Back from the Bangalore Literature Festival

I’ve been absent from this page in the recent past, but all for a good cause (I think!). Firstly, I’ve been hard at work on the fourth Muzaffar Jang book. Secondly, I’ve been spending some quality time with other authors, readers (and potential readers, I hope) at the Bangalore Literature Festival, 27th-29th September 2013.

A session with Gulzar and Prasoon Joshi at the Bangalore Literature Festival

A session with Gulzar and Prasoon Joshi at the Bangalore Literature Festival

This year’s edition of the festival—the second year it’s been organized—saw 120 authors invited and attending, not to mention others who turned up just in order to meet up with old friends and to join in the fun. There were over 12,000 visitors, with 11 books being released, and a total of 60 events spread over 3 days.

I have to admit that I don’t frequent literary festivals. I prefer to spend my time sitting at home and writing (and/or reading). But this time, since Shinie Antony (who organizes the Bangalore Literature Festival, along with Vikram Sampath) invited me for a session on crime fiction, I figured it was high time I attended one of these dos.

And what a time I had. (Get ready for some name-dropping and gushing, now).

I arrived at Bangalore Airport on the 27th, and was told by the very sweet reception committee that I’d have to wait five minutes for the other author who’d be sharing my cab. Guess who? Nasreen Munni Kabir! (Since I’m so mad about old Hindi cinema, this was like giving me a birthday present, Christmas present, and a just-like-that present, all on the same day).

Nasreen Munni Kabir speaks on 'Writing on Indian Cinema'

Nasreen Munni Kabir speaks on ‘Writing on Indian Cinema’

While we were waiting for our cab, Nasreen (who, by the way, is a lovely, unassuming and friendly person) introduced me to Farhan Akhtar, also in town for the lit fest. Later, during our two hour-drive to our hotel, Nasreen and I had a long conversation touching on everything from Guru Dutt to daastangoi, The Good Road to Edwina Lyons.

Nasreen was on the panel for one of my favourite sessions—‘Writing on Indian Cinema’—which also featured Sidharth Bhatia, the author of my so-far-favourite book on Hindi cinema, Cinema Modern: The Navketan Story.

Sharmishtha Guptoo, Nasreen Munni Kabir, MK Raghavendra, Sidharth Bhatia and Baradwaj Rangan in a panel discussion on cinema writing

Sharmishtha Guptoo, Nasreen Munni Kabir, MK Raghavendra, Sidharth Bhatia and Baradwaj Rangan in a panel discussion on cinema writing

This session wasn’t the most popular one of the festival (that distinction was reserved for a session on Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, with ‘Is economic development a garb for hard right politics?: The Gujarat Model’ being perhaps the session that sparked off the most fireworks).

But, more of the good stuff. I made friends with some wonderful people I’d never met before. Poets Shikha Malviya and Vibha Rani, for instance (who are with me in the photo below; if you look closely, you can see that we’ve managed to bully the photographer into including the legendary Gulzar Sahib in the frame).

With Shikha Malaviya and Vibha Rani - and Gulzar in the background

With Shikha Malaviya and Vibha Rani – and Gulzar in the background

I finally managed to meet Sidharth Bhatia. And got to know Farah Ghuznavi, Piyush Jha, Ashok Ferrey, Vikas Singh, and others.

With friends - Shikha Malaviya and Piyush Jha, on Day 2 of the fest

With friends – Shikha Malaviya and Piyush Jha, on Day 2 of the fest

I got to attend sessions on everything from the challenges and the nuances of translations, to what it takes to be a bestseller, to—of course—crime and fantasy fiction. This session, on the 27th, featured me alongside Anita Nair and Nilanjana Roy, in a panel discussion moderated by Sumeet Shetty. Besides the relatively formal questions about how crime fiction reflects society (and vice-versa), the pitfalls of writing about crime, and so on, Sumeet posed one unusual question: had we ever wanted to murder someone?  Since I’d just gotten off a plane crammed with about 50 especially rude and noisy people who had irritated the life out of me, that was a no-brainer.

I attended sessions, chatted with friends old and new, and laughed when an enthralled Gulzar fan told the great poet, “Main aapko apne iPod mein carry karta hoon” (“I carry you in my iPod”), to which Gulzar sweetly responded, “Mujhe apni auqaat pata chal gayi” (“Now I know my stature”).

I drank loads of coffee. I signed some books. I bought some books (one of which, Lifelines, I’ve already read and am still raving about—it’s one of the best anthologies I’ve read in recent years).

