Romancing words with wordsmiths

Ambika Shaligram
Saturday, 14 September 2019

Manjiri Prabhu, author and founder-director of Pune International Literary Festival, gives us a sneak-peek into the seventh edition that starts from September 20

With over 130 speakers and 70 plus sessions covering topics from artificial intelligence, digital age to sustainablity, climate change and waste management, from Kaifi Azmi’s nazms, to soul stories and tales of Shivaji and his forts, while also decoding murders through genres, the seventh edition of the Pune International Literary Festival (PILF) 2019 — Romancing Creativity, attempts to break the confines of what is termed as ‘literature’. The three-day festival, held in association with MIT-WPU, starts from September 20 at YASHADA. 

Manjiri Prabhu, the festival’s founder-director says, “We learn and grow with each edition of the festival and this year, we have tried to bring speakers who have a multi-disciplinary approach. If I must say, our this year’s line-up is superb. We have at least 13 international speakers and amongst them are three European Union award-winning authors — Jan Carson, Marta Dzido and Çiler Ilhan. And, headlining the Indian contingent of speakers are Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, Devdutt Pattanaik, Ashwin Sanghi, Vikram Sampath and Manu Pillai. The festival will be inaugurated by eminent poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar. He will be in conversation with Atika Farooqui.” 

Speakers and sessions

This being the election year, with the state assembly elections looming on horizon, and the BJP back in New Delhi, the literary festival will see politicians of all shades and hues talking about their lives and work. Manu Pillai, who was the former chief of staff of Shashi Tharoor, will be in conversation with the Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram. Dr Tharoor, who has written, The Hindu Way— An Introduction to Hinduism will also be in discussion with Dr Alka Pande in a session titled ‘Why I am a Hindu? ‘ 

Closer home, Rajya Sabha MP and former Chief Minister of Maharashtra Narayan Rane, who released his memoirs this year, will take the stage with Raju Parulekar in ‘Your’s Truly’ session. Shiv Sena leader Dr Neelam Gorhe, Sanjay Jha and author and Mumbai BJP spokesperson Tuhin Sinha will speak in a panel discussion titled, Is India a Majoritarian State? The discussion will be moderated by Naresh Fernandes. 

With Save our Earth (climate change) as its social theme for this year, the PILF has quite a few sessions on the subject. Says Prabhu, “The gravity of climate change was brought home to us, yet again, with the image of a polar bear, scavenging in the industrial city of Serbia. We, as literary people, can create awareness about the subject. We have a session on ‘Waste not the Waste’ in which Dr Arunabha Ghosh will talk on what he learned about climate change in the last one decade. A key panel discussion on ‘Save Our Earth – The Challenges of the Century’ with Bahar Dutt, Dr Mangesh Kashyap, Dr Milind Watve and others is also a must-attend session. In our social pavillion, we have 20 standees talking about climate change and the steps we can take to reduce our footprint.”

In the last edition of the festival, the PILF team had stalls that offered cloth bags. Would the team be doing something similar this year? The author, who has penned Destination series like Voice of the Runes, says, “We are still in the process of finalising things. But we are looking at cutting down on print usage.” 

Science, short stories and new releases
The festival, which has tried to tap into all fields, and all forms of creativity, is hosting a session on ‘Artificial Intelligence and Social Innovation’ which as the geeks would tell you, is “very current.” 

“Stacey Baird, who is coming from Hong Kong, Seda Röder and Parag Mankeekar will be speaking in the session moderated by Dr Charles Ehrlich of Salzburg Global Seminar,” adds Prabhu. In ‘Creativity in the Digital Age – Challenges in Freeing Imagination’ session, Edmund Kinglsey, Seda Röder, Anirban Bhattacharyya and Mika Johnson would be in discussion and it would be moderated by Sidharth Jain.

From science, we move to literature, particularly short stories, which would interest the bibliophiles and budding writers. Pune author, Sucharita Dutta Asane would be chatting with Jan Carson and Çiler Ilhan in a session titled ‘From Postcards to Stories’. Portuguese author Clara Macedo Cabral would be talking about her books in ‘The English lady and the Master’ session. Popular writer Anand Neelakantan would be “roasted” by Shatrujeet Nath. Nath and Ashwin Sanghi, Ravi Subramanian and Prabhu would be ‘Cracking the Thriller Code with Masters’.

Prabhu would also be releasing her 15th, but her first book for children, on the day two of the festival. “I grew up on a steady diet of lemonades, scones and going  cycling and hiking with the characters in Enid Blyton books. It was fun, but I realise now that I was also disconnected with the Indian way and through my book, Mystery at Malabar Cottage, I would want to give Indian readers today a desi mystery, packed with nariyal pani. It’s a story of The Spunky Cousins who discover secret tunnels etc in Konkan. It’s a story with a global backdrop, but with local references. With this, I hope to penetrate the Enid Blyton market and have a series of The Spunky Cousins like the English author’s Famous Five,” she adds. 

Exhibitions and panels on films
Like every year, this edition too will have an ‘author in focus’, in which the readers and laymen will be reintroduced to a master storyteller and his or her works. “This year, it’s Daphne du Maurier who’s penned Gothic romances and stories with overtones of paranormal. She has written fantastic books like Rebecca, My cousin Rachel, which have been made into films by Alfred Hitchcock,” says Prabhu. There is an exhibition of paintings — India in My Dreams — by Miguel Barros, a Portugal artist and another photography exhibition by French shutterbug Jean-Marc Godes.

Another highlight of the seventh edition is the two panels on films. “We plan to have a film panel as a regular feature. This year, we will have a discussion on ‘Changing face of Marathi cinema’ and then there will be another session on ‘The Old-New Cult of Short Films,” she adds. From word to screen and everything in between, there is something for everyone. 

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