A mela of wordsmiths

Ambika Shaligram
Sunday, 27 August 2017

Author and festival director of PILF Manjiri Prabhu gives us a curtain-raiser to the literary event that begins in the city on September 8

Her ‘hero’ still makes many women swoon. And her spirited heroine, women still look up to. “Two hundred years after she passed away, Jane Austen’s books, her characters, the language they spoke, still live on. If that’s not legendary, then what is?” questions Manjiri Prabhu, festival director of Pune International Literary Festival (PILF).

In its 5th edition, the festival has invited 170 authors who will be speaking on various subjects — from politics to poetry, book reading and pitching your work of fiction, non-fiction and a few special sessions devoted to this year’s theme — Voice of Women. And yes, there will be a special exhibition designed as a tribute to Jane Austen, who wrote a few books, but each of them, was memorable.

Talking about the plans, the names (Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Shabana Azmi-Javed Akhtar, Ekta Kapoor, Sagarika Ghose, to name a few) associated with the festival, Prabhu says, “Well, we do take a break, but from January, we are thick in action. It takes time finalising the authors and their sessions. Locking in all the authors, making sure that their books are coming out, what is different about them, which authors to bring in and what themes — all this starts happening from January.”

This year, the festival will be held on September 8, 9 and 10 at YASHADA, with Vishwakarma Publications as its title sponsor and partner. “We are also in association with MIT College-WPU.

Vishwakarma and MIT have been with us for long now. And, I hope they continue to be with us.”

Prabhu, who has written —The Trail of Four, The Astral Alibi, Cosmic Clues — also realises the importance of giving debut authors a chance. “At almost all the festivals, debut authors are neglected. We are tackling this problem head-on. So this segment — ‘Why buy my book?’ gives the newbies eight minutes each to promote, pitch their books in a straightforward, one-to-one interaction, with readers. This is to ensure that the works of debutants are bought. Every year, we try to maintain a balance between established, middling and new authors,” she informs.

In the midst of all the literary heavy-weights, a session by Ekta Kapoor caught our eye. Why Ekta? “Why not Ekta? She is a game changer in the television industry. She is a brilliant producer and an entrepreneur. She is  one of the voices of women. Whether you like her or not, whether you like her saas-bahu serials or not, she has a voice of her own. And, Ekta has a major presence in the television industry. So to give fair credit to her, what she has done to television viewing, she deserves the space,” retorts Prabhu.

Considering there are about 70 literary festivals that take place in the country, does she go festival-hopping, to get fodder for her thought?
Says Prabhu, “Frankly speaking, I go to other literary festivals to promote my books. We don’t want to replicate other lit festivals in Pune. The PILF has something unique to offer. We have author exhibitions — in the past we have had audio-visual exhibitions on the lives of Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton. This year, we have also planned quizzes around Austen. So anyone who gets all the answers right and also attends all three days of the festival, can win from the 60 giveaway books of the British author. In every edition, we are trying to bring in new elements.”

Other highlights of the festival include the Anupam Kher Award and collaborating with Bloomsbury India and Salzburg Global Seminar. “The Anupam Kher Award comprising Rs 1 lakh and citation for ‘Best Debut Fiction’ will be given to an Indian author. We will be announcing the name soon. My book The Trail of Four was launched by Bloomsbury India. So we have designed a contest around it, where the winners can spend two nights and a day at Salzburg,” she says. 

For literature buffs, the session on the who’s who of the publishing world will be interesting. And, so will be the sessions on environment, for those who are green conscious. 

What’s Happening

- Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan will be inaugurating the 5th PILF. After the inauguration, he will discuss with Milee Ashwarya about his book Master on Masters, in a one-hour session titled ‘Yours Truly’.

- Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar will talk on empowerment, films and their work, etc in a session titled, ‘My Story, Our Story’.

- There will be a session on ‘Women Writers’. Keerti Ramachandra, translator and editor, will be in conversation with Rakhshanda Jalil, critic and literary historian.

- Priyanka Chaturvedi, national spokesperson of INC and columnist, will have a conversation with Justice Vidyasagar Kanade about women empowerment laws passed by him.

- In ‘Voice of Women in Movies: Suppressed or Heard?’, Divya Dutta (actor), Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (director) and Kirti Kulhari (actor) will be in conversation with Priyanka Sinha Jha.

- Thomas Biebl, director of Marketing & Communications, Salzburg Global  Seminar, will be speaking on ‘The Human Library: Urbanisation, Multiculturalism and the Art of Listening’.

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