Literature comes alive: Anil Dharker on Mumbai LitFest 2017
As wordsmiths from across the world congregate in Mumbai at the Tata Literature Live! this weekend, we chat with founder and festival director Anil Dharker on their broad agenda, and also for an insight on the more pertinent discussions to expect at the event.
Is there a sense of camaraderie between the Mumbai LitFest and other festivals? How does it compare with the Jaipur Lit Fest, in terms of spread, and prominence?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that there is any camaraderie between the festivals, but there is certainly not any antagonism. We generally go in our separate ways and we learn to live with each other. I think the literary world is too civilised for that. I’d say personally that our festival is the best in India, but objectively, Jaipur is certainly the largest and one of the most prominent literary festivals in India. Really, our goal is not to be as big as Jaipur. While Jaipur is more casual and has the ability to bring in more people, our festival is more formal. At this point, we are at maximum capacity when it comes to audiences and venues, and our goal is rather to get better in quality, and bring in as many new ideas and new innovations as possible every year.
Tell us a little about the agenda and topics to be discussed.
We made a deliberate choice not to introduce a theme, as it can often be restrictive. Not having a theme allows us to reach a wider audience. And the topics we discuss are fairly topical and lively. They engage today’s audience. They don’t have the musty smell of old libraries. We have a whole gamut of ideas to be introduced to audiences this year.
There appears to be more of a focus on non-fiction writing this year. Is this intentional?
There is a large emphasis on non-fiction as it describes what’s happening in the world and in our society. All these issues discussed in non-fiction writing come into our lives in some way.
Will there be more than literature being discussed?
Certainly, there will be conversations from many great minds. And I don’t think that creativity is restricted to one type of person. What it comes down to is whether you have the spark or not. There are plenty of people who live working in one profession and then later on switch to writing. It doesn’t matter what you do, what matters is if you have that spark.
The session titled ‘The Angry Tide’ talks about religious ideology. Could you give us an insight?
This discussion is likely to explore different sides of the religious flux that our country is going through. There is a lot of extremism being put forward, even though most Indians are moderate and don’t believe in these extremist ideologies. These extreme ideas, however, tend to come in and disrupt the equilibrium, as
these beliefs are more strident.
Generally, there are a few questions that come up when people consider the religion debate happening
in this country, and the main one is “What is secularism?” Is it a negation of religion? Or is it the creation of a state where one can practice whatever religion he feels is right? I personally believe that these debates are incredibly important. What the festival tries to provide is an exploration of diverse views where no view is right or correct. The point is to explore all sides to see where logic and reason prevails.
Tata Literature Live!
The Mumbai LitFest is on November 16 to 19 in Mumbai. Visit tatalitlive.in and follow
@TataLitLive on social media.