From Folk Horror To Feminism: Listen To 5 Stand-Out Homegrown Podcasts

Amit Varma has his mind on the issues that affect urban Indians today
Amit Varma has his mind on the issues that affect urban Indians today

In the golden age of the radio show call-in sometime around the 50s, when you could leave comments or win prizes for guessing the name of a song, the thrill of ‘participatory culture’ began to take shape. Riding on the long tail of it today are YouTube channels, blogs and podcasts. The need to express ourselves and compare notes with the experiences of others has not gone away, it has simply adapted to newer media. 

In the last six years or so, podcasts have amassed legions of new listeners worldwide and India is now the third largest consumer after the U.S. and China, according to a 2020 study by PwC's Global Entertainment & Media Outlook. Ironically enough, only 12% of India’s population has ever listened to a podcast and so we also represent the world’s biggest unrealised market.

For those of us who were hamstrung by a lack of outdoor social activities during the 2020 pandemic, OTTs and podcasts created a microcosm of amusements and valuable updates we all needed to feel connected. Additionally, podcasts also represent a form of cultural journaling — like creating a time capsule or keeping a stack of polaroids in a shoe box — where we catalogue seminal moments as we trace the evolution of our own socio-political consciousness as a civilisation. 

Keeping that in mind, we have curated a list of Homegrown Podcasts that distill the spirit and tone of today and do justice to where we are in our journey through time.

I. Indian Noir

Released in 2018 as India’s answer to Creepypasta, this podcast reflects the affinity of our generation towards brief but well-produced narrative content. Rarely longer than seven minutes, Indian Noir features pithy, backyard horror unfolding in first person that exhausts the entire folklore of paranormal creatures. Not to be looked down upon for its lurid and sometimes campy style, this podcast simulates the speed-reading, fever-scrolling ethos of today that does not wish to be distracted by fancy trimmings or inconsequential details.

Originally from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, Nikesh Murali is the Commonwealth Short Story Prize winning writer behind this chart topping podcast, and it takes him close to eight hours to produce just 20 minutes of mastered narration. “There is a tendency to deride the TikTok generation, without acknowledging the fact that they consume content quickly so they can keep up with the demands of a fast-paced world," he says in an interview with The News Minute. Nikesh also believes that horror is a pill best swallowed through audio and uses his deft modulation and voice acting to segue effortlessly between his protagonists, monsters and sidekicks. He is convinced that his storytelling is superior to the tacky jump scares and graphic violence encountered in mainstream cinema.

You can listen to Indian Noir on Spotify and if you don’t have an account, then head over to the YouTube channel for all the episodes with subtitles.

A ponderous, longform  podcast discussing politics and philosophy
A ponderous, longform podcast discussing politics and

II. The Seen and The Unseen

Unlike Indian Noir, this podcast is not known for its brevity or lightweight entertainment. Longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, Amit Varma is a journalist who is known for his longform, armchair exchanges with intellectuals of the likes of Shashi Tharoor, Harsha Bhogle, Ram Guha and Barkha Dutt among others on his weekly production, The Seen and The Unseen. Grazing upon a litany of topics including public policy, history, philosophy, Hindutva, wars, cricket inter alia; this podcast is in the business of examining the butterfly effect of critical actions and their inadvertent repercussions whether obvious or covert in nature.

Regarded as an astute depiction of what it is like to be living in contemporary India, this show outlines the Herculean task of nation building and dismantling patriarchy through the lens of influential individuals. It also invites us to embrace the ‘complex beast’ that is Indian society, make sense of it and make it work for us. 

You can listen to his podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or JioSaavn.

A charming and piquant show about games and the life of an influencer
A charming and piquant show about games and the life of an

III. The Mythpat Podcast

Embedded in the Indian subconscious as a shy, goofy and endearing success story, Mithilesh Patankar is now rubbing shoulders with the country’s top content creators and influencers. Mumbai-based YouTuber, Mithilesh gained popularity for streaming his gameplay and then producing prank videos and satirical dubbed versions of Doraemon.   

Someone mimicking the characters in GTA or Minecraft, no matter how funny he might sound, may not seem as a precursor to bagging his own Spotify Original podcast but that is exactly what moulded Mithilesh Patankar into Mythpat. More than his incandescent humour and next door boy appeal, Mythpat has earned his place in podcasting royalty for a quality that no one can teach you to imbibe — relatability. 

The Mythpat Podcast highlights recent trends in the gaming culture, both homegrown and elsewhere. Mythpat keeps it fresh by bringing in eminent gamers and industry experts each week while interspersing the interviews with updates about his personal developments, offering tested guidelines on how to survive as a creator, despite the competitive nature of cyberspace.

You can check out his podcast on Spotify.

IV. On Purpose with Jay Shetty

An ex-ISKCON monk turned life-coach, Jay Shetty is renowned for topping the New York Times bestseller list with his books on how to fix your dating life by following ancient Hindu teachings. And now he also has a podcast, On Purpose, which has been downloaded a whopping 20 million times and counting. A man who has built a career on espousing Eastern philosophies to help people ‘find their purpose’, Jay might be a controversial and somewhat media savvy spiritual guru, but his podcast is a rip-roaring success. Inviting A-listers among the ilk of Kim Kardashian, Lewis Hamilton, Tom Holland to share 'viral wisdom' on how they manage anxiety or break the habit of being people pleasers, Jay has evolved a keen sense of what makes his audience tick, using neologisms of therapy-speak and self-growth while maintaining a comforting aura of ostensible modesty. 

Engulfing the subjects of relationships, personal finance, nutrition, mental health and self discipline, Jay’s podcast is a social indicator of how wellness experts today have tapped into the spiritual vacuum felt by most developed and developing countries, Jay Shetty is a virtuoso when it comes to giving people exactly what they need — a little bit of faith.

You can listen to his podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Stitcher.

The now dormant show on Spotify discussing feminism in India.
The now dormant show on Spotify discussing feminism in

V. The Sanskaari Sass Podcast

Though they haven't produced anything since May 2019, The Sanskaari Sass was (is?) a witty and empowered podcast produced by Ruchika Agarwal to spread awareness about the state of modern feminism in the aftermath of MeToo as well as against the backdrop of the rampant violence towards women still prevalent in our country. Hosting a range of female Indian artists, activists and journalists, the hosts Malika and Ruchika hooked the listeners with their hearty banter and learned discourse about how to unlearn patriarchy, spot red flags in representation within popular culture, and navigate the misogyny inherent in Indian society on a daily basis. 

Whether it was simplifying classic feminist theories, decrypting dating life expectations or having accomplished professionals like wildlife filmmaker Eshika Fyzee share their experiences to inspire young girls (and others), The Sanskaari Sass was adept at keeping their tone very conversational and accessible. Not averse to using text slang like ‘IRL’ or above calling out problematic celebrities; this show is a trailblazer for celebrating the trademark gumption of women beginning to awaken to their agency within their own bodies and their communities at large.

You can listen to their past episodes on Spotify.