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Writing Is What Is in Your Heart, Says Rajesh Iyer


Rajesh M Iyer is an eminent story-teller. He spoke to us about whether digital media is ushering in a tectonic shift in storytelling. He also focused on the traits of being digital and the need to be digital in an evolved world.

Iyer has been a media professional for over two decades. He has published five novels till now – Evading the Shadows, which has been an Amazon bestseller, Hari and Friends – The Holy Adventure, Spinner of the Twisted Tale, Karmic Souls and The Mind Whisperer. He has also written The Valiant Warriors and Nanha Natkhat for children.

Iyer has been associated with many media houses like Magna Publications (Editorial Head – Books), Macmillan Education (Creative Head, Corporate Division) and Amar Chitra Katha (Vice President – Creative). Iyer has also been the editor of magazines like Great Looks (fashion magazine) and Raga to Rock (music magazine), apart from being a regular columnist for many publications. Iyer conducts storytelling sessions for a few educational institutions and corporate houses, prominent among them being Amar Chitra Katha, MATS University in Raipur, Pearl Academy, Krimiga Content Development, Stream Edutech, WOW Express among others.


The Ballad of the Wandering Minstrel

Iyer emphasised on The Ballad of the Wandering Minstrel pointing out every storyteller is a wandering minstrel. He focused on what nurtured their minds when they performed across places, narrated stories. He also talked about what made them adapt to the digital age. He further said that the world has become a great melting pot as a historic incident happening somewhere affects a person residing somewhere else. This is what the digital age represents. “How does a storyteller keep pace with the rapid changes that happen in the digital era?” was a question that was thrown by the writer.

He described storytelling as an ‘oral narrative’ and explained about the tectonic shift in storytelling as printing came much later with the writings started getting published. Subsequently, books were available in mass media along with the emergence of television, films and digital medium. Iyer voiced that ‘digital’ was the most interactive way of engaging with the mass.


The 5 Es

The first E is ‘Emotion’, which Iyer defined as the emotional connection with the audience. The second E is ‘Earthiness’ that represents the non-plastic nature of a story, which has more raw essence to it. The third E is ‘Earnestness’, which a writer must include in his/ her writing. The fourth E is ‘Empathy’ such that the audience should empathise with the story. The fifth E is ‘Engagement’, which he designated to be the most important thing for writing in digital times as it needs to be interactive and not top-down.


Local Feel, Global Reach

Iyer further added a coinage of two different words as ‘Going Local’ as a mantra to stand out. He said, “Local means the local feel and the global reach”, which would eventually be the core of storytelling in the digital age.


Route to Roots

He used the signature tagline of Amar Chitra Katha ‘Route to your roots’, where he explained the three ‘tentpoles’ – Social, Cultural and Spiritual. He also spoke about the dangers of ‘The single-story syndrome’ and said, “Every story should have multiple narrators which makes it livelier.” He elucidated that the Indian medieval writers had an excellent usage of Nava Rasa like that of Mahabharata.

Upon being asked about selecting the themes of writing, he replied, “Developing stories is going back to your heart. The theme comes from the core and that is what makes it more engaging. The compelling factor of writing is not just bread and butter but you start writing what is in your heart.”


Digital Storytelling

Iyer said, “With storytelling platforms changing, storytellers need to update. It has always been the case. When oral narrative gave way to printing, I’m sure they faced a similar predicament and likewise, with the onset of films and later television. Today’s medium demands storytellers to be on their toes… Always! Since changes are rampant and rapid, there is no choice for storytellers except to adept and adapt.”


The Core of Storytelling Remains the Same

Iyer added, “Heart and soul. How much of the two you put in your story matters, no matter what the medium is. From the wandering minstrel who went from village to village narrating stories to a storyteller today, who caters to the entire world, the core remains the same… As to how much heart and soul she/ he puts into the story. It’s ambiguous and hard to define in tangible terms, but any story which has these two elements in place hits the bull’s eye.”


Writing for Children and Novels

Iyer said, “Both require different temperaments. It’s actually difficult to write for children since you need to get down to their age to match their sensibilities. Since I’ve commissioned hundreds of books for children as an editor, I guess I understood the nuances. For novels the canvas and sweep are different. It’s more natural since that matches your thinking pattern. There’s hardly any preference frankly. It’s the story that matters since it’s the propelling factor.”


Scriptwriting for Nilesh Malhotra’s Film ‘Monopoly: The Game of Money’ (2012)

“In fact, before writing novels, I used to be a creative director and writer on television. So that’s a platform I’m comfortable with too. Compared to novels, writing for films and television is a collaborative effort. You may have your individual vision, but it must match the larger vision of the project, the director, the television/ film studio. So, you do lose the individuality that the novel provides. But, since the scale and reach are humongous, one understands that it cannot be an individual effort. Second, even while writing a script, one has to see from the camera; what the frame will be like.”

The author, Deblina Das is associated with Adamas University Media School.

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