Seated beside Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the inauguration of Kolkata International Book Fairs 36th edition,Italian author and columnist Beppe Severgnini might have unwittingly reiterated the Opposition and critics primary grouse against the Trinamool Congress-led government,but the inauguration programme of the fair,like several cultural events in the recent past was a Mamata Banerjee show all the way.
Severgnini,while talking about his country in his inaugural speech pointed out how cultural ascendancy doesnt take a state too far,probably referring to the economic mess that Italy was under the Berlusconi-led government. Leonardo Da Vinci and Vivaldi are very good,but they are not going to return public debt. It is very important for a state to have discipline in functioning, said Severgnini. While critics might be snapping their fingers at the irony of the statement made in the presence of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee,Commerce and Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee,the inauguration had all the hallmarks of poriborton like Banerjee has been stamping on most cultural events since she assumed office.
Banerjee declared that like work has been commissioned by the government to commemorate the 150 th birth anniversary of Tagore,Nazrul Islams compositions too will be compiled into a series. Islams daughter Kalyani Kazi was present at the inauguration. Poriborton made its way into the fair also in the way of the unveiling of a book penned by Banerjee. Apart from the book named Poriborton,an anthology of poems written by Banerjee and a memoir titled My Unforgettable Memories brought out by Roli Books. A collection of Banerjees photographs titled the The Eternal She was also published on the occasion. The usual suspects of Banerjees culture entourage Krishna Bose and painter Suvaprasanna spoke at length about Banerjees writing endeavours. She has written close to 30 books now. She is an extremely talented artist, said Bose. Excerpts from Banerjees book in English were read out to the gathering.
I had heard that the previous government had tried to do a sarkari (government) book fair once. However,it was not successful. The guild has been doing the fair for so long and they are doing a good job. They have our support. The Kolkata Literary Meet never happened in Kolkata before,it has started this year. I will try and make sure it happens every year, said Banerjee.
The buzz around the fair,with 50 less stalls this time,is mostly surrounding the meet. The meet,organized by Gameplan as an extension of the fair,will be held in an auditorium in Milan Mela grounds itself and will witness a series of seminars which can be attended by people who have registered beforehand. A creative writing contest has also been introduced as a part of the meet and has received a sizeable number of entries.
The professional sheen was evident in the inauguration itself with opening and closing performances by students from the Calcutta School of Music. Which was followed up by a performance of composer Santanu Moitra ,singers Kaushiki Desikan and Monali Thakur. The trio sang the new theme song Moitra has created for the fair. A video which captures the essence of literature in Kolkata and fair through hand shadowgraph was also screened while unveiling the logo of the Kolkata Literary meet. Interestingly,two years ago percussionist Bickram Ghosh had also composed a theme song for the fair which wasnt mentioned or played in this edition.