Monday, January 21, 2013

The Hyderabad Literary Festival 2013

The 3rd edition of Hyderabad Literary Festival kicked off at the Maulana Azad Urdu University, Gachibowli, on the 18th of January 2013. The event got off to a high profile start with the Governor of Andhra Pradesh Shri E.S.L.Narasimhan inaugurating it. Several writers of national and international repute gathered on the new University campus, right next to the ring road, where the trees are all between three and five foot high. I was to be in conversation with popular novelist and writer Anita Nair, in the post lunch sleepy session on the first day.

The first thing that strikes you about the University is the total lack of shade (mainly owing to its newness). Hyderabad is rather warm already and this lack of shade makes all movement between buildings rather uncomfortable. The first people we met as we entered the HLF were two of the best - Krishna Shastry Devulapalli and his lovely wife Chitra - and life sped on to a nice, racy, fun, repartee and laughter mode after that. There's never a dull moment with Krishna around and we decided to find some place to get some chai.

We were directed to a canteen, a ten minute walk away, by Vijay Kumar, good friend and key person in the organization of the HLF. Vijay hurried off to deal with the many issues of running a Lit Fest while we sat in the canteen sipping chai, discussing books, authors, festivals, editors, publishers etc. At about 1 p.m. we walked along the sunny, stark, newly laid roads towards the VIP lounge for lunch. Met Rajeevan and Dilip D' Souza, who is always good fun. Spotted Sridala with Ranjit Hoskote. Anita and I headed back to the centre for our 2'O clock show but since most people were still at lunch and the program had got delayed a bit, we had to wait for a good half hour before the talk got on.

It was good to see Akshara Book Store marking its presence there. I love Akshara Book Store - Lakshmi hosted so many fine book launches and kept the book reading scene in Hyderabad vibrant for many years before the big chains came and commercialised the story. I do hope Lakshmi gets back to doing those events - Akshara always had a nice energy to it.

Back at the event, we discussed Anita's prolific writing (she had 14 books in 15 years of writing), how she manages to write so much, the quality of her writing, the range (short stories collection (Satyr of the Subway), novels (The Better Man, Ladies Coupe, Mistress, Lessons in Forgetting and Cut Like Wound), 4 Children's Books, Translation (Chemmeen), Screenplays, a Play, how she manages to easily slip into the dark sides of her characters, whether it was easier to write novels or screenplays, the process of writing, the discipline the goes into it, the way the publishing industry is progressing, new writing in English and so on. She read from her book 'Lessons In Forgetting' which has been made into an award winning English film with the same name, for which she wrote screenplay and dialogue as well. (The movie is scheduled for a release by PVR Cinemas in March 2013.) By now we were already pushing into other people's time and we had to wind up quickly after a few questions from the audience.

Anita spoke about how she is a full time writer, post her advertising days, and how she writes everyday with a lot of discipline which is why she gets much work done. She explained that writing is a process she really enjoys and looks forward to everyday - she loves going to her desk to write every day (she writes in long hand). On the quality of writing she said, she does not get started on the writing process unless she is clear about the idea, about getting the story moving from A to Z in a broad structure. She explained that she writes in scenes, a scene each day, which makes her novels visual. She spoke about how important it was to give oneself up to the character and not put oneself and one's own thoughts and limitations in the way. Anita said it was important to be honest to the process. When asked if there was a lot of honesty in Indian Writing in English, she said that there was perhaps not as much as she would like to see out there. Responding to a question on how long it might take us, as a society to accept ourselves and get honest with our repressed emotions such as love, sex, violence or anything else, she said it could take about a decade for our writing to get there. While on screenplays versus novels, she said each was a different medium, but she said she'd always prefer novels. She has her own dedicated set of readers and is more in control of the process, whereas with a screenplay a lot of external factors come into play, and it could change according to the director's vision. On her new novel 'Cut Like Wound' she said there were some queries to make it into a movie too. And so on and so forth. Writers Vanaja Banagiri, Krishna Sastry Devulapalli and a few others interacted with her before we ended the show. I'll probably try and get her interview in a separate Q and A form in another post.

I met Jayesh Ranjan, IAS Officer, and the earlier Secretary of Andhra Pradesh Tourism, who is just back from study leave. A major culture and sports buff and a wonderful person, he is one of the few who makes a positive difference wherever he goes. We also had artists and poets in Chandana Khan and Tejdeep Kaur Menon, senior IAS and IPS officers, who participated in the Festival too. With such people in the Government and people like Surya and Vijay, supported by a whole lot of well wishers including Shankar Melkote and the Little Theatre, the HLF is in good hands. However, I must say that the last version of HLF had more romance and more interaction primarily because the space at Taramati Baradari was contained in a smaller place. Of course its a bit out of the way but its very romantic too.

This edition had several writers and poets - Anita Nair, Vaiju Naravane, Rajeevan, Dileep Jhaveri, Satchidanandan, Ranjit Hoskote, Tabish Khair, Sridala, Vinod Mehta, Krishna Sastry Devulapalli and so many more. A good show once again by the HLF team. The Hyderabad Literary Festival is new and still evolving and I am sure it can only get bigger and better in years to come.


Rajendra said...

One of these days, I will attend it.

Harimohan said...

Oh you should Raja. It's fun just to hang out and listen to the sessions and meet the writers. Maybe you should go to Jaipur Lit Fest too - closer to Delhi and the biggest of them all. Some fantastic writers. It's starting later this week - on the 25th.