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Once upon a time... .

Story telling is an art as PRATIMA ASHER finds out after a meet with this popular ranconteur


MANU JOSE'S career has spanned a wide range of theatrical activities. A familiar face to the viewers of Asianet, he has anchored children's programmes such as `Chirakukal', `Kali Chiri Neram', `Dolphin-Dolphin', `Global Beats', `Changathikootam', and has been involved in a popular talk show, `Akathalam'.

In the equally exacting field of live theatre, Manu has acted in 55 theatre productions with renowned theatre persons such as B.V.Karanth, Kavalam Narayana Panicker, S. Ramanujam, Indira Parthasarathy and A.N.Samarth, and at the same time conducted theatre workshops all over Kerala and Tamil Nadu. His association with the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam (AMS) and `Accord' in the Nilgiris has brought him into close contact with tribal culture leading to the production of seven audio cassettes dealing with tribal music as well as a book `Mullakumbarude Kalipattukal'.

When a young man with this background tells you that he narrates stories for a living, one's curiosity is instantly aroused.


Asked about it, Manu nonchalantly informs you that he has studied theatre at the School of Drama in Thrissur and taught for some time. But it was theatre that was his yearning and he believed that it could be used to reach a young audience. It was then that the idea of telling stories to children came to him. He did wonder whether he could take up such an activity as a profession to earn a living. Would someone really want to pay to hear stories? He, along with his friend, O. C Martin soon formed a story telling group and named it "Me and You". Manu muses over the meaning behind the name `Me and You'. "Perhaps," he says, " it satisfied my ego as an actor to include the term `Me' in the name." It also made him reflect as to why he was doing theatre, said Manu.

The stories `Me and You' tell are action packed, with music, sounds and light and embellished with all the histrionic skills that an actor is capable of— body movements, facial expressions, and mime. Even a casual conversation with Manu draws your attention to his expressive face, which adds to the magic of listening to a story. Manu and Martin make use of props like paper cards and even puppetry is woven into the texture of the tale. Martin who is familiar with the tabla and the flute composes the music for the sessions. Stories are collected from books and other sources and encompass various traditions and cultures from all over the world.

In a little brochure, which Manu distributes at a story telling session in Kochi, he outlines what he aims, his sessions would do for his young audience. He defines story telling as a `journey and a joining'. The journey, through his tales, takes you to many lands and lets you meet many people, introduces you to a whole gamut of emotions and situations wherein you participate in a world peopled by new "persons, places and ideas."

The action-packed stories try to elicit audience participation through questions, songs and gestures. Listening to stories as in `Me and you' story telling sessions will help a child to develop his sensitivity, find new role models, allow the child to explore history, heritage and school subjects on his own, enhance his imaginative, visual, aural and oral skills and increase knowledge of `sequencing, imagery and editing'. In other words they provide a very comprehensive, even total experience.

So far, Manu and `Me and You' have had an opportunity to demonstrate their skills at about 40 different schools all over the State, which perhaps keeps this native of Pudukkad on his toes all the time. A typical story telling session lasts for about two hours. Two hours of an enchanting world.

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