BANGALORE: The third edition of the Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF) which opened on Friday underscored the literary diversity of the city.
Shobhaa De, writer of racy novels and socialite columns, was among those who praised the literary spirit of Bangalore. “I have been to festivals across India, lit fests across the world. But I have to say, there’s something about the Bangalore Lit Fest that makes it exceptional.”
She said the Bangalore festival was non-commercial, democratic, and gave a platform for “voices that we don’t hear at other lit fests, and voices that speak their minds fearlessly.” She said Bangalore also provided a receptive audience.
Like De, who has been part of BLF since the first edition, bestselling author and screenwriter Chetan Bhagat also had good things to say.
“When Shinie Antony (one of the founders) told me about the idea of starting a lit fest here, I thought to myself the city favours IT. Maybe an Android Developers Conference or a Java Coding Weekend would be more apt. Or at most, a traffic festival,” he said. In just three years, he said the festival had become one of the most popular events in the city.
This year, the festival is dedicated to the memory of U R Ananthamurthy, the Kannada literary legend who died recently.
On the lawns in three corners of Crowne Plaza in Electronics City, panel discussions were held at makeshift tents named after three of Ananthamurthy’s greatest books.
Bhagat, often described as a ‘youth icon’, was in conversation with Antony about the predominance of strong women characters in his books.
“I like women who are smart, intellectual, passionate. That is why no woman in my stories is a prop. Every single one is opinionated,” Chetan Bhagat said.
His sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes self-deprecating humour left the audience in splits. Among other things, he also discussed how he had become such a widely spoken-about author.
That came about not because he is the best author, he said, but because he is the bestselling author. “There are different types of writers and I write about real people, ordinary middle class life, not running away from people. That makes me a little more visible. And I do have good marketing skills. So maybe that’s the reason why you hear more about me than everyone else.”
Dhruba Hazarika, Pradyot Manikya Deb Burman and Binalakshmi Nepram spoke about the problems of the North-East.
‘Does India neglect its eight sisters?’ was the theme of a session. Binalakshmi rued, “How do you define the North-East? It is a jungle you can exploit, a place where people eat everything that moves. If it is a man, he must be a drug addict and if it is a woman, she must be morally loose — these are the perceptions that are spiralling in today’s India.”
She explained the region is home to 45 million citizens, belonging to different ethnic groups, and a place where oil was first found in India.
In a similar vein, a session on ‘Minority Report’ delved into the idea of secularism. One of the questions raised was, ‘Do we need a minority commission at all?’
Answering in the affirmative, poet Keki Daruwala said, “We may have excellent laws but if the implementation is not satisfactory, it does not hold good.”
Writers Vasudhendra, K S Pavitra and H N Arathi addressed concerns about Kannada literature. Titled ‘Hosa Chiguru — New Voices in Kannada’, the discussion focused on how to promote the language not only in schools and colleges but also in art, dance, poetry and music.