A lit fest in Chennai

Published : Jan 07, 2015 12:30 IST

IF December in Chennai is known as the season of music and dance, January is the month to celebrate literature and books with The Hindu Lit for Life. Over the five years of its existence, the festival has become an event that both participants and audiences look forward to. As the best-selling author Ashwin Sanghi says: “This is one festival that is truly about books, writers and readers without any other bells and whistles.” To Jerry Pinto, “what was most important was that the audience was there for the books and the words in them and not for a spectacle”.

This year, the three-day festival in Chennai opens on January 16 with the 2013 Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton talking about her work. Later in the day, the best-selling Chinese author Jung Chang will deliver an illustrated lecture on the birth of modern China. And the day ends with a session with the man whom The New York Times described as “the biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history”: Chetan Bhagat.

In between all this, Ammu Joseph, Ramesh Gopalakrishnan, Prabha Sridevan and U. Vasuki will talk about the feminine form becoming a site of violence; Salil Tripathi, Samanth Subramaniam and Nirupama Subramaniam will discuss India’s volatile relationship with her neighbours; Nayantara Sahgal and Ritu Menon will reflect on life, literature and politics with Geeta Doctor; N. Muthukumaraswamy, Rohan Shivakumar and A. Srivathsan will talk about the song and dance of the city; the veteran musician T.V. Gopalakrishnan will discuss the lyrics of Carnatic music with Prince Rama Varma. For those interested in history, there is Jonathan Gil Harris’ lecture on The First Firangis and Charles Allen’s discussion with Renuka Narayanan on Emperor Ashoka. Those politically inclined should not miss the conversation between Sanjaya Baru, Vinod Rai, Rajdeep Sardesai and Meghnad Desai on Good Governance. Short stories too get a look-in, with Manjula Padmanabhan, Janice Pariat and Nina McConigley discussing the Art of the Tale with V.K. Karthika; and David Davidar will talk about A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces.

On the second day, January 17, the eminent photographer Dayanita Singh will begin the proceedings with a conversation with the well-known musician T.M. Krishna on A Voice of One’s Own. While the eminent journalist P. Sainath introduces the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI), the conservation journalist Bahar Dutt will give an illustrated lecture of Green Wars. Award-winning authors Eleanor Catton, Damon Galgut and Allan Sealy will talk about The Deeper Truth of Novels with David Davidar. Food enthusiasts can look forward to celeb chefs Kunal Kapur, Manu Chandra and Aditya Bal discussing food memories with Shonali Muthalaly. The growth of people power will be the topic of discussion between Ahdaf Soueif, Rajmohan Gandhi, Damon Galgut and Meena Kandasamy. Are memoirs a reflection of our plural selves? Hopefully we will find an answer after Justice Leila Seth, Allan Sealy, T.M. Krishna and V.K. Karthika debate this question. Renuka Narayanan, Sadanand Menon and A.R. Venkatachalapathy will look at the development of religious movements through textual history in Reading Religion. For a sprinkling of star dust, head for the session with Tisca Chopra and Nimrat Kaur. Both actors will be in conversation with Latha Menon. Meluha fans, here’s your chance to listen to your favourite author. Amish Tripathy will be in conversation with the film critic Baradwaj Rangan, and the topic: Gods, Demons and Others.

The highlight of the day will be the presentation of The Hindu Prize 2014. Before the award ceremony, the authors will discuss their books with Ziya us Salam and also read excerpts from their books.

The last day, January 18, begins with a tribute to the doyen of Kannada literature, U.R. Ananthamurthy. Discussing his life and work will be Shiv Visvanathan, Manu Chakravarthy and K. Satchidanandan. There will be a celebration of Chennai through two sessions: one in which V. Sriram and A.R. Venkatachalapathy highlight writings about Chennai that was Madras. In the second, veteran filmmaker Singeetam Srinivasa Rao and danseuse Alarmel Valli will take listeners through the city’s cultural landscape. While Justice Leila Seth and the Chinese historian Jung Chang talk about powerful women in conservative societies in a discussion moderated by Vaishna Roy, Egyptian journalist Ahdaf Soueif will be in conversation with Salil Tripathi. There will be two illustrated lectures: Dayanita Singh’s The Book on the Wall and Dr. Sharad Paul’s Skin: A Biography. Salil Tripathi, Samanth Subramanian and Aatish Taseer will discuss the blurred lines between fiction and journalism with Arunava Sinha. The festival will close with a reading performance designed and directed by Prasanna Ramaswamy. The participants will be P.C. Ramakrishna, Anita Ratnam, R. Rohini, Nellai Manikandan, Revathy Kumar, Niran Victor Benjamin, Sushila Ravindranath and Anandh Kumar.

A new feature this year will be one session in Tamil each day. So, January 16 will have the artists Rm Palaniappa, Trotsky Marudhu and K. Muralidharan discussing visual art. On January 17, New Narratives or New Ways of Narrations will be the topic of discussion between well-known directors Vetrimaran and Vasanthabalan and actor Rohini and cultural analyst A. Ramasamy. The last day’s session will be about the voices and forms of Tamil theatre and the participants will be Pralayan, Gnani Sankaran, Na Muthuswamy, Living Smile Vidya and K. Parthibaraja.

All three days of the festival will be updated live on our websites: www.thehindu.com and www.thehindulfl.com. This includes live coverage, tweets from panellists and audience, images and videos of key moments, besides live updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Students from various Chennai colleges will be performing excerpts from the six novels shortlisted for The Hindu Prize for Fiction 2014.

This is just a sample of the exciting line-up; so block your dates today! Entry is free to all. To reserve a complimentary pass; SMS LFL<space>Name, Age to 53030.

The Hindu Lit for Life 2015

Dates : January 16, 17 & 18, 2015

Website : www.thehindulfl.com

Microsite : www.thehindu.com/features/litforlife

Facebook : www.facebook.com/TheHinduLitForLife

Twitter : @hindulitforlife

YouTube : www.thne.ws/playlist-lfl

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