The 14th edition of Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai Litfest resounded with audiences clapping at thought-provoking sessions, whoops and cheers for popular speakers, thunderous applause for amazing performances, rhythms of poetry recitations, zinging cadences of debate and discussion, laughter at quips and bon mots, clicks and flashes of selfies by fans with their favourite authors, the tribute of silence after a moving moment of revelation or insight.
With 150 participants from 23 countries, 89 engrossing sessions, 10 workshops, 14 book launches, and 9 gripping and unique performances, the Festival was all it promised to be and more.
Over two evenings of online sessions beginning with a memorable conversation with Salman Rushdie, and almost three days at the on-ground venues of NCPA at Marine Drive and St Pauls Institute of Communication Education and Title Waves Book Store, both at Bandra, there was nary a subject relevant to society and the human condition today, that was not discussed. International and national authors and speakers of renown such as Anuja Chauhan, Arjun Raj Gaind, C S Lakshmi, Gurcharan Das, Faye D’Souza, G N Devy, Jerry Pinto, Kunal Vijayakar, Luke Coutinho, Mamang Dai, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Manoranjan Byapari, Marcus du Sautoy, Meeran Chadha Borwankar, Michel Bussi, Prahlad Kakar, Peter Frankopan, Rajdeep Sardesai, Ranjit Hoskote, Sam Miller, Shanta Gokhale, Shashi Tharoor, Shobhaa Dé, Srinath Perur, Sudha Murty, Tenzin Tsundue, Zac O’ Yeah, Zai Whitaker, delved into issues at the heart of fiction, poetry, mathematics, economics, AI, spirituality, security, communications, business, sport, health, history, art, society, nature and food.
In the Tata Theatre at the NCPA, Tuhin A Sinha, R Jagannathan, Praveen Chakravarty and Nilakantan RS swayed opinions at the Tata Theatre in a vigorous and robust Great Debate on India being the next superpower, expertly conducted by Govindraj Ethiraj.
Prahlad Kakar had a full house roaring with laughter at his irreverent reminiscences, and he and co-panellist Raveena Tandon were virtually mobbed by enthusiasts in the foyer. Shashi Tharoor, after a witty Festival opening session about aphorisms, engaged the audience with maths genius Marcus du Sautoy as they held a thoughtful discussion of the impact of AI on creativity, at which Marcus performed a hilarious AI rendition of Tharoorisms. The literary genius of C S Lakshmi, recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, was pensively absorbed. Mani Shankar Aiyer’s irrepressible utterances had the audience in splits. Faye D’Souza led a spirited discussion about broadcast media. Shobhaa De and Meeran Chadha Borwankar recalled challenging moments in their trailblazing lives. Visitors thronged to hear Sudha Murty’s sage and gentle wisdom and Luke Coutinho’s mantras for better living. Anuvab Pal brought the house down with his specially written act for the Festival’s grande finale. Abhishek Choudhary (winner First Book Non-Fiction), Smriti Ravindra (winner First Book – Fiction) and Tejaswini Apte-Rahm (winner, Book of the Year – Fiction) lit up the stage with their smiles and delight at the Literary Awards function which closes the Festival. The Binod Kanoria Awards for children’s literature provided happy reassurance that children still love reading physical books.
At the other NCPA venues – Godrej, Little and Experimental Theatres and the Tata Garden, Festival Poet Laureate Mamang Dai’s session was in tune with her luminous poetry as the spotlight lit up actors poised around a darkened theatre, reading from her works; rapt audiences soaked up the words and pioneering experiences of Manorajan Byapari and winner of Rotary Award for Peace Writing Sanjoy Hazarika, took sweeping history journeys with Peter Frankopan and Sam Miller, ruminated with Jerry Pinto and Shanta Gokhale about Tukaram, journeyed to India’s richly diverse past with G N Devy, and enjoyed sessions on corporate tales and histories. They sat stunned and moved during the performances of Lives of Clay by Vidya Thirunarayan and Rain in Famine by a group of transgender poets, and sang along with Hal Cazalet’s and Simon Beck’s recitals of early Broadway.
The wide range of subjects curated at St Pauls Institute of Communication Education and Title Waves Book Store, at Bandra, saw Valappa Balachandran, Iffat Nawaz, Arjun Raj Gaind, Ranjit Hoskote, Anuja Chauhan, Karan Rajan, Srinath Perur, Tensin Tsundue, Michel Bussi, Zac O’ Yeah, Anthony Sattin, Manav Kaul, Sumit Samos, Thomas Zacharias, Kunal Vijayakar, Hrishi K, Kamal Shah, leading captivated audiences on a route from intelligence gathering to de-mystifying science to India’s north-south divide, a “cheeky” literary quiz, food and culture, identity and healing. Martina Esberger-Chowdhury held an impromptu meditation. Writers from UK and India along with a lively audience, discussed the Book In Focus, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness Of Being.
Both the NCPA and Bandra venues hosted a series of literary sessions on literary fiction, poetry, the healing power of literature, crime fiction, translation, books of inspiration, showcasing captivating aspects of perception and imagination, which bring audiences back to the Festival each year. And “outstanding!” was the unanimous feedback for the sessions on our regional language of the year, Kannada, and the performance in the language, Daklakatha Devikavya.
The Festival also arranges outreaches to city colleges. Human rights author Sanjoy Hazarika, poets Elena Medel and Eeva Maria al-Khazaali, fiction author Pip Adam and dialysis patient, entrepreneur and author Kamal Shah between them interacted with over 200 students sharing knowledge, insights and experiences.
Heard around the Festival campuses:
“There is nothing like ‘in today’s day and age’ … it’s universal. It’s a day and age somewhere, sometime in some place” – Smriti Ravindra
“No woman should have a thin skin. Be yourself. And let the world deal with it” – Shobhaa Dé
“I weave a mat of reality and fiction so they are intertwined as one” – Sudha Murty
“The grubbier the place, the tastier the grub” – Zac O’Yeah
“The self is actually a fiction, a narrative fiction” – Gurcharan Das.
“It’s been amazing! I had a lovely audience. Too many good things to choose from” – Marcus du Sautoy
“This is an A League Festival.. I’m having the time of my life!” Gavin McCrea
“The session was excellent and just as the entire LitFest, excellently organized” – Martina Esberger-Chowdhury
“Congratulations for the carefully curated felicitous panels. My students and I were delighted to have been a part of the Lit Fest. I thoroughly enjoyed chairing both sessions”. – Michelle Philip
“I especially enjoyed being put in sessions other than on my book” – Sam Miller
“Loved how you folks curated and organised Tata Literature Live! So many writers to discover from other parts of India.”
“Enjoying the focus on maths and AI”
“…..the Tata Litfest at NCPA – what an enlightening afternoon”.
“Found a book I had been hunting for at the Book Swap. Great initiative!”
And the last word fittingly to Tejaswini Apte- Rahm, the winner of the Tata Literature Live! Book Of The Year – Fiction: “Having a blast! Bring back the extra day!!”
It’s a deal! See you all next year!