Published: 11th December 2019
Why you'll fall in love with this Subbulakshmi's storytelling process
Subbulakshmi conducted a session at the last edition of the Hyderabad Literary Festival as well. She also conducts summer camps for 150-200 youngsters in Balamrai, Hyderabad, Telangana
What does it take to narrate a story that can arrest an audience's attention? We don't know, but we believe that O Subbulakshmi has nailed the right formula. She was recently christened the 'dancing story ma'am' by ecstatic children who attended one of her storytelling sessions. "This is my favourite compliment ever!" exclaims the 38-year-old, who tells stories for a living. Indeed, with a drum hanging around her neck, dressed in the ensemble of a Bharatanatyam dancer, this alumna of Kalakshetra Foundation doesn't just narrate interesting stories, but sings them (sometimes in as many as four languages - Tamil, Punjabi, Hindi and English) and fuses elements of Bharatanatyam and folklore in such a way that children are captivated instantly.
Subbulakshmi in her element | (Pic: O Subbulakshmi)
"I make up my own stories and songs and though they have an underlying moral, it is not made obvious. It is for the children to understand subconsciously," says the energetic mother of two, who credits her daughters for making her a storyteller. Hailing from Tirunelveli and settled in Hyderabad, Subbulakshmi, who has been doing this for the past four years, is usually surrounded by children in the storytelling sessions she conducts at Our Sacred Space, an arts and entertainment centre in West Marredpally, and her own dance studio, Subbulakshmi's Nrityashala, in Old Alwal. "There is just so much that lies beyond the screens of televisions and smartphones and I want children to explore that world," urges Subbulakshmi passionately, who is also a senior dance teacher at Hyderabad Public School.
The entry | (Pic: O Subbulakshmi)
The main ingredient in Subbulakshmi's story is spontaneity. She goes with the flow and that, we believe, is her greatest strength. She usually uses a prop and ensures that the story has a multilingual element to it. "Many a time, you never know what exactly the child will relate to in your story. So it's best to fuse it with complementary elements," she says. Hence, she connects with children by using simple stories and loads of expressions. As a storyteller, she urges every parent to fill their house with books so that eventually, the child picks one up and then the saga never stops.
Boy and the Drum
One of the stories she narrated recently was about a poor boy who is a passionate drummer but doesn't own one. He tries to sell rotis, but instead, gives it away to a poor mother who gives him an earthen pot in return. He then gives the earthen pot with water to a needy traveller who gives him a horse. Eventually, he gives away the horse to a marriage procession and gets a drum for his good deed.