about his affinity to ghost stories but added that he was better at giving lectures than telling stories. Singer Mohit Chauhan sang a folktale through a song about a mother and daughter and saving wildlife. Shaguna Gahilote told a beautiful story about Jack and the three legged boy which left a tug in everyones throat as it talked about empathy. Prarthana Gahilote and Harinder Sidhu emphasized on the importance of storytelling in cultures and how it is easier to convey a message through stories.
H.E. Harinder Sidhu, Autralian High Commissioner to India, interacting with author Amrita Tripathi spoke about the importance of storytelling in our lives and emphasised the need to “share stories to create empathy among people.” She added, “stories are important not just for children but even for adults and one must not lose connect with it at any age because they help one nurture one’s imagination.”
The panel was followed by Kisse, Kahani and Music a session with Vishal Bhardwaj and Mohit Chauhan moderated by Prarthana Gahilote. Vishal Bhardwaj and Mohit Chauhan came together for the first time to share stories and music. Vishal Bharadwaj talked about his first song, jungle jungle baat chaali hai from Mougli with Gulzar and how Gulzar added lyrics on the spot to the tune. Mohit Chauhan sang Himachali folk songs from Chamba and Shimla, while Vishal Bhardwaj too hummed some of his songs, mesmerising the audience.
Overall the festival in Delhi had stories by Vishal Bhardwaj, Mohit Chauhan, Manoj Tiwari, Bruno Leone, Prarthana Gahilote, Joe Baele, Peter Chand, Nautanki group, Andhra shadow puppetry, Shaguna Gahilote and Divya Pathak.
2017’s highlights were also the two puppeteers from Italy and Andhra Pradesh who enchanted the audience with the absolutely different but equisite styles.
Another highlight of the festival was the book launch of, 'Curious Tales from the Himalayas' co-authored by Shaguna Gahilote and Prarthana Gahilote, published by Puffin India. The book has a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. And the Circus Arts performed by children from the slums trained by Sweedish Circus master Andreas. There were also stories of Deendayal Upadhyay and Nanaji Deshmukh, celebrated by the Government of India.