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Khan do spirit and more

Between the moment Imran Khan sat down on the stage and when he started to speak, a veritable riot of media photographers had broken out inside the packed hall at the Kolkata Literary Meet (KLM).

books Updated: Jan 30, 2012 19:51 IST

Between the moment Imran Khan sat down on the stage and when he started to speak, a veritable riot of media photographers had broken out inside the packed hall at the Kolkata Literary Meet (KLM). I asked Vikram Seth who was sitting a couple of chairs next to me whether he’d ever faced such mob frenzy. “No and thank god!” he replied while standing up to follow the almost-out-of-hand melée. A bemused Khan watched the pushing and shouting going on below him and it was a full 15 minutes before he spoke, but not sitting on the seat next to the session’s moderator sports writer-novelist Rahul Bhattacharya but behind the more solid safety of a lectern. As if to close the session in the same style as it started, the lights at the hall went off even as Khan was still standing behind the lectern. He was soon shepherded away by the organisers under the cover of a Kolkata-trademarked power outage.

MARKET FORCES

Amish Tripathi, author of The Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas, is a big believer in writer’s role in marketing his own books.

Considering that the best-selling author collected a fair number of rejection slips before self-publishing the first book of his ‘Shiva’ trilogy, perhaps this ex-banker is more than well-equipped to market his own books. But in a session with Rahul Bhattacharya, the author of the critically-acclaimed The Sly Company of People Who Care, Tripathi shocked the audience on Sunday when he told them how a PR firm had planned to “create controversy” about his first book to make it more saleable — which he rejected outright. Later in the evening, I asked him about the PR firm’s plan. “Well, they wanted to get some 10-20 people to burn the book and get publicity. They even told me that not too many people would be required as the TV camera makes a dozen people protesting look like a much bigger crowd. My wife and I were shocked and told them to not bother,” Tripathi said. He went on to tell me that as a serious devotee of Shiva, the thought of his book where Shiva is the protagonist being burned was appalling. I was left wondering where I could get hold of this PR firm for my own nefarious purposes.

VERY CLOSE TO THE EDITOR

Rahul Bhattacharya, reading out a hilarious passage from his novel about the worried exchange of words between drunken Guyanese men about homosexuals (“battyman”)in their midst, confessed that he doesn't have the skills or mindset to focus on the marketing aspects of his books. Instead, he prefers to put his trust on such matters in his publishers.

Bhattacharya is serious about trusting his publisher, so serious that he ended up marrying his. His wife, former Picador India editor and now Bhattacharya's agent, Shruti Debi, was seen furiously nodding in agreement in the front row.

FUTURE CLASSIC ROCK

Many of the sessions at the KLM didn’t quite draw the crowds of the Kolkata Book Fair of which the lit fest is a part of. But on Sunday, people surged into the venue to listen to what certainly was the most popular session of KLM yet. ‘Aajker Kothok: Bangla Gaaner Karigor’ (Today’s Voices: Craftsmen of Bengali Songs) saw the big guys of Bengali 'new wave’ music chat, argue, joke about the current Bengali music scene. Lyricist, compose and singer Anupam Roy pointed out how in the past, love songs would talk about the woman’s eyes, nails, feet - everything but the real thing “which the Beatles had sang about without beating about the bushes in 'I want to hold your hand'". Roy went on to say that the new strand of Bengali song-writing now did talk about "wanting the girl" more directly.

But the last word came from popular columnist and lyricist Chandril Bhattacharya (who, in my opinion, happens to be the most acerbic, creative and brilliant newspaper columnist in the country). A member of the audience told the panellists that unlike the Bengali songs of SD Burman, Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi and other 'giants' of the past, no one will remember the songs by the present bunch of lyricists and singers. "Their works are still alive and being sung 30 years after they were made," the gentleman said. Bhattacharya, who incidentally told the audience that the music is far more important to a song than its lyrics, shot back, "I don't agree. Talk to me in 30 years." And the hall erupted with genuine cheer.