The growing demand for audio shows and rise in the number of regional productions illustrate how podcasts have gained popularity among digital users in the last few years.

An image of Megha Rao's Poems to calm down to on left and RJ Balaji's Naallanna Murukku on rightInstagram/ RJ Balaji, Megha Rao
Features Podcast Saturday, September 25, 2021 - 20:57

A distraught and enraged Kannagi burning the flourishing city of Madurai to ground with her curse; Ranjha wandering across Punjab as a jogi and shedding tears of joy upon meeting Heer; the ten-headed, mystical king Ravana, striking a wicked smile as he kidnaps Sita. What is common between these scenarios you ask? Perhaps the fact that all of these epics and legendary tales have been narrated orally for centuries from one generation to the next. It is surprising that although these stories have been recreated and adapted in visual formats innumerable times, oral narrations and audio stories never fail to plant vivid images of these tales in our heads.

The rich tradition of storytelling is perhaps one of the major factors why audio as a medium continues to thrive. As opposed to reports and predictions that suggested that the visual medium would take over audio-only modes of mass communication like radio jockeying, podcasting has witnessed tremendous growth in recent times. It’s no wonder that the number of regional podcasting companies as well as availability of podcast production tools such as Anchor are steadily increasing. The growing demand for audio shows and rise in the number of regional productions also illustrate how podcasts have gained popularity among digital users within a span of a few years. Not to forget the perks that come with podcasting such as the scope to produce immersive, personal and in-depth content, audio shows serving a break from prolonged screen-time, and accessibility, among others, that have lured listeners.

With extensive focus on south-based podcasters, we have put together a list of trending and popular podcasts across genres for you to choose from. The list also includes audio shows in regional languages like Kananda, Malayalam, Telugu and Tamil.

News/ current affairs

1) All things policy: From automation to geopolitics, health to finance, All Things Policy, as its name suggests, touches upon a number of themes that fall under the umbrella of policy-making. Backed by popular podcasting company IVM Podcasts, All Things Policy is presented by research fellows from Takshashila Institution, an independent think tank and public policy school. “Every weekday, our researchers break down complex economic and geopolitical ideas through the lens of current events. For everyone from the busy executive to the curious student, All Things Policy is all you'll need to understand the world (and appreciate your breakfast) better,” the official description of the podcast reads. A total of 708 episodes have been released so far on streaming platforms. 

2) Cyber Democracy:  Backed by Suno India, a well-known podcasting platform, Cyber Democracy is a podcast where the host and guest speakers decode the complex intersection of digital media and governance in the cyber age. Hosted by Srinivas Kodali, an independent researcher and privacy rights activist, the first season of the show consists of 20 episodes. The experts have not only focused on understanding bills and policies such as the Personal Data Protection Bill and National Population Register, but have also touched upon themes like usage of personal data for targeted political campaigning and the net neutrality movement among others. The ongoing season of Cyber Democracy is hosted by social researcher Radhika Radhakrishnan, who studies the intersections of gender, sexuality, technology and politics. The second season of Cyber Democracy takes a look at how technology has been used as a site for gendered politics in the country. The lineup of guest speakers includes female and trans-queer grassroots practitioners from the field who share their insights on how gender and intersectional identities shape users’ engagements with the internet.  

3) Samacharam Sameeksha: Hosted by journalist Ayesha Minhaz, Samacharam Sameeksha is a Telugu podcast where the host discusses latest developments and news from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The podcast is a part of Suno India. “The podcast will also analyse news coverage and bring in seldom heard perspectives and will help you cut through the noise,” the description of the podcast reads.  

4) In the Field:  Hosted by Radhika Viswanathan, Samyuktha Varma and Priya Desai, three-Bengaluru based women who work in the social sector, the podcast analyses several issues such as women in the labour force, the economics of female entrepreneurship, how industries in Kerala have been affected by the pandemic. With the aim to make the subjects immersive and easier to comprehend, the hosts bring insights from the field, as the title of the podcast suggests. A total of 31 episodes of the podcast have been published so far. Speaking about the idea behind the podcast in an earlier interview with TNM, Radhika, one of the hosts said, “The motive behind this podcast is multi-fold. We want to deconstruct these ideas to make them accessible for everyone from students and academics to laypersons. People who want to volunteer or are looking for a career in the social sector can also listen in to understand how we work, and the rich conversations that happen in these circles.” 

5) Thale-Harate: Hosted by Pavan Srinath, Surya Prakash BS and Ganesh Chakravarthi, Kannada podcast Thale Harate comes as a delight to Kannadigas who want to hear about what happens within and outside Karnataka. A part of IVM podcasts, Thale Harate covers global trends in technology, economics and geopolitics as well as issues that are closer home like Bengaluru’s governance and public affairs. Pavan Srinath, who is involved in research in the areas of public policy and urban development, also hosts The Pragati podcast, which discusses public policy, economics and international relations. Pavan is known for his immersive style of hosting and detailed questions. 

