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21 April, 2009

Kahani Movement to document the Indian American story

The following is based on material received from SAJA Forum

The Kahani Movement, an oral history project modelled after StoryCorps, is being launched today at the opening of the seventh annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.

David Isay formed StoryCorps, a cross-country oral history project, to document and capture the stories of everyday American life through conversation and dialogue. The Kahani Movement ties the concept of StoryCorps to the technology of Web 2.0 by inspiring Indian Americans to tell stories of their early days in the U.S. from the comfort of their own kitchen tables and then share this content on a newly developed social network (

Co-founded by brothers Dr. Sanjay Gupta (CNN) and Suneel Gupta (Mozilla), the Kahani Movement is a non-profit project aiming to inspire generations of Indian-Americans to capture and share stories from their ancestors that immigrated to the United States from India. The project takes a Hollywood 2.0 approach to sharing these stories by motivating young Indian Americans to pick up a camera, interview their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and then post that footage to Kahani's web platform (

The eventual audience for this content is a generation of people who may never have the benefit of a real conversation with their immigrant ancestors. "These cherished stories are evaporating along with the people who lived them," Sanjay Gupta said. "It is our generation's responsibility to preserve those stories, so that they are never lost."

The short-piece featured on the website weaves together several stories, collected over the past year, of Indian-Americans who travelled to the United States in the late 1960's and early 1970's, following President Kennedy's lowering of the immigration barriers for Indians. Although each story told by these pioneers is unique, these rich tales are unified by a bond of struggle, success and sacrifice.

Kahani's platform allows storytellers to browse through stories submitted by fellow users, and submit their own in the form of video, audio, photos, and writings. With an open-source approach to film production, the Kahani Movement gives the storyteller the ability to not only share his or her stories with a network but also be able to access the content from other participants.

The Kahani movement follows on the heels of the success of Slumdog Millionaire, which was able to bring together the Indian-American community in celebrating the Indian heritage. Kahani hopes to continue to inspire generations of Indian-Americans to embrace and document the rich cultural traditions of their ancestors.

The purpose of creating the Kahani Movement is three-fold:

1. Assemble a well-organized archive of content that helps current and future generations better understand the Indian immigration experience. "Second generation immigrants reach a point in their lives when they begin to truly appreciate their parents’ struggle.” says Suneel Gupta. “When I reached that point, I wanted to sit my mom down and sincerely listen to her story. But my children, and their children, might not have that opportunity.”

2. Empower the Kahani Movement community to collaborative creatively. Simon Beaufoy was inspired to write Slumdog Millionaire after reading the novel, Q&A. Similarly, Kahani Movement inspires community members to add to and remix content on the site to tell the Indian immigration story in new, imaginative ways.

3. Inspire others outside of the Indian community to create their own Kahani Movement. Every community has powerful stories that are worth preserving. An important goal for Kahani is to lower the barrier to capturing these stories by creating a digital model that is easy to replicate.

Suneel Gupta: While working in President Clinton’s press operation, Suneel developed a
strong interest in the convergence of media and technology and pursued this interest through strategic and venture roles in various global markets. In 2004, he was recruited from the private sector to co-draft the Democratic party’s national platform (a collaborative mission statement for our nation) and later earned a JD-MBA from Northwestern University. Suneel is currently working with the Mozilla Corporation as a Director of Product Development in Mozilla Labs, the company's innovation group.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta
: Dr. Sanjay Gupta is chief medical correspondent for the health and medical unit at CNN. Based in Atlanta, Gupta also contributes health news stories to and, co-hosts “Accent Health” for Turner Private Networks, provides medical segments for the syndicated version of ER on TNT, writes a column for TIME magazine, anchors the global health program Vital Signs for CNN International and is featured in a weekly podcast on health issues called "Paging Dr. Gupta." Gupta is a practicing neurosurgeon and an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Emory University. Before joining CNN, Gupta was a fellow in neurosurgery at the University of Tennessee's Semmes-Murphy clinic, and before that, the University of Michigan Medical Center. In 1997, he was chosen as a White House Fellow — one of only 15 fellows appointed. He served as special advisor to first lady Hillary Clinton.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw a interview with him talking about this movement. It is with him and his brother at IFFLA announcing the launch of the Kahani Movement.