Posted by Namita Bhandare:
I know the organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival (Diggi Palace hotel, Jaipur, January 21-25, entry free to all) love to say that the festival is democratic and that they don’t want to pitch one session over and above the others but here’s what I think will be the star events at the Lit Fest:
1. The Indian premiere of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. That the film has reaped awards at the Golden Globe and is tipped to be an Oscar favourite has only added to the curiosity factor. And now that Amitabh Bachchan has blasted the film for daring to show the ‘murky under belly’ of Mumbai (has he taken over from where Raj Thackeray left off?), the pre-publicity hype has just got a notch hotter. As they say in showbiz, any publicity is good publicity. Anyway, to come back to the film: present at the premiere will be, no not Danny Boyle (he’ll be in Mumbai) but Vikas Swarup who wrote Q&A, the book on which the script is based, and also, apparently, Anil Kapoor. I’m a bit alarmed by the filmi flourishes which the festival’s PR guides seem to favour (they roped Aamir Khan in last year), but I guess they’re doing it because they believe it sells the festival. If you ask me, the festival (now in its fourth year) doesn’t need much selling.
2. Actually, if you have problems with Bachchan’s comments on Slumdog, you could voice them personally to him. AB – I can already picture the frenzied crowds armed with autograph books – also makes his Lit Fest debut as Osian’s Neville Tuli kicks off Bachchanalia: The Films and Memorabilia of Amitabh Bachchan on January 23 at 12 pm at Diggi Palace’s Durbar Hall (how on earth are they planning crowd management?). The session is followed by lunch (by invitation only) hosted by Osian’s. No word yet on whether Mr B will stick around for a bit of daal-baati-churma.
3. I’m putting my money not on Slumdog or Bachchan, but the two big ticket festival speakers: Vikram Seth and Pico Iyer. Michael Ondaatje was supposed to have been there and, until as recently as last week was billed as one of the speakers. A more recent update of the website makes no mention of him and nor is he slotted in the festival schedule. So safe to presume that he’s not coming. Too bad.
The Vikram Seth session is at 11 am on January 21 while Pico Iyer is slotted for 10 am on January 24. These are the only two sessions to be slotted for the open front lawns at Diggi Palace, clearly because the organisers anticipate that they won’t be able to accommodate the audience that is bound to overrun the auditorium. Seth’s session will be moderated by sassy journalist-author-blogger-dog lover Sonia Faleiro. Pico will interact with author-journalist William Dalrymple who is also one of the festival’s organisers. Just FYI, Vikram Seth will be travelling to Jaipur with his mother Justice Leila Seth who is attending the festival as a author in her own right (On Balance, her autobiography was an 80th birthday gift to her husband, Premo Seth). I’m moderating the session with Leila Seth and Marie Brenner called First Person Singular. Do drop by the Mughal Tent at Diggi at 2.30 pm on the 21st of January if you happen to be there.
If you can’t make it to Pico Iyer’s big session on Jan 24, try and catch him on January 23 at 11 am when he raps with Patrick French on the art of biography.
4. I’m ready to bet that Nandan Nilekani rather than Tash Aw will grab more headlines. His book, Imagining India is already a bestseller. Ditto for Chetan Bhagat - his books have the ultimate certificate of success-they sell pirated copies at traffic signals.
5. The festival kicks off with a session with Jnanpith award winner U.R. Ananthamurthy at 10 am on January 21, moderated by Namita Gokhale (author and, like Dalrymple, one of the festival’s organisers since its inception four years ago).
6. In case you’re going to be in Jaipur for the festival, don’t miss some of the performances. On day one, there’s something called Mischievous maidens across mobile geographies – sounds too good to miss. And in these days of complete intolerance for our neighbours (including calls for complete annihilation from people who should know better), I’m definitely going to try to be around for the Junoon concert feat Salman Ahmed from Pakistan.
7. Finally, don’t miss Patrick French, Hari Kunzru, Mohammed Hanif, Tarun Tejpal, Madhu Trehan, Tina Brown. GenNext writers – Rana Dasgupta, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi and my former colleague and (present) friend Sudeep Chakravart should give the fest the edge it always has.