ALSO READ: Want to learn to speak in Kannada? This ‘Kannada Gothilla’ podcast will help you | The News Minute 

6) My Indian life: Bollywood actor Kalki Koechlin, who is known for promoting several social causes, hosted a podcast in association with BBC titled My Indian Life. The central theme of the series is to feature a diverse group of Indians who’ve had to deal with abuse and stigma, but managed to fight against convention to pursue their dreams. The actor, who has carved a niche for herself with her unconventional filmography, focuses on the personal stories of these people in the podcast and traces their journey to understand how they succeeded. The second season of the podcast was released in December last year.

Art

1) Poems to Calm down to: “Calm the gushing of the veins that run under your skin, the ones that feel like forsaken rivers,” poet Megha Rao’s soothing voice can be heard in the first episode titled Pauses from her podcast Poems to Calm down to. Backed by performance arts forum Kommune, the podcast features a collection of poems by Megha Rao that have the overarching theme of personal growth. As she effortlessly strings words together, Megha talks about healing and taking a moment to breathe in the first episode. A total of 20 episodes from the podcast have been released so far.  

READ: Making warriors out of women with words: Meet Kerala poet Megha Rao 

2) The Other Banana: In one episode, hosts Deepauk M, Aditya, Anantha, Ashoka and Max analyse how Telugu film Jathi Ratnalu managed to pull crowds to the theatres after they reopened, and in another, they take a trip down memory lane to discuss Kollywood director Balu Mahindra’s movies. One can also find a series exclusively dedicated to music composer Ilaiyaraaja’s works. “A weak, lost generation raised on cinema,” the hosts of The Other Banana quote a dialogue from Kamal Haasan’s 1995 film Kuruthipunal to explain the idea behind the podcast on the website. If you think you are part of a generation of movie buffs, The Other Banana might be your cup of tea. 

3) Maed in India: Maed in India is hosted by Mae Mariyam Thomas, the founder of the podcasting company that goes by the same name as the title of the podcast. Claimed to be India’s first indie-music podcast, the host not only sits down for an interview with talented artists in India as well as abroad, the interview is followed by a performance from the artist or the band. “The weekly show prides itself on being the destination for new music, little known stories, and unreleased music never heard before,” the description of Mae’s podcast reads. From rapper Shan Vincent De Paul to Sid Sriram, Mae has spoken to many artists from the indie music space.  

4) The Lit Pickers: Presented by podcasting platform Maed in India, The Lit Pickers is a podcast where hosts Deepanjana Pal and Supriya Nair engage audiences in intriguing conversations about books. Given that the podcast started streaming online during the pandemic, it has gained traction among readers for its insightful interpretation of memorable books and iconic authors.  

ALSO READ: For forgotten Kannada literature, these groups are turning into digital saviours 

5) Beyond Charminar: If you are a Hyderabadi, you’d know how the perception of the city and its past is often limited to explorations around its food and heritage. In Suno India’s podcast Beyond Charminar, the host, journalist Yunus Lasania takes listeners through incredible stories from the city’s history, while also exploring the perception of culture and heritage. “Why is Hyderabad's rich history often ignored in textbooks? Why is there apathy and little interest in protecting the structures and culture around it? What does heritage truly mean?” are questions that the host tries to answer in the podcast.  

READ: Beyond Charminar: This podcast series by Suno India is a treasure trove of Hyd history 

6) The Pravaha Podcast: Studying history can be beautiful and exhausting in equal parts. But what if it is presented as interesting trivia, anecdotes and a series of personal interpretations? The Pravaha podcast, hosted by “two nerds” Prathik and Revanth, as they like to call themselves, try not to explain history through the podcast but rather share their experiences with it. “We travel into the congested alcoves of trivia, dig out biographies and anecdotes on princes and pundits, soar into the skies of aesthetics, theory, and writing – and everywhere we have something to say about the impressions that these journeys left upon us. Above all else, we read in this podcast and invite our listeners to join us as we read books, India, and the world,” they write in their note to listeners. Much like The Pravaha, IVM’s Echoes of India: A History Podcast, also traverses through the politics, economics and socio-cultural lives of people and civilisations in the past.  

ALSO READ: Becoming a Deccani artist: Tracing the history of Hyderabad’s School of Art and Crafts 

7) Her Story of Dance: With discussions around cultural appropriation making the headlines every other day, it is imperative that we understand the intersectional politics of art and identity. Backed by Suno India in collaboration with Goethe Zentrum Hyderabad and Bol Hyderabad, the podcast brings to light the stories of the long line of artists who have been alienated from their art form. Her Story of Dance is hosted by Yashoda Thakore, a dancer and a member of the Kalavantulu community. 

