Because every story matters

Because every story matters

Young multi-faceted artiste, storyteller and lyricist Vinay Varanasi believes in giving his creativity a free rein.

'Kashi Annapoorna'

Some four years ago, on a road trip from Manali to Spiti Valley, Bengaluru-based Vinay Varanasi recalls narrating, in great detail, the Shiva Kalyanam to his two friends, Gaurav and Bhargav. “That trip,” says Vinay, “was unbelievable. In hindsight, that trip and my friends’ undiluted concentration and support gave me the much-needed onus to pursue storytelling actively.”

Like a true-blue artiste, who is passionate — in equal measure — about content and craft and who has the ability to flow into the zone when creativity strikes, this 29-year-old storyteller’s forte is stories in the realm of religion and mythology. An intersectionist, Vinay, who studied Architecture and specialised in Design, while pursuing his Masters’, allows his multiple interests and learnings to constantly feed, inspire, deep-dive and influence each other. Vinay is also a self-taught artist with a sizeable collection of his own work, has worked with classical musicians from across the country and penned lyrics for musical compositions, has a day job as a design facilitator, is passionate about running, composting and is a full-blown environmentalist.

A quality of timelessness

Let’s start with stories. “Okay, so the thing about stories,” Vinay says, from his home in Bengaluru, “is that they have that quality of timelessness about them. And I am particularly drawn to stories from mythology because, to tell you the truth, I don’t think of them as fiction; I consider them as an infinite truth that cannot be seen by a finite mind or eye and that really is what keeps me fascinated.”

Growing up, Vinay was naturally drawn to the magical world of all things. He remembers being able to internalise a story and almost always visualise it in great detail. “The more I liked a story, the more I heard it and the more I kept soaking it in like a sponge,” he says. It also helped that his home environment was open, warm and embracing of his meanderings. “I think about it often and of how my parents never ever over-patronised what I did nor did they shun it; they just gave me the space that is needed to explore, discover, sit with a story, respond to it… You see what I mean?”

Keeping it natural

That quality of the organic — to allow things to be and move naturally — is central to the way Vinay lives his life. Take composting for instance, which is now a crucial part of his life. “I’d organised a workshop with Vani Murthy on composting and it went on to change my life. When I saw how my actions could visibly, tangibly translate into a product, it just blew my mind,” Vinay says, reminiscing about his first-ever composting experience. 

That sense of the natural is the hallmark quality of his storytelling, which often unfolds either in a linear fashion, letting the audience progressively move forward or sometimes in a stream of consciousness fashion where one idea moves into another, piquing the interest and curiosity of the listener to participate and inquire upon each of the ideas. 

Like the city Varanasi that has many layers, Vinay too has many facets that constantly find expression. Art, for instance. “For the longest time, I struggled to even call myself an artist because I’d no formal training in it.” Almost all the stories he tells, whether it is of the gods and goddesses, their homes, experiences and emotions, find expression in art. “My go-to medium is watercolours on paper,” Vinay says, “I believe it is the most authentic and intuitive medium.” In 2018, after a concert by Ramakrishna Murthy at the Music Academy in Chennai, Vinay shared with him a painting he created as a response to that concert. That conversation blossomed into a full-length collaborative concert of the duo where art, stories and music shared space and found a common ground at the Bengaluru International Centre. 

Music is yet another factor that binds Vinay’s love for stories and art. In 2016, following a conversation with acclaimed musicians, Ranjani-Gayatri, Vinay’s tryst with writing lyrics for the pallavi began. “We just connected really well and they reached out to me asking me to write a pallavi for a concert they were performing under a full moon,” Vinay recalls. It was intimidating at first, but Vinay admits that writing a really short two-liner of sorts in the most creative and imaginative way excited him. He has, since then, written lyrics for several artistes, including Gayatri Venkatraghavan, Vivek Sadasivam and Sumesh Narayanan. “And the beauty of my everyday is that I don’t know when I’m going to have that burst of creativity; I am learning to just let it happen and flow with it,” says Vinay. 


Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox