Storytellers assembled at Chandigarh literature fest! - Hindustan Times
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Storytellers assembled at Chandigarh literature fest!

BySubhashree Nanda
Nov 27, 2023 05:18 AM IST

The 11th edition of Literati, the Chandigarh International Literature Festival, saw a stellar line-up of authors

The 11th edition of the Chandigarh International Literature Festival, Literati 2023, opened to deafening applause as renowned stand-up comedian Gaurav Gupta performed his wittiest best to a packed house at Tagore Theatre, Chandigarh.

Best-selling author Ashwin Sanghi at Literati 2023 at Lake Club, Chandigarh (HT Photo)
Best-selling author Ashwin Sanghi at Literati 2023 at Lake Club, Chandigarh (HT Photo)

The event commenced with the lighting of the ceremonial lamp by chief guest Rajesh Khullar, chief principal secretary to the chief minister, Haryana.

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City-based group, Music-e-Mystic further entertained the audience with beautiful renditions of Sufi music.

On Day 1 of the lit fest, festival director and chairperson of Chandigarh Literary Society (CLS) Dr Sumita Misra (IAS); Hindustan Times Executive Editor Ramesh Vinayak; and Rhyvers Publishing’s Affan Yesvi took the centre stage at Lake Club, Chandigarh and announced the fest open. They also released a literary digest on the occasion. The theme for this year’s Literati was ’Celebrating Navras’.

‘My dharma is to tell a good story’

The fest began with bestselling author Ashwin Sanghi’s engaging keynote address titled, The Dharma of a Writer.

Ashwin said, “One of the most important dharmas of an author is to remember that every word and every sentence on every page of every book is never yours! You are simply the medium that puts ink on paper.”

“The shortest distance between two people is a story... The job of a storyteller is to make old things sound new and to make new things sound familiar. So, my dharma is to tell a good story and to keep my reader turning the page!” he added.

Sharing an interesting childhood anecdote, The Krishna Key author said, “I told my nana ji that our munim ji said that you’re wasting your time with books. And nana ji said, tum toh marwadi ho, to tum to Laxmi ji ki pooja karoge. That’s part of your DNA. But remember one thing, the relationship between Laxmi and Saraswati is unique... So, even if your objective is to go after Laxmi, the sure-shot route is to go after Saraswati!”

“And when Laxmi and Saraswati sit together, then the only deity who can sit between them is Ganesha. And that probably explains why I have a figure the way I do! Because I have spent my entire life attempting to sit between Laxmi and Saraswati,” he joked.

To conclude he said, “My dharma is three Es – 70% of it is that I must entertain my readers, 20% is that I must educate them, and 10% is to enlighten them.”

Stories he did tell...

This was followed by a candid conversation between Dr Misra and actor-author Kabir Bedi on his honest take on life in his autobiography, Stories I Must Tell.

During the session, he shared some interesting anecdotes from his life, including his experience of interviewing The Beatles in 1966 while the band was in India, Parveen Babi and his awkward encounter with actor Gina Lollobrigida, his life in Hollywood, etc.

The actor also talked about the hardships caregivers of those suffering from mental health issues face and urged the audience to de-stigmatise mental health issues and be compassionate towards people suffering from them and their caregivers.

On his connection to Punjab, the internationally acclaimed actor said, “I feel a very deep connection with this land... not so much in terms of time spent here but emotionally. After all, as they say, you can take a Punjabi out of Punjab but you cannot take Punjab out of a Punjabi! There is a sense of homecoming, every time I visit Darbar Sahib.”

Actor Kabir Bedi and filmmaker Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari at Literati 2023 at Lake Club, Chandigarh (HT Photos)
Actor Kabir Bedi and filmmaker Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari at Literati 2023 at Lake Club, Chandigarh (HT Photos)

Books come alive!

Acclaimed playwright Mahesh Dattani, award-winning filmmaker Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, and prolific writer Pragati Deshmukh talked about their choice of medium of expression and the impact it has, in the session, Medium is the Message.

Dattani said art and commerce go hand-in-hand, “You cannot earn big from, let’s say a film like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, unless it has artistic merit. That’s what makes the difference.”

On the evolution of storytelling, Ashwiny said, “From oral stories, to books, to theatre, to radio and now cinema and OTT, we have come a long way. But at the end of the day, it’s the story that holds the centre stage and not so much the medium.”

On how she decides what book to bring alive on the silver screen, the Bareilly Ki Barfi director added, “When I’m reading a book, I visualise the tiniest of details, from say the time of a chair to the print of the fabric on it, to who’s the character and what’s their appearance, to the location... and then I know what will click and evoke emotions.”

On the acceptable limit of taking creative liberty on OTT platforms, Pragati said, “As creators, storytellers, and writes, we pick various mediums to express ourselves. And different audiences will react differently to the same content depending on the setting, their worldview, their mood, etc. So, keeping in mind who we are going to present our content to, and if it’s required to have certain kind of scenes such as the use of abuses or violence or sexual content to bring authenticity to the story, it is fine.”

Engaging conversations...

Other sessions included, two intellectuals, founder and chairman of Harappa (now part of upGrad) Pramath Raj Sinha and chancellor and professor of history at Ashoka University Rudrangshu Mukherjee, in their session Mahatma and Tagore, rediscovered the influence and confluence of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore in modern Indian thought. Editors and translators Balbir Madhopuri and Prof Renuka Singh, in a conversation with writer-filmmaker Balpreet, gave an insight into Punjabiyat.

Supercop and Maharashtra’s first woman IPS officer Meeran Chadha Borwankar, IPS officers Rakesh Goswami and Rajesh Pandey while conversing with senior journalist Manraj Grewal Sharma talked about what is true crime, what goes on behind the scenes, how does one translate into a book. They had everyone on the edge of their seats with the thought-provoking reality behind policing and crime during their session, Guts Grit and Glory.

Dr Lakhvinder S Johal, writer Manmohan Singh (IPS), and Bubbu Tir turned the pages of literature in the session Punjab de Safeyan Ton as they talked about tales and translations reflecting the literary landscape and the diverse narratives of Punjab.

Sufi Kathak dancer Manjari Chaturvedi, Affan, and award-winning santoor maestro Pt Abhay Rustum Sopori traversed the timeless traditions and culture of our rich civilisation in the session, Navras: Bharat ke Raas Rang.

The day wrapped up with Dastan-e-Ram, a captivating Dastangoi rendition of the eternal epic Ramayana in lyrical Urdu by India’s first woman Dastango, Fouzia Dastango, and Ritesh Yadav. The performance was crafted by playwright Danish Iqbal.

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