Storyteller Neelesh Mirsa’s next stop : The Tribune India

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Storyteller Neelesh Mirsa’s next stop

He writes songs, has a radio show, brings out a rural newspaper, and now, Neelesh Misra is to perform live

Storyteller Neelesh Mirsa’s next stop

Misra is preparing for his next music album and writing a book on his journey as a storyteller.



Renu Sud Sinha

NEELESH Misra has been telling stories even before his one-of-a-kind storytelling show on radio, ‘Yaadon Ka Idiot Box’, took off more than a decade back, though the format and platforms have been different. The former journalist has reported on wars and conflicts, penned five books, including one on the hijacking of Indian Airlines’ IC-814, written songs for over 50 films and co-scripted screenplays for movies, including ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ and ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’.

From the studios, he is now taking his craft to live audiences for his first national tour. The first leg, comprising 10 cities, including Chandigarh (January 7), starts on December 16. “Because the greatest joy as a storyteller is to narrate stories before a live audience. When you meet them and they speak about the impact of my stories on their lives, it’s an enriching experience,” says the storyteller.

While he calls his life a succession of beautiful coincidences and accidents, Misra’s most successful avatar — that of a storyteller — was a spur-of the-moment decision.

“After quitting my job in 2010, I formed a band, ‘A Band Called Nine’, with Shilpa Rao and some other colleagues. Saregama had commissioned an album. Because I wasn’t a trained musician or a singer and other band members were accomplished artistes, I did this cheap trick to remain relevant. On the spur of the moment, I said I will be telling stories. I had never written or told stories ever before. We were also looking for radio partners. When we played the scratch to Big FM, they offered me a radio show. I had never done radio either but that’s how the show started. Within a week, we realised something extraordinary was happening in terms of audience feedback. It has been going on for 12 years across 100 cities in India.”

Even his debut as a lyricist in Bollywood has an interesting tale. “I had met Mahesh Bhatt while researching for a book. And he recommended me to Pooja for the lyrics of ‘Jism’. In films, usually the tune is composed first and the lyrics are written later. I failed miserably on the first day and decided to stick to reporting but gave it a shot anyway. The song was ‘Jadu hai, nasha hai’ that I wrote in a taxi on the back of a restaurant bill,” smiles Misra. The soundtrack of ‘Jism’ went on to sell 1.5 million copies.

He went on to write some memorable songs, including ‘Kyon naa hum-tum chale’ (‘Barfi’) and ‘Maine dil se kaha’ (‘Rog’). However, he gave it up because he was not finding any creative joy in it. Only when Guneet Monga called him for ‘Pagglait’ did Misra write lyrics after a long hiatus. “I realised that I still enjoyed creating songs. I launched my music album, ‘Phir Milenge’, this year; I have written, composed and sang for it.”

His genesis as a lyricist has interesting beginnings too — a desire to impress his female classmates in college and a ‘rejection’ by Jagjit Singh. “I would gift them songs on their birthdays. I also once wrote to Jagjit Singh, asking him to sing my song. He never replied but from there I developed a passion for writing songs/poetry and even composing them.”

The man who wears many hats with equal ease is ready to don some more. “I am greedy to do new things. It is sometimes too much but I enjoy the multiple facets of my work — whether it’s my rural newspaper ‘Gaon Connection’ or my label ‘Slow’, where I work with artisans and artists who may not be able to find appropriate platforms. I am also working on a book on my journey as a storyteller.”

He is launching his second music album next year. “I just feel grateful and privileged to be able to do so many things,” says Misra.


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