Since India is the size of Western Europe, it’s hardly surprising the subcontinent can boast of a 100 litfests and 100,000 titles annually, which attract bookworms, never mind those who want to be seen as such. Most fests have a large number of English language writers but the two day LIC Gateway Fest which kicks off in Mumbai tomorrow (Feb 25), will have only a few. How come? Because the main aim of this litfest is to spotlight regional languages.
Commendably, the litfest will give attendees the opportunity to hear and see established writers speak about their work and discover new ones during and between book launches, exhibitions, poetry readings, contests and debates. As in the previous two years, this year’s edition will also be held at the NCPA, over two days and bring together over 50 writers who express themselves in 15 vernacular languages. Let it be noted: India has 22 major languages, 13 scripts, and almost 800 dialects.
Ace filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan will open the Litfest and deliver the valedictory address. Attendees can look forward to sessions addressing emerging trends in translation, challenge Bollywood as representative of Indian cinema, anaylse the latest trends and trendsetters in Tamil, Bengali, and Marathi with a focus on Dalit writings apart from sessions on Indianness and the tradition of the new in Indian poetry.
The roll call of delegates includes Jnanpith laureates Kedarnath Singh who will deliver the keynote address and Reghuveer Chaudhari, as well as a number of national (K R Meera) and state Akademi award winners. DMK leader Kanimozhi, Marathi litterateur Mangesh Narayanrao Kale and renowned Bengali writer Subodh Sarkar are among the luminaries who will be in attendance.
Odisha poet Haldhar Nag, a class-III drop-out whose poems have become the subject of several doctoral theses and who was awarded a Padma Shri last year, will be honoured with the first Gateway LitFest Lifetime Achievement Award.
Last year, the focus was on languages that face extinction, this year, the theme it is ‘The contemporary face of Indian literature’ focusing on a quintet of languages – Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Punjabi and Malayalam and featuring top writers from these languages to critically evaluate the latest trends in these literary streams and also position them at the national level.