A personal take on Bangalore literature Festival

 

The IT hub Bengaluru recently witnessed the 5th edition of Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF). This year Bangalore Literature Festival was held on 17th and 18th December at Hotel Royal Orchid, Bengaluru. Like the preceding years, this year also, Bangalore Literary Festival had gone beyond of celebrating the rich linguistic tradition of Karnataka to include the best authors and artists from various parts of the country. An estimated number of 100 authors, journalists, scholars and celebrities had got together and discussed various issues and shared their thoughtful insights on diversified topics; the festival covered a lot of debates and discussions.  The participating authors of the festival included – Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Bezwada Wilson, Antoine Lewis, Chetan Bhagat,  Carlo Pizzati, Ananth Padmanabhan, Margaret Alva, Kanhaiya Kumar, Arup Kumar Dutta, Anita Raghavan, Ramachandra Guha, Omkar Goswami, Prathibha Nandakumar, Vivek Shanbhag, Jerry Rao, Aishwarya Rajinikanth Dhanush, Gurcharan Das, Shashi Tharoor, Shatrughan Sinha and Amish Tripathi, among others.

The origin of Bangalore Literature Festival goes back to 2012 when a select writers and publishing professionals including Vikram Sampath, Shashi Deshpande, Shinie Antony, Alaham Anil Kumar and Srikrishna Ramamoorthy came up with the idea of organizing an annual literature festival in Bangalore. The main objective of this festival had been nicely summed up then by one of its leading organizers and renowned author Vikram Sampath, who said “Bangalore Literary Festival is an attempt to provide a cultural space for the Bangaloreans to meet the best literary minds of our time, year after year, in an inclusive, non-elitist gathering”. Throughout these years, the festival has successfully retained its main objective by providing a solid ground for everyone who is has a literary orientation to meet, interact and engage with the best literary minds in a non-elitist gathering.

 

A huge crowd gathered at Hotel Royal Orchid on both days to participate in this literary carnival. The festival has been successful in drawing people from diversified interests and discipline with different age groups. Aspiring writers, academicians, scholars, journalists, students, business, IT and management professionals, retired professionals – anyone and everyone who is interested could take part in BLF that provided them with space to interact with the best literary minds, ask questions and exchange thoughts. To make it as diversified  as possible and cover all important issues having contemporary relevance, the BLF, this year covered a wide range of topics ranging from popular fiction to cricket, film, cooking, history, demonetization, and dissent to name a few.

The literary festival was inaugurated by the eminent author and one of the organizers of the festival Shashi Deshpande, Sudha Murthy, the Chairperson of Infosys Foundation and the renowned Kannada poet KV Tirumalesh. The inaugural ceremony was followed by the session on “Inglorious Empire: The Reality of the British Raj” wherein Shashi Tharoor talked about the reality of British Raj in India in conversation with Sanjeev Sanyal. In his discussion, Tharoor emphasized the importance of retelling history and knowing the past on its own term; that past is important to have a meaningful future. And this is the reason why he wrote a book on British Raj in India after 70 years of Independence.  This is followed by a conversation between Sudha Murty and Chetan Bhagat wherein the later primarily talked about his newly launched book One Indian Girl.  It was a hilarious yet meaningful conversation where Chetan Bhagat had to answer questions like whether he actually writes or dictates!

A couple of prominent media experts also attended BLF this year who included Siddharth Varadarajan, Mini Menon, BV Rao, Josy Joseph, G Sampath, Prasanna Viswanathan, Mihir Sharma, Narendar Pani, Aakar Patel, Shradha Sharma to name a few. Another attraction of BLF this time was the he Atta Galatta-Bangalore Literature Festival Book Prize 2016. It contained a prize worth Rs. 2 lakhs for 3 different categories – Best Fiction (English), Best Non-Fiction (English) and Literary Achievement Award in Kannada.

The festival also had a session on the Future of Indian Cooking with celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor and Manu Chandra. The session on “Askew: A Short Biography Of Bangalore” was also equally interesting where Naresh Narasimhan, Prakash Belawadi, Prof. KE Radhakrishna and V. Ravichandar discussed their memories of the city with Vasanthi Hariprakash; a Bangalore that was gentle and green, it’s journey of growth,  impact of the  IT  industry on Bangalore etc. Another major attraction of the festival was the renowned historian Ramachandra Guha, who shared his thoughts on the game of cricket in his speech on “Five Forms of Cricketing Partisanship”.

Like the preceding years, this year also BLF had a special session called C|L|F) – “Children| Literature|Fun” dedicated only for children to drawthem towards the world of literature and writing. It included workshops on puppet making, clowning and story writing, creative games, special sessions on children’s literature and direct interactions with renowned children.  There were also open mic sessions for kids wherein each child got a chance to speak, sing, recite or tell a story of his/her choice for 3 minutes. (C|L|F) also included sessions on journalism for kids and a Q&A session with experienced journalists. (C|L|F) was indeed a laudable initiative taken by the organizers to stimulate children’s interest in art and literature.

Along with inviting the best and established writers to discuss their works and viewpoints, BLF 2016 also had also accommodated the aspiring and unpublished writers within its ambit by providing them with a space showcase their innovative ideas of writing. The session called Lit-mart was mainly dedicated to this cause where aspiring authors had been allowed to pitch of their manuscripts to the editors and publishers –a way of inspiring young authors and connecting them to the publishers.

Finally, the much awaited Bangalore Literature Festival came to an end with the concert called Raat Ke Musafir by Piyush Mishra – the famous theatre and film actor, and singer.

Well, all said about BLF 2016, now let me share my personal experience with BLF. Every year, I eagerly wait for this literary carnival to commence as it always has something special for me. In fact it is a space where “I” can feel “honored” when I see the authors my homeland being invited almost every year to discuss our literature, along with the literary minds across the country. The 4th edition of BLF had a separate session dedicated to the writers of Northeast where Eminent writers of my land including Jahnavi Barua, Mitra Phukan, Dhurba Hazarika, Tayenjoum Bijoykumar Singh and Binalakshmi Nepram from North-east participated in the festival and shared our literature and discussed about socio-political and cultural issues that shape our lives. This year also, we had the opportunity to attend sessions by Arup Kumar Dutta who had participated in the session called “Whose water Is It Anyway: Rivers of India” along with Kalyanaraman Durgadas, Rohini Nilekani and Sanjeev Sanyal and Dr. Veena Srinivasan. Besides, Dutta, who has authored a considerable number of fictions and non-fictions for children of various age groups, had another very interesting and engaging session called “Adventures with Arup Da “with the children in BLF. It was really exciting to see Mr. Dutta addressing all those imagination based quires thrown up by a flock of children. The organizers have done a commendable job by making the audience aware of the rich literature of a land (Northeast) that is often cut off by the mainstream culture/literature.

Overall, BLF 2016 was a great success drawing all – authors, book lovers, scholars, thinkers, and business professionals form various parts of the county and connecting them all under the same platform. Apart from the above-mentioned sessions and discussions, BLF also included many other interesting activities like book-nooks, stand-up comedy, author signing sessions, book launches, tribute to singer and Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, ballet and live music.  Yes, there’s something for everyone in BLF this year! Looking forward to the same enthusiasm in coming years!