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Story time!

The Art of Storytelling

How many people can actually tell a story well to another person?

Lets say my narrative skills are limited – I never quite manage to present fully the wonderful story in my head through narration – reading my script is ALWAYS better. But in this world of “one-lines” and people who refuse to read – “narration” is an inevitable task. One is expected to turn into a performer and conjure images and emotions before the listener/audience through simply telling a story. Some folks I know have raised this to the level of an art form and can leave the listener spellbound! What talent… but beware that their films may not always turn out to have a similar effect- oops!

I have a narration session tomorrow… 🙁 I have always dreaded narrations especially to people I dont know at all … one is left without a barometer to assess how well or worse its going.

I finally classified the listeners into 3 types –

1. the creatives – a producer/director/ actor /technician (the easiest to connect to!)

2. the financier (no need to connect here – their questions are much more about RoI – return on investment)

3. the financier who believes he is creative ( heaven help them – this category is an entirely distinct specimen. In his/her universe, the planets revolve around them.)

I will never forget one hateful narration experience when  a person (of the third category) wanted to listen to a scene by scene version of my script. I agreed and the narration begins in a coffee shop one morning and goes on for a few hours.

For a script that was being shot 12 days later, juvenile questions/suggestions are thrown at me. I hold onto grace as I point out to the answers in the bound script (which he of course hasn’t read).  Though I am the narrator, I listen patiently while this gentleman interrupts to order egg sandwiches with elaborate instructions (what kind of bread, brown or white, how hardboiled, how many eggs, toasted, buttered on one side only etc.), shares facts about his new-age diet, admires his own dandy black & white shoes to the point of distraction and of course answers the intermittent mobile phone calls from home and office. To further prove some sort of attention deficit disorder- after every few scenes, on his insistence, we would move seats from the coffee shop to the lounge… to the lobby (!) … to the outdoor seating (!!) and back to lobby (!!!) of the same hotel.

After the narration I went back to my room and threw up.

In retrospect, there is an important realisation there –

A Narration provides the listener with the opportunity to learn about the film and its maker, but it also provides us with an opportunity to learn about the listener. Anyone who can’t find the focus or the respect for a few hours of narration is never going to find the commitment or respect the hundreds of hours I will spend making this film. So its a clear look into the future of such a partnership. Now if it doesn’t feel right, I save myself the trouble and leave it right there. Thanks, but NO thanks.

So must remember that I too have something to learn from tomorrow’s narration… So maybe its not such a bad idea 🙂

And for everyone who is trying to describe their dream to someone – here’s a bit of luck from me! 🙂

Comments: 17

  • Rajesh February 26, 20114:53 pm

    Hope your future financiers wont read this 🙂

    Patience seems to be a major quality for a modern film maker. Even if you had to throw out, you do have it. I wont be able to bear such a man even for 5 minutes, even if it means life/death.

    All the best for the upcoming narration.

  • dannilla February 26, 20119:01 pm

    Here’s two fistfuls of good luck for tomorrow.
    I’d mailed you once on facebook, as an exercise in getting rid of my writer’s block and it HELPED!!! 🙂
    Looking forward to your next work. Hopefully it not be elusive like manjadikurru.

    one big fan

  • Tom Mangatt February 26, 20119:11 pm

    anjali, i can believe anything you say except that your narrative skills are limited. you’re simply great at it, as far as i know! so, good luck tomorrow. 🙂

    (btw, enjoyed reading the ‘creative-financier’ episode.)

  • indhu nampoothiri February 26, 20119:41 pm

    its grt topic..narration!!
    you narrated it nic.espcly tht incident…!!

  • Iqbal Ottapalam February 26, 201111:50 pm

    All the best for the upcoming narration

  • heathcliffsgirl February 27, 201112:55 am

    Oh i could use all the luck i can get 🙂 I loved this post..

  • Asish Menon February 27, 20112:29 pm

    Wish you the very best for the session and if the listener is a first time movie-financier, you could ‘foster’ him/her to a proactive producer.

    It is understandable, how irritating it would be if the ‘listener’ is not attentive [as you said/experienced, most often the intruder comes as phone calls].

    As a friend and devotee to a lyricist/poet, I had the opportunity to listen to a few scripts, rather one-lines. At times, he gave me a passage to read – while discussing, I have noticed that he does tremendous improvisation. I believe narration gives scope for betterment.

    I had to translate a movie script to english on the eve of shoot, to help some of the non-malayali crew and actors. It was not easy since i was not part of any discussion. Everyone was busy and was not available to clarify. I couldnt make out the emotions the writer meant in some instances and the time allowed was very limited – wished if I could listen to those scenes/dialogues narrated by the writer.

