The act of storytelling is thousands of years old. It began with the wandering storytellers who set in motion the tradition of oral stories, which were handed down orally from one generation to the next. During pre-historic times, these stories were passed down from mouth to mouth for years without being written down. Back in those days, people didn’t have the privilege to write, print and publish their stories. Therefore, they imbibed the art of narrating them orally.
Cut to the present time, the oral tradition of storytelling is being revived by various radio programmes and the audiobooks. Moreover, modern technology allows us to imbue sound effects into the narrative and create a lively rendering of the tales we love on the written page.
The Revival of Audio Stories
Nowadays many people are either too busy or too lazy to sit back and read books. Perhaps that is why audio stories are at its peak of popularity. The greatest advantage of hearing the stories is that it doesn’t require us to take our time out separately for them. We can listen to them while doing other work. In a world of multitasking, what else can be better than the hear-it-on-the-go stories?
And let’s admit it—no matter how technologically modern we are, we still can’t let go of our ancient traditions. The seeds of the old customs are deeply embedded in our hearts; and our souls refuse to move past them. We still love to hear people tell their stories. We still pester our grandmothers to narrate stories which we have heard a thousand times over. Perhaps that’s why we keep coming back to our old traditions—maybe not in its old form but by reviving them in a new light.
One such revival came in the form of radio programmes that carried forward the oral tradition of storytelling. They created audio stories out of pre-written scripts and had them performed on radio by voiceover artists. The narrative changed voices, included sound effects and added creative humour. In short, radio programmes breathe life into the words that were lying frozen in the pages of old books.
Many years ago, while randomly changing the radio channels, I accidentally stumbled upon one such programme called Sunday Suspense. It aired on Radio Mirchi (98.3 FM) every Sunday at noon, presenting the audience with thrilling stories from Bengali Literature. Stories that pass chills down the spine; stories that keep listeners on the edge of their seats biting their nails off in anticipation; stories that once left readers enthralled—all got to showcase themselves on this show.
With amazing soundscape by DJ Richard and the fascinating tales of suspense by eminent writers like: Satyajit Ray, Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Premendra Mitra and countless others–the popularity of Sunday Suspense grew over the years.
In the early days, the show included stories of crime, horror, detective, suspense and supernatural stories; later it began to include various other genres as well. Recently, it chose to create a new section called the Sunday Nonsense to read-out stories from Sukumar Ray’s ‘nonsense literature’ and other such humorous stories.
Another new inclusion in the show is the Bengali versions of various English suspense stories. It began with the translation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and later went on to incorporate the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Ruskin Bond, Jim Corbett and many such thrillers.
Sunday Suspense also featured many adventure, detective and science fiction series as well, including the novel Chander Pahar by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay.
Apart from the works of these renowned writers, Sunday Suspense features many new writers who have committed themselves to carry forward the legacy of Bengali Literature. Sayak Aman, Anish Deb, Himadri Kishore Dasgupta are among such contemporary writers.
Many stories which might have lost themselves in the sea of oblivion due to the lack of good promotion surfaces through this show. Sunday Suspense has introduced me to various writers and their stories which I would have not bothered to read out of sheer ignorance, even though they are of great literary value. The show enriched my experience with Bengali Literature.
Right after I discovered the show, it became a routine for me to anxiously wait for every Sunday to have some dose of suspense to continue the week with. Many of my friends from back in school listened to the show too; and Monday was our day to discuss the programme during break. All week long, we waited for noon on Sunday to narrate us a thrilling story. The feeling was exactly like that of waiting for our grandma to tell us stories during our holidays.
But things have changed now. Sunday Suspense still streams on every Sunday on radio, but now we don’t have to wait an entire week to hear the stories. All the stories are now available on Radio Mirchi’s official YouTube Channel. Anyone can access the stories anytime from anywhere now. The first time this news was announced on the radio, we were overjoyed. It was like having our grandmothers beside us all the time.
With that began our new journey with Sunday Suspense on a different path. The show too has upgraded itself by various means. Recently, it introduced another feature of premiering the stories live on their YouTube channel. Now we don’t even need to own a radio to hear it live.
Even though I still listen to this show every Sunday, years of habit had made me forget about its literary value. And then I came across an article A Snapshot on the History of Publishing: From Illiteracy to E-readers, which discussed the recent popularity of audiobooks. It was then that I suddenly remembered Sunday Suspense, the radio drama which is no less than any audiobook if seen from the angle of its contribution towards the tradition of storytelling.
About the Author