ALSO READ: Whose aesthetic is it anyway? Why classical arts must become more inclusive 

Audio stories and audio books like Telugu Kathalu and Kadhai Podcast in Tamil have also managed to garner interest from listeners in recent times.  

Podcasts that cover different genres

1) Naallanna Murukku- The RJ Balaji Podcast: RJ Balaji is the recent addition to the list of Radio Jockeys (RJs) who have entered the arena. Spotify’s first Tamil original podcast Nallanna Murukku discusses everything under the sun from positive and motivational topics to social issues. RJ Balaji, who is known for his candid and witty style of hosting, introspects how the lockdown has changed people’s day-to-day lives and shares his experiences from lockdown in the podcast. In a recent episode, the actor and RJ had A R Rahman as the guest speaker. 

READ: RJ Balaji’s new Tamil podcast ‘Naallanaa Murukku’ trends on Spotify 

2) Pahayan Media Malayalam Podcast: Apart from podcasts hosted by RJs and celebrities, several regional language podcasts hosted by users who are new to the field, have also gained popularity among the masses. Blogger Vinod Narayanan, the host of the show strikes a chord with listeners by narrating his personal experiences. Vinod shares his thoughts on life, career, society, culture, films, books and so on in the Malayalam podcast.  

ALSO READ: Educative and emotive, Malayalam podcast Dilli Dali is hugely popular 

3) Telugu Ammai: The show is hosted by Sahiti Raga Leena, who runs RagaPod production that has produced over 25 podcasts and reportedly has a listenership of one lakh. The tone of the podcast is mostly casual, with the host sharing her personal experiences about a range of issues in different episodes.  

4) The Book Show & Rough Note by RJ Ananthi: Radio Jockey Ananthi, who is also known for her supporting roles in movies and as a TV host, has released a Tamil podcast titled The Book Show and Rough Note. The podcast is predominantly motivational, with some of the episodes including book reviews, political discussions, analysis about the rise of a politician or a popular personality. 

Other podcasts such as Love Guru, Thaeruthal, Vocal Oli, Kavitha's Kadai Podcast, Vada Poche and Kadhaippoma with Karthik in Tamil, Telugu Logili and Daabakathalu in Telugu and Tent Podcast and Kaecawdo in Malayalam have also gained popularity among listeners.  

Crime

1) Deaths lies and cyanide: A true crime podcast, Deaths lies and cyanide is based on six murders of a family in Kozhikode’s Koodathai. Hosted by veteran media person Sashikumar, the podcast traces why a 47-year-old mother allegedly poisoned and killed six of her family members over 14 years. In addition, she managed to go scot-free and remain above suspicion until the police dug deeper and blew the lid off the case in 2019. The podcast is produced by Asiaville. 

READ: ‘Death, Lies and Cyanide’: The spine-chilling podcast on Koodathai murders

2) Indian Noir: Critically acclaimed crime and horror storytelling podcast Indian Noir is voiced by Nikesh Murali, a voice actor and writer. The spine-chilling podcast made it to Spotify as well as other streaming platforms’ podcast charts. Speaking to TNM earlier about why he chose podcast as the medium, Nikilesh said, ”I had an epiphany. I always knew I had the talent to produce entertaining works of fiction. But maybe books were not the best medium for me. After all, oral storytelling has been around for a lot longer than books. So I combined my narration, audio production, and writing skills to create Indian Noir.”

3) Karma is a witch: The crime-fiction Kannada podcast Karma is a witch — an original from podcasting platform Hubhopper — is reportedly the first audio podcast released in Kannada. Karma is a witch is the brainchild of Chetan Narayanaswamy, proprietor of Prathidwhani. With over seven episodes, the first episode of the podcast was released in 2018.  

ALSO READ: ‘Dosa King’: New true-crime podcast explores the life of Saravana Bhavan’s P Rajagopal

Business/ Finance

Multiple regional language as well as English podcasts that cover business and finance have garnered traction from listeners in recent times. The list includes Tamil podcast Tamilprenuer, Pure Perception in Telugu, Advertising is dead by Varun Duggirala, Finshots daily which includes highlights of business news and Dream Malayalam podcast.

Science

Janasuddi: Serving as a resource for science teachers in Kannada, the Janasuddi podcast was started in 2017 by Kollegala Sharma, a zoologist and senior principal scientist at the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) in Mysuru, India. With each episode spanning over 10 to 20 minutes, the Kannada podcast discusses news and research in the field of science.  

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