This was the first time I went for this festival. I got to know only a few months ago that last year Gulzar Saab came to Bangalore, gave a public appearance, and I missed it. So this time I had decided to finally see him. Yep, that was the first and foremost reason for going to the literature festival.
Anyway, the reason told, here is some idea of what I saw on day one.
The day had to begin at ten in the morning, but I was a little early. Deliberately, though I had no plans as to what I’d do there. Things were slightly late too, and the opening ceremony began something around 1020-1030.
There, after the Dollukunita dance, Chandrashekhara Kambara, a Kannada poet-playwright presented a small good-wish speech, while Nabaneeta Dev Sen objected to the use of word ‘bhasha’ as just regional languages in India. Ramchandra Guha gave a little Tamil-in-Bangalore lesson and Ashok Vajpeyi tried to keep the mood light with his short-light talks. Finally when Christoph Bertrams was selling us some Seagull books after Vikram’s someone-even-postponed-his-wedding-for-this-event story, we decided to take a round of book stall, with my G-Mitra Mohit Kataria there too.
After finding and not finding some books, we sat for a few minutes to hear the panel discussion on ‘Vision for India’ but heard only some views of Mohandas Pai, before we were out for something again. And then around 1245 it was Sri Sri Ravi Shankar whose full session was watched. The session was okay, but some of the questions from the public were so ordinary that they made Sri Sri look like a genius there.
Around two, it was Bollywood time. Rakeysh Mehra, Prasoon Joshi and Farhan Akhtar were there for a session and Bhawana Somaaya had a good time talking to them, as did the audiences, where Rakeysh said Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was ‘not a true blue biopic’ but an inspired story. Prasoon talked about things that would have been as shown in the movie, had they been at all, taking the example of the scene where Divya Dutta wears Milkha’s India jacket, and Farhan even had to sing four not-so-sureelee lines with an to-the-core besuree audience. It was Rock On title song, if you must know.
After that, it was directly THE session that we attended. It was Gulzar, Ashok Vajpeyi, and Nabaneeta Dev Sen, with Moderator K. Satchidanandan. After the launch of ‘Hindi for Hearts’, it was Nabaneeta ji who took the mic and spoke about how she felt local languages were being threatened by English. While Mr Vajpeyi and Satchidanandan were in agreement with her to an extent, Gulzar almost completely went against the belief that our youngsters did not understand the language, as he began his first words after almost 45-50 minutes of debate among the rest three:
And the thunderous clap told he was understood by everyone, proving his point. Though Nabaneeta ji could not completely bring herself to agree that local languages aren’t threatened. One of the good points made by Ashok ji was that English destroyed the languages of Native Americans and Native Africans where they went, but it didn’t happen in case of India.
The evening also saw David Davidar and Kapish Mehra talking about Commercial and Literary Writing in India with Nilanjana Roy where Kapish asserted that literary could not be commercial was a ‘misconceived notion.’ However, this birthday celebration of David saw pretty small numbers.
The last session for the day was a quite interesting, but kind of class-like one with William Dalrymple on Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi where he covered the paintings of and supported by various Mughal emperors in their times. Unfortunately it was when I had to leave and I couldn’t attend more than twenty minutes of that session.
To say in short, the first day of the festival was fun, exciting, and in a way fulfilling. Hope to have fun during the rest of the two days too.