Written by Sadaf Inamdar
The Pune International Literary Festival began on a high note as renowned poet, lyricist and screenwriter Javed Akhtar inaugurated the event amid much fanfare on Friday. The seventh edition of the festival, with over 120 speakers in its line-up, kicked off at the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration on Baner Road.
The three-day literary extravaganza has been organised on the theme of ‘Save Our Earth’, with particular emphasis on climate change. Several sessions and a ‘social pavilion’ will address the subject. This year’s author exhibition, meanwhile, is on Rebecca creator and mystery romance writer Daphne du Maurier.
Akhtar, in his keynote address, hailed the role of literature, especially in today’s times. “In the race for material prosperity, and catching the train of success, we have left some baggage at the platform. This is literature, tradition, culture, language and ethics. It is encouraging to see an overwhelming majority of young people who realise that there is some disconnect and are working towards the revival of what we have lost”.
Akhtar went on to say that literature has the power to make the world a better and a more united place. “It is ostensibly paradoxical, although true, that literature teaches us how different people are, but at the same time makes one realise how all human beings are the same. In a world of binaries, it tells us that there is no ‘them’, it is all ‘us’,” he said.
“Language has shrunk and our connection with literature has been severed. Writers are the historians of the common man. Reading good literature gives you a developed sense of beauty; it is something that teaches you to reject injustice because it is ugly, to reject exploitation because it is ugly. Never has the value of literature been more crucial than it is today,” added Akhtar.
One of the highlights of the first day of the festival was a special session — ‘Yours Truly, Javed Akhtar’ — a ‘spoken biography’. The famous lyricist recounted stories of his struggle in Mumbai and his work with screenwriter Salim Khan. He also spoke about religion and the rise of communalism in the country.
Author Manjiri Prabhu, founder-director of the festival, said PILF was giving young writers and poets a platform to kickstart their careers. Vishwakarma Publications chief Trupti Agarwal, another organiser, urged the audience to encourage the youth to read thought-provoking material.
Other highlights of the first day were ‘Reaching for the soul- Stories of Human Interest’ and ‘Yours Truly, Abid Surti’.