Humans of Harker: The force awakens

Kalyan Narayanan ('20) embraces his love of storytelling

%E2%80%9CI%27ve+always+been+fascinated+by+stories.+For+film%2C+I+always+loved+every+time+I+watched+a+movie+or+tv+show+%E2%80%93+even+when+I+was+little+watching+%E2%80%98Star+Wars%3A+The+Clone+Wars+%E2%80%93+I+would+love+discussing+it+with+my+family.+Those+days+I+didn%27t+know+how+to+analyze+it%2C+and+I+was+just+talking+about+all+these+facts+I%27d+learned+from+Wikipedia+pages.+But+as+I+read+more+in+class%2C+I+really+found+enjoyment+in+using+those+terms+and+structures+we%27d+discussed+in+our+English+classes.+I%27ve+been+really+interested+in+film+the+past+couple+of+years%2C%E2%80%9D+Kalyan+Narayanan+%28%E2%80%9920%29+said.%C2%A0

Photograph provided by Kalyan Narayanan

“I've always been fascinated by stories. For film, I always loved every time I watched a movie or tv show – even when I was little watching ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars – I would love discussing it with my family. Those days I didn't know how to analyze it, and I was just talking about all these facts I'd learned from Wikipedia pages. But as I read more in class, I really found enjoyment in using those terms and structures we'd discussed in our English classes. I've been really interested in film the past couple of years,” Kalyan Narayanan (’20) said. 

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Kalyan Narayanan (’20) looked to the horizon, to the light of the twin sunsets of his home world of humble beginnings, with a dream of adventuring throughout the stars. Little did he know, several years later a war commenced in the Galaxy. Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Kalyan raced home aboard his starship, custodian of the stolen plans that could save his people and restore freedom to the galaxy. He led rebel spaceships, striking from a fortress hidden among the stars of the galaxy, to win their first victory in a battle with the puissant Imperial Starfleet. 

“One of my favorite movies is ‘Empire Strikes Back.’ I was a really big star wars fan growing up. It was a really impactful movie that made me really appreciative of film. It straddles the line between entertainment and thought provokingness very well,” Kalyan said. 

Kalyan’s passion for storytelling catalyzed his passion for filmmaking, primarily analyzing the intricacies and complexities involved in creating a compelling story. 

“I’ve always been fascinated by stories. For film, I always loved every time I watched a movie or tv show– even when I was little watching ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’– I would love discussing it with my family. Those days I didn’t know how to analyze it and I was just talking about all these facts I’d learned from Wikipedia pages. But as I read more in class, I really found enjoyment in using those terms and structures we’d discussed in our English classes. I’ve been really interested in film the past couple of years,” Kalyan said.

Simar Bajaj (’20), one of Kalyan’s closest friends who’s known him since seventh grade, appreciates his dedication to his interests and sensitivity to the details behind filmmaking. 

“He always loves to talk about Star Wars. He’s been trying to get me to watch Star Wars for the longest time. He’s really passionate about movies in general. I think whenever he begins talking about movies his eyes light up and he gets so animated and excited talking about it. He really analyzes movies and he really goes into the details. Nothing that he does he doesn’t put his everything into it. It’s really inspiring to see that,” Simar said. 

In junior year, Kalyan, Simar and Finn Frankis (’20) worked on an English project examining one of Emily Dickinson’s poems. They chos, “Crumbling is not an instant’s Act,” a “puritanical poem that deals with the degradation of a soul,” according to Kalyan. The group interpreted it as a movie about a Harker student dealing with the pressures around grades, who later feels so stressed he cheats on a test and faces the consequences. 

“We spent like four hours after school shooting it, and then I spent the whole weekend editing, adding music, and recording voice-overs. It ended up being seven minutes,” Kalyan said. 

Finn, who first met Kalyan in his freshman year when he was new to Harker, admires his combination of work ethic and creativity. 

“When we worked on the group project together in English, he had the most experience in the field of scriptwriting and he sort of took the lead and became the creative director for that project. He put in so much effort on his own, unprompted. He knew where his skill sets would fit in and he let us offer input as well but we trusted him as the creative person to oversee that. Even though he has all these talents, he puts in the work and never rests on his laurels and always gets the job done,” Finn said. 

Kalyan’s interest in filmmaking compelled him to research the dynamic of racism in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, a film set on a single day in a Brooklyn neighborhood as racial tensions increase and finally explode into violence. 

“I studied the individual frames of the movie and parts of the music and the script of course as well. I started [by] analyzing how the project reflects shifts in black activism in the seventies and eighties. But as I read a lot more about these criticisms, one of the main things they agree with is that it’s really hard to trace it to a singular ideology,” Kalyan said. “As I researched that I came to the conclusion that the whole point of the film is that it’s not about what the right thing is but the more important thing is the act of doing it.” 

In addition to filmmaking, Kalyan has been playing piano for 12 years, joining Lab Band as a pianist in his freshman year before becoming a member of Jazz Band in his junior year. 

“Music is a way of expressing yourself. For me, it’s also a dialogue between you and the instrument or between you and the voice – hearing how I can put my instantaneous emotions into this piece and how the piece reflects the spirit of the composer. That interplay is my favorite thing,” Kalyan said.  

The element of storytelling in music, depicting stories through notes, melodies and interplay between players intrigues Kalyan as well. 

“In jazz band, when we’re soloing and it passes off between us and we’re creating different sections, it’s very much like a story because you’re all combining to make this one unified sound to the audience and everyone kind of goes off each other, playing in these different directions and reacting to that,” Kalyan said. 

Orchestra director Dr. Dave Hart, who has taught Kalyan for the past four years, describes his internal intrinsic motivation to continue learning and growing as a musician. 

“Kalyan has an absolute love of learning. He’s always invested in learning material not to be the best or to win anything. In fact, I feel like he’s most motivated when there’s not a carrot at the end of it. For him, he loves music so much that when he hears something and is able to play it and figure it out, you can see the impact it has on him,” Dr. Hart said. 

He’s also been a member of Harker’s a cappella group Signature since ninth grade, of which he’s currently the co-president. 

“I love Signature. It’s just such an incredible community of people who really want to share their love of music, share the joy they have singing a cappella music to everyone else. And it’s fun,” Kalyan said. 

Despite Kalyan’s passion for jazz, stage fright is one of the challenges he’s encountered as a musician. 

“I’m someone who always gets stage fright. Sometimes I get too caught up when I solo and thirty seconds later when I’m improvising something else, I’m still thinking about whether I screwed up the opening line. It’s frankful but I think I’m pretty careful about letting the fright overcome just having fun with the piece,” Kalyan said. 

Kalyan’s ultimate goal is to bring these skill sets he developed in high school with him to college and beyond. But for now, his aspirations are more personal. 

“My future right now, I don’t have a plan. I need to figure that out but I guess I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing. More music, more film,” Kalyan said.