Open mic forum Let's Talk Life looks to create a platform that brings together artists, and those seeking solace through art.
Nandhitha Hariharan and Sharada Vijay met at a Bloggers Club event. Ten years apart in age, the two formed a strong friendship as both found common ground in writing.
Born and raised in Chennai, Nandhitha was a financial analyst at Barclay's, and Sharada was a human resources professional. Both love to write, and both believe writing helps battle internal demons and helps heal. Also, both come from conservative families that were not open to arts or writing, as also speaking up about a lot of things.
Sharada began writing as a catharsis following an abusive relationship. Nandhitha found that writing helped her deal with depression and anxiety. While Sharada found her niche as an erotica writer, Nandhitha found her calling in writing about women and sexuality.
While the two saw they had a lot in common and sought to showcase their art, they found no platform to do so. Thus, 'Let's Talk Life' came to being.
While there are several online open mic platforms that have a strong fan base, there was a gap in the physical space and that is what Nandhitha and Sharada sought to address.
Let’s Talk Life is an open mic forum based in Chennai, and the duo started off with three people in the audience. Today, each niche event draws in at least 70 people in the audience, and have events once a month.
To start off, Nandhitha and Sharada went around coffee shops and restaurants to explain the concept of an open mic to hold events there and faced rejection several times as most felt it would not work in a place like Chennai.
Speaking with YourStory, Nandhitha says,
"People are intimidated by art. Chennai is a place where the audience is repetitive when it comes to art. The same crowd attends all kinds of similar events in the city. But at our recent event, we saw a new set of audience, which is great thing that gives hope. It means that there is evolution in people when it comes to appreciating and encouraging art. With cinema becoming expensive right now, people are looking at alternate forms of entertainment and it looks like this is where we come in."
With the intention of pushing people to express themselves, Let’s Talk Life grew over the years, and now, Nandhitha says, they are looking to bring out talent from the audience through art, which goes on to extend to a bigger and better purpose.
As a testimony, Nandhitha and Sharada have seen those who have performed at their shows now carving a space for themselves on mediums like YouTube.
"At one of our recent events, a standup comedian was performing and a Tamil film director was in the audience. The director approached us after the show saying that he wants the comedian to be a dialogue writer for his next film. We wanted to bring people together who had talent, but had no idea what to do with their art, now we want to make the best out of them and push them where they belong, in the real world."
The average open mic by Let's Talk Life has a blend of poetry, story-telling, music, and dance where audiences are encouraged to be unique and entertaining.
"A few write their own lyrics, present instrumental music, which they think resonates with what they want to convey. The events are not necessarily themed because the whole idea is to let people express themselves, whatever they like to. There were people talking about break-ups, relationships, constipation and how serious it is, religion, homosexuality and so on," Nandhitha says.
Right now, Nandhitha and Sharada are trying to keep all events free of cost, but there is a ticket when there is an external artist performing. Nandhitha says the price is also a proof of validation to the artist, as an encouragement that people do want to pay to see the artist perform.
There is also a mutually collaborative and sustainable arrangement with a few photographers and artists. However, the duo is looking to take it to a large scale in the next couple of years.
Sharada says the revenue model is based on honest collaboration and pooling in resources from the community, and sharing the profits with it.
"We never really focused on the financial aspect of it so far. The aim is to create an inclusive conducive environment to discuss and dwell deeper into the roots of it, and talk about things that are usually brushed under the carpet."
Sharada also works as a content writer, while Nandhitha is investing her time completely into Let's Talk Life, and wants to pursue her MBA and then relaunch the organisation on a bigger scale.
For now, the two women are leaving no stone unturned to make Chennai a more 'open' city.