Don’t be afraid of Bangalore Literary Fest

Like a young debutante in the midst of a congregation of greying beauty queens, the Bangalore Literature Festival has to appease both its enthusiastic audience and those bemoaning the tamasha-fication of the treasured refuge of introverts.

They began as wishful lamentations that soon turned into hushed whispers transforming eventually into convincing rumours. With all those regular claims about being home to culture, heritage and genteel intellectuals, how is it that Bangalore was missing a multiple day, A-Lister- filled literary fest?

The optimists amongst us knew it was only a matter of time. When news of it finally came, Bangalore’s very own literature festival, unlike those preceding it, emerged to find a ready audience. Where other literary events have had to slowly build audiences, BLF suffers a large crowd bouncing excitedly on its feet, waiting to be let in.

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But this may also be a cause for anxiety. What do people do at a literary festival? What if it disappoints? Will Chetan Bhagat attend? Do not worry for we bring to you a careful deconstruction of BLF for earnest attendees like ourselves. We present to you a simple 7-point guide to demystify Bangalore’s literary weekend.

Make yourself comfortable

The organisers of the BLF want you to feel at home. Go on, register for the festival. The events between 7th and 9th December have been carefully programmed to entice at least half the city. While poetry in Hindi and Kannada seems to be a favourite, sessions will be dedicated to topics as diverse as Middle East politics, sports writing, the business of publishing, alongside several book-launches, all impressively packed into a two-and-a-half-day event.

Get those bestsellers signed. Ignore disappointments.

BLF makes its intentions to pull in crowds clear with the very first sessions: Proven lit fest stars like Chetan Bhagat, Gulzar and Javed Akhtar take stage in the initial sessions to discuss their craft. The BLF is like a pleasant dream dreamt by a very large bookstore’s Marketing department-be prepared to see the faces gracing best seller lists all over the country. The line-up includes hugely popular writers like Shobhaa De, Nandan Nilekani, Amish Tripathi, Tavleen Singh, Mark Tully; and Kannada stalwarts such as U R Ananthamurthy, Vaidehi, Chandrashekar Kambar, Nissar Ahmed and Jayant Kaikini. Not names you wouldn’t recognise. Bring those best sellers and lots of pens for autographed copies.

Even as we approach the festival weekend, much publicised participants seem to have quietly disappeared from the schedule; Shashi Tharoor and S L Bhyrappa being prominent participant list casualties. Oh well.

Take in your surroundings

It is a truth universally acknowledged that those organizing a lit-fest will be in need of a sprawling heritage hotel complex. The Jayamahal Palace Hotel is such a fine, fine choice. If the rapidity and fury of intellectual exchange gets to you, taking a walk across the hotel’s gardens may be the perfect way to switch off and plan that novel you’ve always wanted to write.

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Appreciate Dissent

The crucial thing about literature festivals is how they teach us to appreciate controversy. Before setting off fundamentalist orgies and ridiculous free-speech-maiming dramas that we have learned to expect from lit-fests these days, they were known simply for the tension of disagreement. There really is no thing as sublime as dissent. All the best discussions are arguments after all.

Even if they are now occurring all the time and everywhere, literature festivals are important because they perform the vital service of bringing sparring intellectuals together to fight it out in full public view. What greater joy than sitting on freshly manicured lawns to see greater minds debate complex ideas? We rub hands in vicious glee, wondering what some ace-provocateurs in the participant list will say to us and to each other.

There is a lesser kind of strife that the mild-mannered Bangalorean will have to learn to endure. You know those blips on fine literary evenings when somebody in the audience will rise and make grand declarations in the guise of questions? Rest assured this will happen. Nothing brings a congregation of strangers together than shared embarrassment at somebody else’s quotes. Looking away and pretending it didn’t happen is usually effective.

Absorb Cinema! Music! Dance! And buy a lot of new books

The end of evening one will see a veena and violin recital by Dr Jayanti Kumaresh and Vidwan Kumaresh. The second evening will feature a (not unpredictably) yakshagana performance by the Keremane Shivananda Hegde troupe.

