Kamini Ramachandran’s earliest memories include tales from her grandparents, ranging from ancient epics and fables to South Indian folklore and true family stories.
“I was brought up in a culture of oral tradition,” she says in an interview with Arts House Limited.
These tales now form a part of her rich repertoire of South and Southeast Asian stories, which she has shared to audiences around the world for over the last twenty-plus years along with retellings of Ramayana, tales of the seven celestial sisters and the adventures of Badang the strongman.
“Being an oral tradition storyteller, almost everything that I tell comes from the world of speculative fiction,” Kamini tells Popspoken.
Her wildest dreams
This is the highlight of her most recent work Wildest Dreams, a series of four storytelling videos adapted from the collection Singa-Pura-Pura edited by Nazry Bahrawi (2021). Presented at the Singapore literary festival Textures, Kamini reimagines and retells extracts of stories by four authors.
“The hardest part was to only choose four from this entire book of many, many stories,” Kamini says. She considered whether the texts lend themselves to being visualised as well as whether it could be adapted and presented without giving away everything that happened in the tales.
“I think the whole intention [for the videos] was to open up the world of Singapore literature and this book, and act as a teaser as a little bridge between the oral spoken storyteller and the potential book that audiences could then go and find out more about.”
The resulting videos, filmed and edited by Zane Lee and featuring original artworks by Muhammad Izdi, offer compelling spectacles that elevate the themes of the stories.
Transgressions & different personalities
In Transgression by Diana Rahim, Kamini regales the audience while being projected by a clip of moving waters that illustrate the character’s inner emotions.
She also acts out three different personalities in Tujuh by Nazry Bahrawi to underline the twists in the procedural story.
“If you watched all four of them, they’re not filmed and presented in the same way,” Kamini says. “For me that was important because that’s the author’s voice that shows the diversity of talent and the variety of skills that we have in Singaporean writing.”
Collaborations like this, says Kamini, are part of her journey as a storyteller. “When you grow as an artist, you decide to push boundaries and decide to collaborate,” she says. But growth and change also come from the progression of life. “At different stages in my career, and in my life, I have gravitated towards different stories,” Kamini says.
“That guides you in your artistic principles, because we as artists – whether we are writers, or storytellers or performers – we evolve over time, and we cannot always be doing the same thing, telling the same thing or singing the same thing.”
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