Storytelling has become a rather popular form of performance in recent years. As a result the worlds of Hindi, Urdu and regional literature have been opened to audiences at large. Naseeruddin Shah’s group Motley began staging stories by Saadat Hasan Manto, Ismat Chugtai and Premchand in the early 2000s. In 2005, writer and historian Mahmood Farooqi began reviving dastangoi, a form of Urdu storytelling. In these performances, artists dressed in white angarkhas and seated on divans, narrate tales in polished Urdu and Hindi and, more recently, in other Indian languages. Two prolific groups from Mumbai that stage storytelling events around the country are Qissebaazi and Jashn-e-Qalam. Thanks to them and similar groups and artists, viewers unfamiliar with the canon of Hindi and Urdu writing have now heard of names such as Patras Bokhari, Kamleshwar and Asad Mohammad Khan.

In the first episode of Culture Capitals, our new video series on culture makers, we spoke to Qissebaazi founder Danish Husain and KC Shankar, Shashwita Sharma and Vicky Ahuja of Jashn-e-Qalam about why we love being told stories.