Pic courtesy: bangalore literature

The concluding session of the BLF is a tribute to Dr Rajkumar where actor Puneet Rajkumar discusses the late thespian, along with a short documentary on the ‘Dr Raj Phenomenon’. Then there is actress Ramya joining other famous Bangaloreans in a discussion on the city we call home, as BLF happily accommodates the Kannada film industry’s popular representatives.

For a relatively short event, the BLF will launch an awful lot of books. The latest works of Shobhaa De, Tavleen Singh, Akash Bannerjee and, William Dalrymple (on 15th December) together form one very elaborate launch party.

If you must bring children, please leave them at the Makkala Koota

Hurrah! A separate set of sessions focusing only on children’s literature will be set up in the banquet hall of the Jayamahal Palace. Featuring Sahitya Akademi award winning author Bolwar Mahammad Kunhi speaking about Mahatma Gandhi; Mala Kumar, Rohini Nilekani, Roopa Pai all talking about their books.

Stray from the familiar

The BLF will be one of those rare events which will allow us to watch many, many writers in one place. That it brings the finest Kannada language writers of present day together with popular names from English and Hindi literature, giving everybody ample opportunity for initiation into other literature, is the single best reason that justifies the city’s clamour for an exclusive fest.

The inaugural edition of the Bangalore Literature Festival has been designed to please. It attempts to, with its formidable line-up of writers, not disappoint the thousands who will throng the sessions next week. We must remember, as we are eager to snatch from detractors the culture-city tag, that a mela does not a lit-fest make. More imaginative themes and newer writers would have made the programme more compelling. But for now we gear up, pretty raw silk kurtas and all, for our first grand literary weekend.

The full schedule is available here:



9.30 – 10.30 am
Session 1 – Srujana Sheelathe: Creativity in Writing
Baragur Ramachandrappa, Chandrashekhara Kamabara, K. S. Nissar Ahmed and U R Ananthamurthy | Moderator: Manu Chakravarthy
Because: When the biggest names in Kannada literature gather to speak, you listen.

1.15 – 2.15 pm
Session 4 – The Business of Books
Caroline Newbury, Gautam Padmanabhan, Karthika V K, Prakash Kambathalli and Sanjana Roy Choudhury | Moderator: Annie Chandy
Because: The panel boasts of top names from the country’s biggest publishing houses. Moderated by Bangalore’s own Annie Chandy.

3.15 – 4.15 pm
Session 6 – Playing the Write Game
Shehan Karunatilaka, Suresh Menon, Vinod Naidu
Moderator: Boria Majumdar
Because: Sri Lankan writer and DSC Literary Prize winner Shehan Karunatilaka is as fine raconteur as he is a writer. Suresh Menon is an acclaimed sports writer.

4.15 – 5.15 pm
Session 7 – Sobha Developers presents Experience, Memory and Stories
Anita Nair, Biman Nath, Kavery Nambisan and Manju Kapur | Moderator: Usha K R


9.30 – 10.30 am
Session 1 – Hosa Ale: New Waves in Kannada Literature
Banu Mushtaq, Jayant Kaikini, Kum Vee Bhadrappa and Vaidehi | Moderator: Prakash Belawadi

11.30 – 12.30 pm
Session 3 – Stage of Life: Mahesh Dattani in conversation with Ashish Sen
Because: The theatre lovers department.

2.15 – 3.15 pm
Session 5 – Hark the New Brigade!
Aroon Raman, Shefalee Vasudev, Sudeep Nagarkar, Vikrant Dutta and Yasmeen Premji | Moderator: Shoba Narayan
Because: New writers!

6.00 – 6.45 pm
Session 9 – Bangarada Manushya: Bangalore Literature Festival tribute to Dr Rajkumar.
Puneeth Rajkumar and Maya Chandra in conversation with Vasanthi Hariprakash.
Short screening of ‘Dr Rajkumar – An Analysis of the Phenomenon’

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