TATA Literature Live!: The Mumbai LitFest, 2019 concluded its 10th edition on 17th November 2019 (Sunday). It took place across in 3 locations across the city: Title Waves bookstore and the St. Paul’s Media Institute, Prithvi Theatre, and NCPA (National Centre for Performing Arts).
The literary festival began on 14th November and concluded with the presentation of Tata Literature Live! 2019 Awards on 17th evening at the NCPA, with the Lifetime Achievement Award being presented to Shanta Gokhale. TATA Literature Live! Book of The Year Award-Fiction was given to Raj Kamal Jha for his novel, The City and the Sea whereas TATA Literature Live! Book of The Year Award-Non Fiction was awarded to Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From by Tony Joseph.
This year’s literary event hosted numerous sessions that were grouped by subject matter from literary discussions to history, from current affairs to environment and much more. We present them here under three broad themes –
Comics and Graphic Novels
A History of Women and Gender in Comics
The talk was jointly presented by Aarthi Parthasarthy and Arun Prasad. Aarthi is the creator of the web comic, Royal Existentials and is also part of the South Asian feminist collective, Kadak that creates graphic stories. Arun is a comic book archivist who began his career as a journalist but now is involved in collecting Indian comics and has created an unparalleled comics archive.
This informative talk began with Aarthi presenting the history of comics by women in the Western world, beginning from how women used comics during the Suffrage Movement. She ended with chronicling of Indian comic artists, their work and contribution. Arun talked about how he collected comics from all over India and also spoke widely about the varied and rare comics in his vast collection.
Their research which looks at the history of comics in India is based on this archive. As part of the research, they are going through the archive to find connections between the content of the comics and socio-political context of the country. It was indeed a knowledgeable session that also highlighted the need to uncover female comic artists in India as well.
The Graphic Novelist as a Satirist
The speakers for this talk were Appupen, David McKean and Aarthi Parthasarthy. Each spoke about the need to satirise through their work and emphasised on the role of satire as a critique of the powers that be. It was truly a visual feast as the speakers gave a glimpse into their work as well.
Both the talks were held at Title Waves which was absolutely perfect as the bookshop boasts of having a good collection of comics, graphic novels and manga.
Language and Writing
Double Speak was a panel discussion chaired by Annie Zaidi and on the panel were Shanta Gokhale and Andrey Kurkov. The discussion revolved around writing in more than one language and what it feels like to be able to think, read, and produce literary works in many different languages. The session was quite lively as both the speakers regaled the audience with entertaining anecdotes about their work. Kurkov speaks six languages and he emphasised how the tone of his writing is dependent on the language he uses. Shanta Gokhale, on the other hand, spoke of how she received encouragement from Nissim Ezekiel, no less, to write in Marathi and to pursue prose rather than poetry! Several such engaging tidbits had the audience in splits while also throwing light on their writing bilingual and multi lingual works.
The Little Festival
For the first time, Tata Literature Live! introduced something special for the kids called The Little Festival. Its aim was to inculcate the habit of reading among children and included several workshops conducted on various interesting topics such as creating cartoons, writing poems, writing mysterious characters etc. The Little Festival also hosted retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth for children.
You Cheeky Devil
Who says literature and reading has to be an individual pursuit alone? Banishing the notion of reading as being boring, the festival also had a literary quiz to bring out the literary nerd in all of us!
You Cheeky Devil was hosted by 94.3 RadioOne host, Hrishi K. The participants were an eclectic mix: famed Sanskrit scholar, Arshia Sattar; the quirky Historian, Manu S. Pillai; Journalist, Peter Griffin and Senior Commissioning Editor at Penguin Random House India, Manasi Subramaniam. The four participants fought each other over literary quotes, literary dumb charades and even a bout of Pictionary!
We also attended this year’s Bangalore Literature Festival. Take a look here – BLF2019. If you want to jump to specific sessions, we have picked 3 for you to start-