While there has been a rapid growth in the sheer number of literary festivals around the country, most of them tend to focus on English literature. International authors are often the star attractions at these events and there is often little or almost no spotlight for regional authors, who are left confined to school textbooks. But two homegrown festivals in the city are slowly working their way towards shifting focus to regional literature. Lit O Fest and Gateway LitFest, both in their third year, have a burgeoning line-up of authors who will engage in talks, panel discussions and book launches.
The Multicultural aspect
Lit O Fest is a not just a literature festival, it’s a multi-cultural event that will be held over two days. The usual panel discussions will be interspersed with dance and music performances. “It is a showcase of Indian culture focusing on arts, music and dance. This year, the festival has adopted a village in Maharashtra called Dahigaon and started a school in it as well. We plan to adopt other villages as well and make them self-sufficient. So it’s not just literature, it’s also literacy in rural India,” says festival director Smita Parikh.
Popular authors such as Anand Neelakantan, Shashi Tharoor, William Dalrymple, Ashwin Sanghi and Shatrujeet Nath will be in attendance. Renowned Hindi authors Kedarnath Singh and Uday Prakash will be felicitated this year at the festival. “Our focus is mostly on Hindi and Urdu writing. The idea is to give a wider platform to Hindi literature and provide it the international status that it deserves. We intend to take this festival abroad. In fact, Dr Mahesh Sharma, union tourism and culture minister, will be part of the event, and we intend to approach him. The idea is to show other countries what we have,” says Parikh.
The festival, which started with the aim to provide budding authors with a platform, now facilitates publishing contracts as well. “When we started the festival, I knew a couple of budding authors who were unable to be part of any literary events. Publishers refused to highlight them until they were really well known. So, we decided that we needed to create a platform where such authors can get noticed,” says Parikh.
Talking about the selection process, the festival director shares, “Once our jury selects the authors, we share their manuscript with the publishers, who later publish the work. This year, our jury consists of author Kiran Manral, actor Tannishtha Chatterjee, author Anjali Kriplani and publisher Akash Shah. In fact, there have been eight publishing contracts in 2015, and 20 manuscripts were identified for publishing in 2016.”
- Lit O Fest will be held on February 23 and February 24, at Grant Medical College Gymkhana, Marine Drive, from 10am to 10pm.
- Gateway LitFest will be held on February 25 and February 26, at Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point, from 11am to 8pm.
Language no bar
Broadening the spectrum, Gateway LitFest focuses on a large number of regional languages. While last year, the focus was on Indian languages that face extinction, this year, it aims to explore script-free languages in India. “We have a session on spoken languages that do not have any script such as Kosli, Konkani, Bhojpuri, Ahirani, Khasi, and Santali. A prominent writer in the Kosli language, Haldhar Nag, a winner of the Padma Shri in 2016, will be felicitated at the event,” says festival director Mohan Kakkanadan.
The theme for this year’s edition is ‘contemporary face of Indian literature’, and it focuses on five Indian languages – Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Punjabi and Malayalam. The attendance roster includes acclaimed personalities such as Jnanpith laureates Kedarnath Singh and Reghuveer Chaudhari, film-maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, poet and DMK leader Kanimozhi, and Bengali writer Subodh Sarkar, along with a long list of celebrated literary figures.
Talking about expanding the festival, Kakkanadan says, “We want to expand beyond Mumbai in the coming years. We plan to hold this festival in other cities and then come to Mumbai as a culmination of the smaller chapters we organise. What we have in mind is something on the lines of a travelling festival. However, there are financial constraints because of which we haven’t been able to do it yet.”