‘Story telling over the years has changed’
‘We need contemporary stories, edgy stuff (edgy is a synonym for sex / violence)’
‘We need to have a twist at every turn’
‘History is passé - it is over and buried with’
‘True Stories work, but only when dramatised with a liberal dose of fiction’
Some of the most frequently heard observations when you are navigating the maze of creative film writing today. Story tellers today are trying to adapt to the audience as they would to a client, making full use of their imagination and ideas trying to crack the ultimate code for a Story / Script that works.
But has story telling really changed over the years ?
For the past couple of months I have been fortunate enough to hear the narration of some of the oldest stories that have been told in Sikhism - the rendition of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s life as narrated by Bhai Bala - Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s disciple to Guru Angad Dev Ji, the same having been written by Bhai Santokh Singh Ji as the ‘Suraj Prakash’.
The narrative as one starts to read or hear the rendition grows on you so much so that one really does not want to stop. There comes a point where one feels close to Guru Nanak (the protagonist) in a way that one should with the character of the story. The sheer imaginative way of putting forth the milieu of characters around Guru Nanak, His discussions with them, the exegesis of his teachings, His travels… the simplicity of it all touches one’s emotional chords irrespective of your religious or political leanings. The narrative success in capturing one’s imagination even after hundreds of years since they were written.
While the narrative of the Ramayan and Mahabharata has long since the source of inspiration for several writers, primarily for the sub text, plots and the plethora of characters that provide the necessary drama and move the story forward to its ultimate ‘big scale climax’ - what remains indelible are the characters whose stories are simply narrated without too much sub text - Vidur, Radha, Ghatotkatch, Dushashan, Ashwathama. These characters had the maximum impact and in fact if I dare say some of them were the turning points in the war .
Similarly the Janam Sakhis of the Sikh Gurus and the biographies of Sufi saints narrated in their simple form get the audience react to their ethos collectively - that in turn leads to debates and discussions - which leads to a change in perception that impacts the society at large - for the good or the bad. And if these stories have been able to do that for hundreds of years then there is no reason why the same strategy of telling a story in its simplest form won’t. Simplicity always works.