Money vs mind: Is commercialism hurting JLF 2015?

  • Subuhi Parvez, Hindustan Times, Jaipur
  • Updated: Jan 20, 2016 17:06 IST

With its impressive line-up of authors, thinkers and celebs, the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival at Jaipur's Diggi Palace is just the kind of place where you can't help but fall in love with books. That is, only if the in-your-face sponsors' banners could leave some visual relief for you to think literature.

Even more incongruous is the range of the sponsors -- you find everything from Aamazon to Rajnigandha here. With the numbers only increasing with each edition of the festival, many feel it is hampering the image of the festival.

Director of the festival, William Dalrymple, justifies the presence of so many sponsors, “One thing we’re clear about is that we don’t want to charge people to attend the festival. When we call authors like VS Naipaul, we pay for their visit and for that we need sponsors,” he says.

The spike in numbers, he adds, only reflects the increasing popularity of the festival. “Finding authors has never been a problem, finding brands is,” Dalrymple says.

Many others, though, look at it differently and say the festival's losing its authenticity as India's premier literature festival. Both the literati and local regulars feel the five-day fest has started looking more like a celeb-fuelled event than a literary meet.

“Things have changed from what started as a ‘literary’ festival in 2006. It has become more of a glam show,” says Kavita, a local. “It was more real when only 15 of us used to interact with writers one-on-one,” she adds.

Vijay Raghav, an author, adds, “Honestly, being an author myself, the sessions are not much of a value-add. The speakers are more interested in portraying their political image here. It looks like a mela.”

Dalrymple says the festival was accused of this image conflict even before it started. Says he: “We didn’t choose Rajnigandha. They are sublet to us through Zee. I believe as long as it isn’t unethical, there is no harm in any brand. I am grateful to them for coming forth and I welcome them with open arms.”

Many among the visitors are not so ‘welcoming’ though. “I’m sure they’re giving a lot of money to the festival. Thankfully they’re not distributing packets here,” says Shobha Vishwanath, a publisher.?

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