The South Asian Times

20 October 2018 02:38 AM

Rich fare attracts 70,000 to Jaipur litfest

Prakash Bhandari/SATimes

Jaipur: The annual Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) has undoubtedly become Asia's biggest literary festival. This year, with Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, Ben Okri, Jamaica Kincaid, Lionel Shriver and Richard Dawkins in its lineup, over 70,000 people, including hordes of students from all over north India, turned up at the venue Diggi Palace.

The Jaipur festival aims to provide a platform for Indian writing, in English as well as in other official Indian languages, including Hindi and Bengali.

An appearance by Salman Rushdie in 2007 was a turning point, attracting global attention -- and no incidnet. He was followed by Tina Brown, Vikram Seth, Martin Amis and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk.

This year, Oprah Winfrey had most mass appeal and she was on stage with India's top TV presenter Barkha Dutt. Oprah showed up in light mustard-yellow kurta and a floral churidar with a pink dupatta, creating a rapport. She praised the Indian chaos and calm. In Agra, she said, she was amused to see a cart being pulled by an ass, reminding her how after fulfilling her mission to get Barack Obama elected President, she stuck a picture on her pinboard of a Rajasthani woman riding a camel with the caption: "Come to India".

"The festival has become a hotbed of activity, with publishers scouting for talent and writers for book deals. Even Indian publishers have begun rushing books to capitalize on the event," said Mita Kapur, an author.

"JLF has had a ripple effect, with similar events springing up all over South Asia," said Pakistani writer Ameena Saiyid. "There is everything for everyone at the festival. There is a star-studded lineup and we also showcase homegrown talent," said co-producer of the festival Namita Gokhale.

The session 'The Magic of Reality' had Lalla Ward in conversation with Richard Dawkins, a self-proclaimed atheist and science writer. Dawkins spoke passionately about the importance of science and how it can teach us to look at the world 'in unfamiliar ways.'

The session 'Adaptations', chaired by Girish Karnad, had Lionel Shriver, Vishal Bhardwaj, Richard Flanagan and Tom Stoppard discuss adaptationof books into theatre and movies. Novelist Flanagan said it took three years for him to write the screenplay for 'The Sound of One Hand Clapping', and when he couldn't sell it, turned it into a novel instead, a very different process. Indian screenwriter and director Vishal Bhardwaj talked of his, Maqbool being based on Macbeth.

The session 'Nothing to Declare: Straight Lines and History' had Fakrul Alam, Mohammed Hanif, Rabi Thapa and Siddhartha Gigoo talk about interpretation of the word 'border'. Poet and novelist Siddhartha Gigoo spoke about his experience of Kashmir, talking of the migration within the country itself.

The session 'The Good Muslim' had Tahmima Anam read passages from her novel, The Good Muslim, which portrays post-1990s Bangladesh. The session 'Writing and Resistance', moderated by Fatima Bhutto, had Raja Shehadeh, ThantMyint-U and Iftikhar Gilani explore writing contributing to resistance. Bhutto questioned whether books themselves were inherently dangerous. Iftikar Gilani responded that there was nothing dangerous about books. Festival co-producer William Dalrymple talked about the wonderful heritage of arts still alive in Rajasthan, citing the performance of epic stories such as Pabuji The Camel Herder, a sacred and healing performance event which can start at sunset and end at dawn, taking place over eight days.

Update: 28 Jan, 2012