Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest makes its third appearance at NCPA from October 31 to November 4. The festival, now considered one of India’s two best literary festivals, is even bigger and more ambitious this year, with over 100 participants, as many as 30 of them from overseas. The star attraction is undoubtedly Sir Vidia S. Naipaul, the Literature Nobel Prize winner, who will be presented the Landmark Lifetime Achievement Award at the Tata on the 31stevening.
Another much sought after prize is the Tata First Book Award. Who will be the five nominations? Who will win the prize? The Long List is already out. The Short List will be revealed just before the LitFest, while the winner will be announced on the very last day of the festival. The decision for the first book rests heavily on the shoulders of an eminent jury of authors, writers and publishers, viz, , Editor Dileep Padgaonkar, social commentator Santosh Desai, author Siddharth Dhanvant Shangvi, CEO Landmark, Ashutosh Pandey and author and Festival Director, Literature Live! Anil Dharker
The five days of the festival are absolutely packed with one session more interesting than the other, so that it will be difficult for members to decide which one to attend, and which one to leave out. Naseeruddin Shah and Astad Deboo will perform, as will foreign participants with performances much acclaimed abroad but not seen in India.
Each day will be an intellectual smorgasbord of events ranging from engaging panel discussions, book launches, open house conversations with eminent authors, publishers and literary agents, poetry readings and straight talks. The last is a new addition in terms of sessions where giants in their fields, people like, Faramerz Dabhoiwala whose book The Origins of Sex has been making waves in the West. Scott Carney is one of the world’s leading investigative journalists and his recent book exposes the dark side of trafficking in human organs. Also expected at the festival is eminent American psychologist James Fallon, whose study of the minds of psychopaths and dictators is considered a seminal work in the field. Also present will be Professor Juliet Mitchell of Cambridge University whose psycho-analytical studies of feminism and sibling rivalry are landmarks in their fields.
Amongst the many brilliant minds who will be speakers and panelists will be Shashi Tharoor whose just released book Pax Indica is an engaging study of India’s foreign relations, the ever-engaging Shobhaa De, Ashok Banker whose new book marks a surprising change from his mythological series. Many leading poets from India (Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Ranjit Hoskote, Gieve Patel, Arundhati Subramaniam), will read along with established English poets, (Glynn Maxwell and Ruth Padel). Making a rare public appearance will be Marianne Pearl (whose book about her slain husband Daniel Pearl was made into the film A Mighty Heart). Lending a spiritual heft to the festival will be Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev, while Pakistani writers (Mohd Hanif, Moni Mohsin) will present their views from across the border. Also participating will be writers from Australia, Canada and Slovenia.
This year Literature Live! has added the Godrej Theatre to accommodate spillover audience from The Experimental Theatre. This means that people who do not find seating at The Experimental will be able to watch the same event at the same time, comfortably on a large screen at The Godrej Theatre. Similarly, extending the scope and scale this year, Literature Live! will also have a string of exciting sessions at The Little Theatre which will run concurrently with those at The Experimental Theatre.
The evening performances promise a wonderful marriage between literature and performance. These performances which will take place at the Tata Theatre will have an impressive lineup of acts from both India and abroad. While Astad Deboo and his troupe’s acclaimed rendition of Tagore’s poems will mark the finale of the festival, there will be many other exciting shows every evening. Like Shakespeare R&B by London based group, Akala which presents Shakespeare in hip hop style. Chris Larner’s poignant play, An Instinct for Kindness about euthanasia will bring to Mumbai a production which earned rave reviews in London. Our own Naseeruddin Shah will put together a project which he has dreamed about for long: a rich enactment of Vikram Seth’s poems from The Beastly Tales and stories about James Thurber’s dogs.
There’s more. During the festival, Literatue Live! will stage a series of performances at various venues, like Martin Kiszko’s Green Poems for a Blue Planet, delighting children and adults alike, Inua Ellams, one of the world’s best known performance poets. To cap it all, there will be a performance of Hayavadana, Girish Karnad’s iconic classic in the round at the open-air Chauraha, which promises to be a unique experience, especially because the playwright himself will be present.
This year for the first time Literature Live! has introduced a series of workshops on different subjects: like food and travel writing, poetry, fiction, memoirs and other subjects. To bring in the future generation of literature lovers, workshops are also planned for children.
As with every literature festival, one of the highlights lies in informal meetings with writers and with author signings. Many opportunities for these interactions will be available during the festival, while Landmark will ensure that current and earlier books of participating writers will be available for sale at special book shops at The Tata and The Experimental theatres.
There’s a unique opportunity for aspiring writers to share prime space with published authors this year by participating in a Facebook LitLive My Story competition. All participants have to do is submit an original work of literature which could be a short story, essay, poem or any other kind of work. Three winners, chosen by an eminent panel of authors will get a chance to read to out their work at the festival.
As in the past, entry to the festival will be free and on a first come first served basis. Last year’s experience shows that if you want to ensure that you will get a seat, it’s best to come as early as possible.