A new web series by Roshan Abbas, Gaurav Kapur and Ankur Tiwari encourages participants to share stories about their lives
Roshan Abbas and Nush Lewis. Pics courtesy/Ritwik Ghosh
Shamir Reuben, 24, spent his whole life on the move. The son of a fighter pilot, he recalls moving every two years since he was a child, changing homes and leaving behind friends and possible relationships. After his father retired, the family finally settled down in Pune. “Being on the move taught me a lot about the concept of home. It was a strange and restless experience for me to stay in one place of so long, after being a nomad my whole life,” says the Mumbai-based poet.
The cast of the web series
Reuben’s account is one of the stories you can listen to and watch on the web series, The Storytellers in The Living Room. An initiative by Kommune, a collective venture by Roshan Abbas, Gaurav Kapur and Ankur Tiwari, the series looks at their most interesting project: storytelling.
In it, a group of people is seated in what looks like a living room. One by one, they come to the front of the space, and share stories about their lives - personal, intimate stories. “This is not fiction. These are stories filled with humour, stories that will shock and surprise you, or make you empathise with the person,” says Roshan Abbas, who hosts the show.
The audience listen in to a storytelling session
The ten-episode season, thus, has Abbas talking about poop; comedian and teacher Priya Malik about suicide; poet-songwriter Kausar Munir sharing a poem remembering her grandmother through her city; Rabia Kapoor talking about finding and losing love; Rraj Kaushal sharing stories of his son ‘Malai Lama’, and the show’s director Tess Joseph about returning a sword gifted by an ex-boyfriend. “These are the extremes of human behaviour and yet the essence of humanity,” says Joseph.
“In the series, we’ve made it seem like we are sitting in Abbas’ living room over one long afternoon. He has called a few friends over and they are sharing stories,” she adds. Why a living room? “It’s an intimate space, one where we spill our guts, talk about what’s broken and what’s beautiful in our lives. We realised what works best in personal storytelling is intimacy. It is the idea of sitting together and sharing stories with strangers who have now become friends. If I had to put it romantically, it is like gathering around a fireplace, everyone seems closer and looks more beautiful,” she says.
Through all the sharing, we have Nush Lewis accompanying stories on the harp, while a girl is shown doodling through every episode, creating a canvas for every story. The stories end with a display of her images. Each episode has a short interview section too.
Naked art form
In one of the episodes, actress and television host Mini Mathur speaks about travelling to seven countries with her seven-year-old daughter - an opportunity for both of them to bond. She has already received positive feedback for it. “Storytelling is naked as it comes. It is just you, standing there like a little girl in the rain, completely exposed,” she says. “This is a new art form. You don’t rehearse and there are no scripts or cue cards. It is just you and your thoughts, and the audience. The way you tell a story is everything.”
“The most relatable stories are those that have humour and where people are honest about their imperfections,” says Abbas. For instance, Reuben found that his second story - where he shares how power and fame got to his head - resonated better with people. “I wasn’t an attractive kid. Once I started performing, suddenly a lot of women started giving me attention. It went to my head and I let myself go on a power trip. It came crashing down when I met a girl who had no idea who I was. It shattered this impression I had that I could use my power and fame to manipulate people into liking me. It taught me an important lesson about keeping my feet on the ground,” he says.
The beauty of storytelling is that the feedback is immediate. “It helps you realise that your story connects with people because there are so many who’ve been through same experiences. It motivates them to come out and tell their stories,” she adds.
As Abbas mentions in the trailer, “Life happens one stunning story at a time... We are all stories waiting to happen.”
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