No edition of the Tata Literature Live! Mumbai LitFest has ever had an official theme, and this year is no different. Anil Dharkar, founder and director of the festival, says this is because the planning of the festival begins months in advance. “If you decide on a theme so early, you’ll find that by the time the festival begins, actual events in the country have overtaken that particular subject and it’s become outdated,” he says.
Nonetheless, scanning through the schedule of this year’s edition, which begins on October 29, it is hard to miss what looks like the unofficial theme of the festival — the various fissures in Indian society, which are increasingly becoming a cause for concern.
Dharker agrees, “We try to keep the festival as broad-based as possible, so that it has a wider appeal. Unfortunately, the country is going through such an upheaval at the moment, that unless you’re an ostrich with your head in the ground, you can’t miss what’s happening. So these concerns will reflect in the festival programming.” Many of the discussions scheduled this time, therefore, ask questions such as what it means to be truly Indian and why is cultural intolerance growing in the country.
The festival will see the participation of writers such as Nayantara Sahgal, DBC Pierre, Kiran Nagarkar, Vikram Seth, Mona Eltahawy, Meena Kandasamy, Wendy Doniger, Nilanjana Roy, Kalpana Swaminathan, and Guillermo Martinez, with the big coup being the presence of iconic feminist Germaine Greer, who will be participating in three sessions over the four days of the festival. The performances, curated by Quasar Thakore Padamsee, include Ila, performance inspired by Devdutt Patnaik’s The Pregnant King. Seasick, a Canadian play that is part-lecture-part-performance, talks about the state of our oceans. Our pick of the festival:
Day 1, October 29
Iconic feminist Germaine Greer will be in conversation with the festival’s Poet Laureate, Vikram Seth on whether books can change the world, at the Experimental Theatre in NCPA, 2-3 pm.
Day 2, October 30
“No time for silence”, a discussion between writer Nayantara Sahgal and Carnatic singer and writer TM Krishna, chaired by television news anchor Anuradha Sengupta at the Little Theatre, NCPA, 5-6 pm.
Day 3, October 31
Storm Still, a reinterpretation of Austrian writer Peter Handke’s famous work of the same name about the Slovenian uprising against Hitler, at Prithvi theatre, 6:30-7:30 pm. When It Rains by Canada’s 2b Theatre Company is described as a ‘live action existential graphic novel’ and is a heartbreaking drama and social satire, presented in a visually arresting theatrical style at the Tata Theatre, NCPA, 8-9:30 pm.
Day 4, November 1
“What’s your beef?”, a discussion about growing intolerance in India between writer and translator Arshia Sattar, journalist Kumar Ketkar and writer Vamsee Juluri, chaired by journalist Avirook Sen, at Godrej Theatre, NCPA, 10:30-11:30 am.
Rashmi Bansal and Niyati Patel, of publishing venture Bloody Good Book, guide first-time authors in the workshop, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Publishing”, at Easel Art Hub 1, Prithvi Theatre, 2-4 pm.
“Out of the Picture”, a discussion on rising inequalities and prejudices in New India between writer and social worker Harsh Mander and welfare and development expert Prerna Singh, chaired by journalist Kalpana Sharma at Prithvi House, 5-6 pm.