A young man in big wire-rimmed glasses pops up on your social media timeline. His voice is soothing and his storytelling captivating. Soon you find yourself browsing his profile, wanting to listen to more of his stories. Eventually, you become his regular listener as his voice puts you to bed after a hectic day.
This is the story of many Nepalis who spend hours listening to Santosh Pokharel, widely knows as Saigrace on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, or any other social media platform. From his childhood, he was a devotee of a Sai Baba so his family gave the name Saigrace—grace of Sai Baba.
Saigrace writes and recites stories on the universal themes of love and struggle that his audiences can easily relate to as if they were their own. There is also enormous solace in his voice.
His storytelling journey started when he was small and his father used to tell him folklores after the family dinner. Entertainment sources were limited back in those days. Inspired by his father, Saigrace also started telling stories, but only to his friends and classmates.
Almost everyone who listened to his stories became his fan. This made him realize the power of storytelling, and that it was not just about the script but also the way a story is narrated. “But, seriously, I never thought storytelling could ever become a job,” he says.
Saigrace was in the 12th grade in 2012 when he recited one of his stories at a conference before a mass of 1,500. “It was then that many people suggested that I start a career in storytelling,” he recalls.
Soon, he started doing voice-overs for documentaries and movies. With a decent number of projects under his belt, he also appeared on screen during the pandemic-triggered lockdown. Once he started to tell stories on screen, he got much more appreciation and became a sensation in a matter of weeks.
“I was happy with my job even before people saw my face. Yet I think the videos of 2020 lockdown helped establish me,” Saigrace says while sharing the breakthrough moment of his career.
All the stories he recites are his own. He loves to write and recite his own experiences so that they directly connect with the people. “I have already published five audio novels and all of them have done well,” he says with an air of satisfaction.
Saigrace, who lives and works in Barcelona, is now in Nepal on a vacation. But he is busy conducting school programs and telling students that no skill goes to waste.
“Having a commanding voice is just a plus point. It is our knowledge, learning, research, and practice that help us succeed in what we do,” he says. “You don’t need much to go viral, but to sustain, you must work on technicalities.”
For every video session, Saigrace prepares a story plot and writes it down with the characters, scenarios, buildup, climax, and more. “Your writing skills get better only if you have a habit of reading,” he says—and he does read a fair bit.
After that, he sets up mic and camera and starts reciting, always focusing on his pronunciation, pauses, and stresses. Lastly, he edits and designs videos before publishing them.
“I work in the media so it is quite easy for me to edit videos,” Saigrace, who also owns a production house, explains the behind-the-scenes to ApEx.
“We must be aware of the ethics of our job because it directly affects the society and something you say could easily backfire,” he warns those who want to enter this field. “Stories are the society’s mirrors and the social norms and values must be maintained at all times.”
Audience reach is one of the key challenges of storytelling. So, you need consistency and continuity, he tells aspiring storytellers. If you do that, you will gradually get better.
Soon, other people seeking indirect motivation will follow your job. “I have seen people follow my presentation techniques. Those who were not interested in literature are now interested in it because of my videos,” Saigrace says with a satisfying smile.
“Our country doesn’t have a voice industry,” he says. “Yet it’s a powerful medium and something we must promote.”