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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