… and back from the Pune Lit Fest

As I’ve mentioned earlier (nearly a year ago, to be precise), I am – despite being an author and not an absolute recluse – not really one of the regulars at Literary Festivals. Which, if you’re keeping track, are now a staple event in the post-monsoon calendar of almost every Indian city worth its salt. Good, I say, but I go to very few of them, and only when I really feel like it.

This time, I got an invitation for the Pune International Literary Festival, September 18-20, 2014. Would I be interested, asked Dr Manjiri Prabhu (the director), in being part of a panel discussion on detective fiction? Considering home-grown detective fiction (I’m not talking Christie, Rankin, and the like) invariably takes a backseat when it comes to the average Indian reader – who, if bookstore displays are to be believed, is more likely to jump at mythology, self-help, or coming-of-age books – well, considering that, I figured anything I could do to help further the cause of Indian detective fiction was work well done.

The Pune International Literary Festival, 2014

The Pune International Literary Festival, 2014

So, yes: I went for the PILF. Only, sadly, for one day (the 19th, which was when I had my panel discussion), but a day well spent. The PILF’s venue was the MIT, an old and sprawling institute in the halls of which a variety of panel discussions, workshops, book launches and other literary events were organized. Besides a number of events centred round Marathi literature, there were events focussing on just about every genre, from children’s literature to film writing, humour to young adult literature. Erotica, management literature, spirituality. Detective fiction.

With only a day to spend at the Lit Fest (and what with sessions being held simultaneously at different venues), I had a tough time deciding what to attend. Finally, I ended up attending two sessions, both very different from each other, and both very interesting in their own way. The first, The Female Lead, had Nadi Palshikar as moderator and was, of course, about literature that focuses on women. After introducing the panelists and letting them talk about their writing, Nadi decided to involve the audience and make the discussion a question-driven one. It was like opening the floodgates. There were so many young women standing up and talking about themselves, their mothers, their triumphs and frustrations and achievements, that by the time a man (one of the very few in the room) asked, “Is there a need for a session like this?”), it was pretty obvious: yes, women do need a voice. Many voices.

At the panel discussion on The Female Lead.

At the panel discussion on The Female Lead.

The next session I attended couldn’t have been more different: Management Literature, with Sujata Khanna as moderator, and two panelists – Vasudev Murthy and Shubh Vilas Das. The good bit here was that we had two very different panelists. Shubh Vilas Das, in his saffron robes, focuses on spirituality and what management lessons the Gita or the Ramayana have to impart. Vasudev Murthy, who’s written How Organisations Really Work (no, not driven by spirituality, but more the way I remember them from my days in the corporate world!), is somewhat different. This session took me back to my days as a manager, and had me nodding at a lot of the stuff I heard (especially the rather more cynical stuff).

At the Management Literature session.

At the Management Literature session.

And then, our discussion. Changing Trends in Detective Fiction was moderated by Piyush Jha, with Zac O’Yeah, Vasudev Murthy (yes, he writes detective fiction too! A good manager should be able to multitask?), and me. The slightly flustered MC – flustered, no doubt, because this bunch of loons suddenly decided to demand cups of tea – forgot to introduce me and had to be reminded (not by me). After that, though, and with tea gulped down, we had a good time, a lively discussion. Piyush had prepared his questions well, and had structured them well. No leaving anything open-ended for the garrulous to blabber on and on about (not, I hasten to add, that I think Vasudev or Zac are of that bent).

We had some interesting facts, some hopes and dreams emerging from this discussion. With Scandinavian crime writers suddenly getting so popular in the US – and Mexican crime writers too – it means that the US and UK are beginning to look outwards, towards more exotic settings, for crime fiction. May Indian crime fiction have a chance, then? What can we do to tailor Indian crime fiction for Western audiences (do we even need to?) Where is Indian crime fiction – with Indians as its main target audience – headed? Can we hope for adaptations to other media, that can help popularize this genre?

And more. We had just enough time to allow a few questions from the audience, and that was it. A satisfying session, as I told Piyush later.

Anyway, till the next Lit Fest (and there’s another one, very different, that I’ll be attending in two weeks’ time. More about that when it happens). Much fun was had, I got to meet some old friends, and finally met, in person, some people I’ve only known through Facebook for the past few years.

Ramesh Menon signs the authors' board while Manjiri Prabhu looks on.

Ramesh Menon signs the authors’ board while Manjiri Prabhu looks on.

And I came away charged up to start plotting my next Muzaffar Jang novel. The current one goes to my editor next week, and will hopefully be released in February 2015.

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12 thoughts on “… and back from the Pune Lit Fest

  1. Must have been quite an experience, I remember you attended the Bangalore one too, I would love to attend such fests, but these fests usually have the wonderful knack of being held when I am always busy doing something else and am unable to find the time.

    • Incidentally, Shilpi, at the Pune Lit Fest, a friend of mine was saying that two of the best literary festivals in India are held in Bombay – Times Literary Carnival and the Kala Ghoda Festival. I can never manage to make time to go, on my own and uninvited, to any of these fests, so I do understand your predicament, though.

    • I just wish I’d been able to go for longer, Anu – there were so many sessions I wanted to attend!

      What I really liked about both this festival as well as the Bangalore one last year is that they make it a point to be as broad-based as possible. None of that snobbery of focussing only on literary fiction, and stuff. There was everything here from Harry Potter to crime fiction (yes, more sessions on crime fiction than merely the one I was in), to humour and fantasy. If you read books – any books – you’d probably find something here to interest you. Which I think is very important, given the sad state of reading in this country.

  2. Changing Trends in Detective Fiction” sounds like a session I would have loved to attend, too. :-) Did you guys decide where the Indian crime fiction is headed? And is there any likelihood of it being adapted in movies/TV series? I’d love a decent Indian detective series on TV.

    So glad to know there is more Muzaffar Jung on the way. Is the upcoming one a novel?

    • We were hopeful that Indian crime fiction – or, specifically, Indian crime fiction writing in English – was looking up. (It certainly has come a long way since I first wrote The Englishman’s Cameo – even though it’s only been 6 years, the scene has changed considerably: lots more writers, lots more detectives, more readers). Piyush Jha said that his series – the detective is an Inspector Virkar – is going to be made into a TV series too.

      And yes, the next Muzaffar Jang book is going to be a novel. It was supposed to be a book of short stories, originally, but then the editor said a novel would be more saleable… so. :-)

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