At the third edition of the Bangalore Literature Festival, the city’s literary excellence came into its own. Bringing together exemplars of the written word and also book lovers from the city, the festival went on to reiterate that Bangalore is undoubtedly a haven for literature enthusiasts, at the same time underscoring the literary diversity the city has to offer.
Talking about the fete, writer and columnist Shobhaa De averred, “I have been to festivals across India, lit fests across the world. But I have to say, there’s something about Bangalore Lit Fest that makes it exceptional.” Why? “The fact that the fest is noncommercial, that it is truly democratic in spirit, that we hear voices that we don’t hear at other lit fests, that we hear voices that speak their minds in a public space fearlessly, that we have a very receptive audience, that the city supports it the way it does, that the number grow and grow with each passing year, everything is exceptional,” she responds.
Like Shobhaa De, who has been part of BLF since the first edition, bestselling author and screenwriter, Chetan Bhagat, who is considered a ‘youth icon,’ also has an interesting experience to recount. “When Shinie Antony (one of the founders) told me about the idea of starting a lit fest here, I thought to myself, ‘The city favours IT. Maybe an Android Developers Conference or a Java Coding Weekend would be more apt. Or at most, a traffic festival.’ But when I attended the first edition, I saw how well it was received. And now, in just three years it has become the most sought after events in the city.”
This year, the festival was dedicated to the memory of UR Ananthamurthy, a contemporary writer, master storyteller and legend. In three corners of the lawns at Crowne Plaza, panel discussions on diverse themes were held at makeshift tents named after three of Ananthamurthy’s greatest books. Departing from the previous editions, this year the fest has focused on literature by marginalised sections of the society and aboriginal writers.
Highlights of the panel discussions
Of books, cinema and women characters
The ever controversial Chetan Bhagat was in conversation with Shinie Antony about the predominance of strong women characters in his books and screenplays. He affirms, “I like women who are smart, intellectual, passionate. That is why no woman in my stories are props. Every single one is opinionated.”
His sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes self-deprecating humour left everyone in splits. Among other things he also discussed why he has become the most spoken about author today. His take? Not because he is the best author, but because he is the bestselling author. “There are different types of writers and I write about real people, ordinary middle class life, I have to out there living that life, not running away from people. That makes me a little more visible. And I do have good marketing skills. So maybe that’s the reason why you hear about me than everyone else.”
On the plight of marginalised communities
Dhruba Hazarika, Pradyot Manikya Deb Burman and Binalakshmi Nepram spoke on the all-pervasive issue, ‘Does India neglect its eight sisters?’ Striking at the heart of the issue, Binalakshmi rues that myriad perceptions wrought by misconceived notions is why the north eastern frontier stands ostracised.
“How do you define the North east of India? It is a jungle land where you can exploit, a place where people eat everything that moves. If it is a man, he must be a drug addict and if it is a woman, she must be morally loose — these are the perceptions that are spiralling in today’s India.” It is not a place where half naked tribals live, she says. On the contrary, there’s so much that ‘India’ doesn’t know or want to know. “It constitutes of eight beautiful states, home to 45 million citizens, belonging to different ethnic groups, a place where India’s first oil was found, it a place of amazing potential.” And yet, it remains unbeknownst to most of us.
On a similar vein, a session on ‘Minority Report’ delved into the notion of secularism in the country today. One of the questions raised during this one hour debate was ‘Do we need a minority commission at all?’ Answering in the affirmative, Keki Daruwala justified, “We may have excellent laws but if the implementation is not satisfactory, it does not hold good. Implementers in our country are very often corrupt and partial. And I also feel the police in this country — and I have been to riots in Assam, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand where I have witnessed this first hand — is biased and hence cannot be reiled on.”
On Kannada Literature
There was a session on Kannada literature where stalwarts like Vasudhendra, KS Pavitra and HN Arathi addressed concerns surrounding the pertinency of the language in the present day and age. Titled ‘Hosa Chiguru- New voices in Kannada’ the panelists shared ideas on how to promote the language not only by teaching it as a subject in schools and colleges but by enhancing its relevance through art, dance, poetry and music.
Things to look out for on Saturday
- Writers Anjum Hasan, Susan Visvanathan, Palash Krishna Mehrotra, Usha K.R. and Saniya take a session on the art of writing short stories at at 10 am
- We, the Children of India: Revisiting the Constitution of India with Leila Seth at 10.30 am
- Around the Story Tree: Folk Tales withVikram Sridhar at 11.15 am
- For children, a Ghostly Detective Workshop by Shweta Taneja at 4 pm
- A session on contemporary Urdu literature in India anand Pakistan at 12 noon