As you enter Diggi Palace, you are handed a newspaper, greeted with warm smiles from young volunteers and welcomed warmly (pun intended) with the aroma of the Diggipuri chai. These are signs of the day in store for you. A day abundant of interesting anecdotes, catchy couplets and healthy discussions – a day at the world’s largest free festival, the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) 2016.
Litocalypse flips through the pages of this experience, spread over five days (21st-25th January):
Other than the keynote address by Margaret Atwood, the major takeaway from the day was the session, An Unsuitable Boy where Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar offered a no-holds-barred account of his life so far, as a teaser to his memoir written in collaboration with Shobha De and Poonam Saxena. Johar confessed that he had internalized his insecurities about his sexual orientation until he was approached to write this book. He termed the process of working on the book “self-elevating” and “cathartic”. The literary sessions were followed by an evening performance by Kutle Khan at Clarks Amer Hotel, Jaipur. His performance was a fine blend of Rajasthani and Sufi music.
Credits: Team Litocalypse
For the second day in a row, the program kicked off with Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. She confessed, in the session The Heart Goes Last, that she can never get herself to write the quintessential American novels, classic sci-fi and fantasy genres. In the session India at Play, Anil Kumble evoked a loud hoot when he opined that a Ranchi boy emerging as the Indian team captain would have just been a fairytale 10 years ago. His fellow panelist, footballer Baichung Bhutia admitted that he finds IPL very boring, because there the game is limited to celebrity adulation rather than emotional involvement. The day wrapped up with Barkha Dutt who termed media trials as the Maggi Noodle (two-minute) verdicts. Music enthusiasts at Clarks also got to witness an enthralling act by the band The Ska Vengers in the evening.
The day saw two crowd pullers, the first being Sialkot Saga, a book launch by Kajol of Ashwin Sanghi’s latest political fiction. Sanghi stated that an ideal novel offers three E’s essential to grab the readers’ attention – Entertainment, Education and Enlightenment in the same order. Kajol, an avid reader herself, burst out laughing when Sanghi said that the ability of a novel to engross is determined by the will of the reader to hold their bladder. The second was Literature vs Cinema: Influence in Shaping Beauty Ideals. Poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar claimed a larger role of literature because there the physical sketch is left to the reader’s imagination. The reader manifests their own beauty while visualizing the character. “And nothing is more beautiful than yourself,” Akhtar announced as the audience erupted with laughter.
Being a Sunday, Day 4 was the most well-attended. Novelist Amish Tripathi provided insights into what he knows the best – history and mythology – in the session Kaljayee: Time Travels with Amish. He pointed out that the worst crimes in history were committed by people who wanted to change the world like Hitler and Saddam Hussein. He revealed that he quit his corporate job only when his royalty cheque paid more than his desk job. He advised aspiring writers to follow suit – complete their education, ensure a fat bank balance and write along with their jobs. His session was immediately followed by that of poet Gulzar, Ek Nazm Uljhi Hai Seene Mei, where he narrated his signature couplets that aroused a diverse range of emotions in the listeners.
Amongst sessions on media trials, and the LGBT movement that involved the indomitable Lakshmi, what stood out was the concluding debate – Is Freedom of Speech Absolute and Unconditional?
A heated yet cerebral exchange between stalwarts, like actor Anupam Kher, journalist Madhu Trehan, writer Suhel Seth and AAP politician Kapil Mishra among others, made many in the audience change their stance on the subject. In the end, by a show of hands, the house voted against the motion indicating that the right to freedom of speech must be accompanied by a sense of responsibility.
JLF ’16 upheld the same thought – freedom of expression coupled with moral duties, which include the duty to promote art, culture, ideas and the realm of literature. As the producer Sanjoy Roy said in the vote of thanks, “After these five days of action, the birds and the squirrels will come down from the trees to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. Until next year!”
Images Courtesy: Team Litocalypse
Featured Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times