Everyone loves a good story, especially filmmakers who are constantly looking for content that is worth narrating on the screen, big or small.
Now, filmmakers have found a new platform they can turn to for stories. When the Telugu film Kalki (2019) released, Kahaniya.com also got noticed. Director Prasanth Varma had picked up a story he read on this website, written by Mahbubnagar-based Saiteja Deshraj, for the big screen.
Since then, Kahaniya (website, and app for iPhone and Android) has been on the radar of Telugu filmmakers. The platform has nearly 30,000 stories in 11 languages, with a chunk of content in Telugu and Hindi, followed by English, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Bengali.
Soon, the platform will be uploading 21 stories in Telugu written by Tanikella Bharani and six by LB Sriram, both veteran actors with a background in theatre. Director Praveen Sattaru will be sharing the screenplays of his Telugu films on the site. Talks are on with other filmmakers as well.
Kahaniya began as an experiment in 2016, founded by Pallav Bajjuri, who had returned to Hyderabad after completing his Masters in Computer Science Engineering from the US. The idea was inspired by the Canada-based portal Wattpad and tweaked for India.
The origin story
Pallav had earlier spearheaded Sadda Haq, a portal that reported on social issues. “We had to pause Sadda Haq owing to multiple issues. However, the response to Kahaniya as a platform for storytellers was encouraging and we saw the possibility of connecting writers with publishers and filmmakers. We registered the company in 2019; funds came in from family and friends,” he says.
Anyone can upload a story in prose or poetry format. Kahaniya’s editorial team tries to keep pace with the content that gets uploaded. “A few hundred copies are submitted each day, so it gets tough to proofread,” says Pallav.
Machine learning comes into play to check the content but Pallav admits there are grey areas: “On rare occasions, stories with adult content get uploaded late night, when our team is not at work, and it gets noticed by readers; the next morning, we are faced with questions. Though machine learning-based story edits are in place, not all keywords in regional languages are easy to spot.”
While most writers share their content for free, a few want readers to pay. In such cases, the editorial team takes up the request and assesses the story.
‘Kahaniya Launchpad’ segment tries to connect new writers with publishing houses, and ‘Kahaniya Connect’ liaises between writers and the film industry. “We look for stories that can potentially be used for cinema or web series, and pitch it to producers and directors,” explains Pallav.
The team schedules appointments, arranges a narration session, and if the story is approved, helps the writer with paperwork, payment and due credit. “The copyright of the story stays with the writer, and the payment is shared approximately on a 70:30 basis, with the larger sum reaching the writer. We are strengthening our bank of stories and want to be a marketplace that connects writers and filmmakers.”