The annual literary jamboree, Jaipur Literature Festival got off to a grand start today at its usual venue here at the historic Diggi Palace grounds with a line up of 234 authors hailing from varied backgrounds.
Pulitzer-winning poet Vijay Seshadri, Arving Krishna Mehrotra and Ashok Vajpayee were part of a keynote session of the five-day festival, which began to melodious renditions delivered by Sonam Kalra and her Sufi Gospel project along with Nagada Beats by Nathu lal Solanki.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje inaugurated the festival and took a trip down memory lane while recalling the origins of the festival, currently in its eighth edition.
Raje commented that in the current fast-paced world, “intellectual gatherings like this can restore sanity, plug into other people and believe that there is a possibility of change.”
Adding more melody to the literary morning were Raasta singers who mesmerised the audience with a different rendition of the national anthem.
The inaugural day was packed with four book launches. It included 26th edition of the Limca Book of Records, dedicated to literature, master chef Vikas Khanna’s cook book, a French translation of lyricist Javed Akhtar’s poetry collection “In other words” and the “Seduction of Delhi” by diplomat author Abhay K.
The evening saw Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah reciting the poetry of Manto at historic Amer Fort while spiritual sounds of Azerbaijan and Rajasthani musicians enthralled the audience at the musical stage at Clarks Amer. Shah had also engaged in a conversation with playwright Girish Karnad where he commented on his “bad looks.”
Litterateurs took the opportunity of the festival to debate on the issue of freedom of expression. Referencing the decision was Tamil writer Perumal Murugan’s recent decision to renounce writing after he faced protests from various organisations over what they dubbed as objectionable content in his novel “Madhurabagan”.
Celebrated Tamil author C S Laxmi, Nayantara Sehgal, Bollywood lyricist Prasoon Joshi, Kartika V K, publisher, Indian-born British playwright, author Farukh Dhondy as well as veteran journalist Mark Tully debated the issue in a session titled Is the Commerce of Literature Today Killing Good Writing?”.
Festival regular Javed Akthar raised the issue of vulgarity in contemporary film lyrics and asked people to raise their voices against it.
Mythologist Devdutt Pattnaik spoke on mythology and science while Booker Prize winning author Elanoar Catton talked about her novel “The Luminaires.”
China-born author Jung Chang famed for her “Wild Swans” book spoke about her new book, “A biography of the Empress Dowager Cixi” while travel writer Paul Therox had a session.
Over the coming four days the festival is set to see a clutch of personalties like former President AP J Abdul Kalam, author V S Naipaul talk. A discussion on gender sponsored by the UN, and a two day trade event for publishers the Book Mark is also lined up.
Three prizes including the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, the Ojas Art Award and Khushwant Singh Memorial Prize for Poetry are set to be announced during the festival.