    Just wanted to say, narration is good. It substantiates the visuals in the minds of the narrator and the listener.

  • Hari Chakyar February 27, 201111:16 pm

    Well, hope you nailed it!

    I could so relate to the character sketches you painted here. These are stuff I hear in my agency, from the creative director as well as the client servicing folk. Apparently, there is at least one of the third species in every client meeting. One guy insisted on reading out loud some copy he insisted he had written, when clearly some poor copywriter had gone through hell to see it published.

    Had the opportunity to work with Anuraadha Tewari last year. She would tell me sordid tales of how some people are pests to narrate to while some have now started to trust in the written word.

    Also, is there no way to put an end to tyranny like this? 😛

  • Rohan February 28, 20113:25 pm

    Narration, especially along with moving images, sometimes has the effect of being somewhat detached from the images themselves. It’s perhaps this view that prompts audiences and film-makers alike to shirk away from this style of story-telling.

    Having said that, I’m a writer myself, and most of my stories have one of the characters narrating what happens. Oddly enough, as engaging as this was to me, it was hard for readers to connect with.

    I did watch Kerala Cafe a year back, and I must say Happy Journey had the most fluidity as per the presentation. It seemed to me like this was the only story which moved the audience from one perspective to another with the use of simple dialogues. Which is commendable.

    I write a blog too, which have some of my short stories listed on it. If you’re interested in reading those, mail me.

    Looking forward to your next film…

  • Chandu March 6, 20114:26 pm

    Well said. We also go through a similar situation, week after week, convincing our News Editor about how good is the story idea we have. All the best!

  • jithin March 18, 201110:55 am

    well…its a skill..some people are very good with their descriptive abilities, but they lack the convincing efforts…a narration can make a possible impact only when it is delivered with the right passion intertwined with both descriptive and convincing abilities..

  • Anzeem March 21, 20118:28 am

    Whatever it is…..we r waiting for ur next project with b.unnikrishnan, mammukka in lead role…. Keep rocking ma’am…..

  • Arun Bose March 27, 201110:56 pm

    Hi Anjali,

    Though Happy Journey did fascinate me a lot long back, I happened to look into the filmmaker’s profile just today. Now I am so eager to see ur film Majadikkuru and wondering where to find it. There is a lot of potential in you as a filmmaker as well as a person and u do carry a unique perspective towards cinema. Twice I have written blogs about my favourite female character that fascinated the most, Yesterday, from African film Yesterday, performed by Leleti Khumalo. Unlike other women characters Yesterday doesn’t generate sympathy for her but makes u feel more confident about yourself. A nice combination of simplicity and strength that leave u inspired. In reality I always do look around for such woman who are not pretentious yet powerful. I felt u are one such woman. Moreover my pick was the statement u made in interview for Rosebowl that actual art of cinema is the collaboration and teamwork as I am on a research about community films with multiple auteurs than a single director as the auteur as told by the French New Wave.

    Liked reading your blog post as much as I enjoyed Happy Journey. It is quite a task to narrate something to someone especially as most of the people do sit with predetermined notions. Not many can be open or neutral and patient towards what they hear or see. Just remembering the first time I approached a director to become an assistant. I had 3 very amateurish (even now I not better than an amateur) short videos. He had the patience to see all the films fully with I sitting beside him quietly and he also gave me opinion on each of them. The first lesson I ever learnt from my director Vinod A.K, Veye Films.

    Anyways, good reading u and hope to watch more from you. All the best.


  • Arun Bose April 5, 20112:19 pm

    Hi, by chance I bump into a short film in shooting people called The Peak and the Pit – There is sequence of story telling, to be honest while seeing the film this blog came to mind :P. I had to put this here.


  • Chandu May 10, 20115:43 pm

    well..you’re doing the script work which is going to be directed by B.Unnikrishnan sir right?heard it long before,i think.but later,dint hear anything of that..waitin eagerly..

  • pshijoy August 9, 201111:36 am

    The true Magic of life is in Mother Nature. God made all things in it’s own measure and Beauty,All colours are random yet so in tandem .There is no greater Artist than the Alpha and Omega ,Creator of all the universe .Lets enjoy what we have and not worry about what we don”t.
    Hai, i also tried to contact your co little films, bt there is no reply from them. U remember , i told u about my script.??? now seriously i really don’t wanna tell my story to others. please,,,, whenever u come to kerala or bangalore can i get an appointment for an hour. so that i’ll speak to u directlly… please just once…. or any of ur contact person to share my script..
    Thank you…

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