Quick 5 with Neelesh Misra on the art of storytelling

In the milieu of bollywoodisation of content, Misra speaks on his experience of reviving storytelling on FM radio

by Saloni Surti
Published - Sep 13, 2012 7:58 PM Updated: Sep 13, 2012 7:58 PM
Quick 5 with Neelesh Misra on the art of storytelling

Sitting with a steaming cup of coffee on a couch and reminiscing about old times is the kind of ambience Neelesh Misra tries to create with his show Yaadon ka Idiotbox on Big FM.
In the show, Misra takes his listeners on a journey to Yaad Sheher – a place that is home to a number of sweet, funny and emotional stories. A journalist, photographer, author, editor, lyricist and scriptwriter by profession, Misra revives the age-old Indian tradition of storytelling with a new story in every episode.

The show was launched in January 2011 in 35 cities and received good response. The second season of Yaadon ka Idiotbox was initiated in July 2012.

In a conversation with exchange4media, Misra speaks about the need of novelty in content, emotional connect with the audience and the challenges he faced with Yaadon ka Idiotbox.

What was the thought behind Yaadon ka Idiotbox?
The main thought behind the show is the revival of oral storytelling in India. Storytelling is an age-old tradition, our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunties narrated stories to us when we were young. However, as the country progressed, we became busy. People today don’t have time to narrate stories to their kids; it is not that the kids do not like stories.

Secondly, content makers have misread the need of the audience. Today 13 is the new 23. The young audience now is really wise, thus the space for new innovative content was never as acute as now. The Indian audience has a split personality. They like contemporary but have an emotional core too. Thus, my company Content Project aims at creating innovative content that meets the emotional needs of the audience.

With new story for every episode, how is the content generated?
Content on Yaadon ka Idiotbox is different from content on conventional radio. My aim is to generate not just any story, but to create serious literature that can be compiled and read. We also aim at creating universal stories that everyone can relate to.

For the first season I wrote all the stories. However, I realised that after a certain point it is humanly impossible to create something new every time. Now I mentor a group of writers, who call themselves the Monday Mandli. None of these writers have any writing experience, but were selected on the basis of their tweets and blogs. Writing these stories is quite different from writing a normal short story, since every segment of the story has to end at a point of curiosity so that the listener wants to stay tuned in.

What were the major challenges that you faced while creating Yaadon ka Idiotbox?
The major challenge as a storyteller and writer was to stay excited enough to write a new story for every episode and to explore newer and newer things. Another challenge is to generate stories that are universally accepted. The show is aired in 35 different Indian cities and each city is like a different India. People’s value system, thought process, in fact their sleeping habits are also different. Thus, narrating stories that everyone can connect to and understand is key criteria and challenge for this show.

Have you been able to evoke the desired response through the show?
We have received extraordinary response so far. The first season had received 5.5 million page views in the first three months and the second season received almost eight million page views in the first two months itself. We have fans writing to us saying that they adjust their schedule according to the timing of the show. A hostel in Kota changed its dinner timing so that everybody would be free when the show commences.

Please list some of your favorite works so far?
There are a few stories that are really close to my heart. One of it is Almaari. It is the story of a guy who owns his father’s seven feet tall cupboard, and is in dilemma when he has thoughts of selling it before shifting to a new apartment. Few others are Cheh phere, Nani ki car and Dhoop ka kona.

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