A FEW days before the 10th edition of the Tata Lit Live! Literary Festival, director of the festival Anil Dharker tells us that he does not have a single favourite memory from the festival from the last decade — he has several. “The first is when we gave the lifetime achievement award to Mahasweta Devi in 2011. The standing ovation she received went on for so long that it still gives me goosebumps. When we gave her the cheque, she said it was for the slum kids she knew,” Dharker says.
Beginning on Thursday afternoon and ending on November 17, the four-day festival features over 100 speakers, including Alexander McCall Smith, Anthony Horowitz, Monica Ali, Tracy Chevalier, William Dalrymple, Manu S Pillai, Perumal Murugan, Jayant Kaikini, Shanta Gokhale; artists Appupen and Dave McKean, accompanied by journalists and writers, such as Annie Zaidi, Meenal Baghel, Jerry Pinto, among others.
While the festival began at its primary venue, National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), the last few years have witnessed the festival grow out of South Mumbai, and gradually spread to the western suburbs. “Three years ago, we added Prithvi Theatre as one of our venues to host a number of performances; later, we added St Paul’s Institute and the Title Waves bookstore in Bandra. I know a lot of people may think the NCPA to be a cloistered, elitist space but we’ve watched it really blossom in all these years,” says Dharker, adding, “all these institutions are making a private effort. We’re doing as much as we can but things have to change. Why does development not include culture? Is that a priority for the government? It is not and that is a tragedy for the country.”
The programming, too, is testimony to the ways in which the festival has grown — three years ago, a line snaked outside the Godrej Dance Theatre as people waited for hours to watch Anurag Kashyap perform Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit, Red Rabbit.
This year, there is a buzz about Roland Jurczok or ‘Jurczok 1001’, a Swiss spoken word artist, singer and performer, who is among Switzerland’s spoken word pioneers and has released six albums. He will perform from Spoken Beats, a collection of his spoken word texts from the last 10 years, at both NCPA and Prithvi Theatre.
The festival also presents a number of awards. While Gokhale, who recently released her memoir, One Foot on the Ground: A Life Told Through the Body, will be honoured with the Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award 2019, poet K Satchidanandan will receive the Poet Laureate Award.
The Book of the Year nominees include Upamanyu Chatterjee, Tishani Doshi, Uzma Aslam Khan and Raj Kamal Jha, Chief Editor, The Indian Express. The non-fiction shortlist includes Tony Joseph, Ramachandra Guha, and Gautam Bhatia. Awards for the Best First Book, fiction and non-fiction, will also be announced.
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