Vikram Sampath, William Dalrymple, Nirmala Lakshman and Anjum Katyal on the anatomy of literary festivals

Vikram Sampath, William Dalrymple, Nirmala Lakshman and Anjum Katyal on the anatomy of literary festivals

And I figured that if I ever get invited to any of the other 63 literary festivals held in India annually, I will probably accept. Going by the Bangalore festival, this can be a lot of fun. Not to mention exhilarating.

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12 thoughts on “Back from the Bangalore Literature Festival

  1. lovely gushing and oh, how envious am I of some of those names, and have learnt a few new ones as well! You keep going if you are going to write about them afterwards!!

  2. Yes, Bawa – I think if I’m going to continue to meet people like these, I shall probably become a bit of a fixture at lit fests!
    (By the way, I also spent a solid five hours – a very satsifying five hours – with someone who isn’t actually a literary figure, but whom I’d been looking forward to meeting: fellow blogger Raja Swaminathan).

  3. It was SO much fun meeting you, Madhu. Am glad you had a good time. And, importantly, got to meet a lot of fellow writers and make friends. You should attend more lit fests – not just for your own sake but also for the sake of readers and visitors. I’m pretty sure they’d like to know more about you and read your books. So it is for everybody’s benefit.

  4. That was so interesting, Madhu.

    Farhan Akhtar!!!! Excuse my choice of person to exclaim about, among all the other stalwarts you met. :-/
    But, Farhan Akhtar!!!

    I’m actually quite excited that you met Nasreen Munni Kabir…. and of course, Raja :-)

    Yes, do keep going, Madhu. Your enthusiasm is catching.

  5. Such a lovely account of your time in Bangalore. You got to meet some interesting people.

    You know, Shinie Antony is my favorite short story writer. I read her book, Barefoot and Pregnant off a library, and was so impressed by it, that I bought a copy. Her stories are rather stark, but so visceral.

    Nasreen Munni Kabir, Siddharth and I second Pacifist, Farhan Akhtar!!!! Swoon! I could swoon over Gulzar as well. :)

    Please do keep attending such festivals, we want to get more of these insider accounts.

  6. Raja, I echo the sentiment: it was SO much fun meeting YOU! Honestly, that was one major consideration when I decided to accept the invitation – the thought that I’d get to meet some people I really like (sadly, one author whom I particularly wanted to meet – my mum’s best friend, Swapna Dutta – wasn’t in town right then). Very selfish of me, I know. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles. ;-)

  7. pacifist: I know, I know! And Farhan Akhtar happened to be one of the three ‘authors’ I first met when I arrived in Bangalore. He seemed quite nice, and Nasreen told me that he doesn’t have any of those starry airs you’d expect of an actor like him. I didn’t get a chance to attend the ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ session because I was too busy giving an interview and then getting ready for my own session, sadly.

  8. Ava: You know, Shinie was the first person to have read anything of Muzaffar Jang. I first met her when both of us won prizes at the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association’s Short Story Competition, in 2002. Shinie won the regional prize that year, I won an honourable mention. I’d begun writing what was later to be known as The Englishman’s Cameo, and Shinie offered to read the first chapter. I am glad to say she liked it. :-) (Later, though, when it was published, my editor made me change the beginning to make it more dramatic). I haven’t read Barefoot and Pregnant, but I know what you mean about Shinie’s writing being visceral – I have read some of her stories, they’re quite unforgettable.

  9. Madhulika, it was so much fun attending the session ‘Partners in Crime Fiction and Fantasy’ at the Bangalore Literature Festival.

    It was a treat to watch you, Anita Nair and Nilanjana Roy. You’d have made a terrific trio of Charlie’s Angels!

    The moderator for your session (Sumeet Shetty) was especially good. He brought out the best in all of you! I’ve attended several sessions anchored by him in Bangalore, and he always seems to be full of surprises.

    Can you help me get in touch with him?

    I’m glad I attended the festival, and got to see you in action!

  10. I’m turning green and blue with envy here, Madhu. :) Gulzar? Nasreen Munni Kabir? Gulzar? (I’ve worked with Siddharth, so that’s okay, for now. *grin*) Please do keep going to such literary fests! It’s a vicarious pleasure to read about it (and see the photographs).

  11. Hi Sanjana,

    Thanks! Yes, the Bangalore Lit Fest was so much fun, wasn’t it? And I especially liked the fact that Sumeet anchored it – I’ve interacted with him frequently on mail before (and his enthusiasm for books is SO very infectious), it was a pleasure to finally get to meet him. I’ll send you a mail separately with his mail address.

  12. Anu, thanks! (Okay, for me meeting Sidharth was a big thing in itself, but I can understand why you would slot an ex-colleague as a ghar ki murgi) ;-) The next time I get invited to another lit fest, I’m going.

    PS. Guess what? In that last sentence, I actually first wrote ‘film fest’, then corrected it. Just goes to show…

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