The two-day Lit-O-Fest event in Mumbai brought together artistes from various disciplines in an effort to encourage young talent and take up social causes
This weekend, the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s wife, Amruta Fadnavis, and a host of other dignitaries made their way to Phoenix MarketCity for an event that one does not usually associate with mega malls—the LIC Lit-O-Fest Mumbai 2018.
Spearheaded by Smita Parikh and Saurabh Daftary of Ebizz Entertainment, the event featured a stellar line-up of writers and artistes. They included novelist Anita Nair, who received a Literary Legend award; the rockstar Hariharan performing live for the very first time with his son Akshay; Leslie Lewis of The Experimental Music Studio; fitness guru Dr. Mickey Mehta; Lata Surendraji, who performed a classical dance ballet and several others.
Now in its fourth year, the event also included a book fair, book swap, donation for rural schools and an art and craft fair.
"Lit-O-Fest is an initiative to bridge the gap between English and the national language Hindi,” said Smita Parikh, Director of the festival and Hindi author. “This is a platform which brings all together. We promote young budding authors and get them an opportunity to meet and interact with renowned authors across the globe. We take pride in sharing that this festival also provides an opportunity to budding authors to meet leading publishers face to face and get them publishing contracts." As Smita told this writer, “Young authors came to me and said that the big festivals, such as the Jaipur Literary Festival, do not give space to budding talent. That is why we started this.” In the first year, Lit-O-Fest published eight books, and the number is set to increase.
Lit-O-Fest also takes up social causes. “We have adopted a village, Dahigaon in Shahpur District,” explains Smita. A committee has been formed with the village heads and experts and Lit-O-Fest will provide schools, toilets, drinking water and medical facilities, among other things. The goal is to make it a self-sufficient town over time. At the event this year, Lit-O-Fest also took up a campaign urging the death penalty for rapists of minor girls.
The programme began with an Open Mic session, which took a while to take off, but came to life when an enthusiastic group of students from Indus Business School in Pune took turns at the mike. Mahendra Sharma of www.matrubharti.com, a regional publishing platform, also drew the attention of the audience.
The inaugural event had a host of dignitaries, including Amruta Fadnavis, Jaykumar Rawal, a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly; Shailesh Lodha, Indian actor, comedian and writer; and Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar, scion of the 1500 year-old House of Mewar in Udaipur, among several others.
“Artistes should be able to express themselves with freedom,” the CM’s wife, who is a trained classical singer, said. She also remarked: “Write something worth reading, or become something that is worth writing about.”
Ashutosh Rathod, Joint MD, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), which supported the event, spoke of the strong connections between literature and tourism, and highlighted the richness of Marathi literature, and the contributions of authors like P L Deshpande. He also referred to Bhilar, a village in the Satara district of Maharashtra, which is the first ‘village of books’, inspired by Britain’s Hay-on-Wye, a Welsh town known for bookstores and literature festivals. The pustakanche gaon, as it is known in Marathi, was set up on May 4, 2017; it is spread over two kilometres and is about eight km away from Panchgani.
Col. Lalit Rai, who has been decorated with the Vir Chakra for his role in the Kargil War, was also present on the occasion, and spoke of how music played a vital role in instilling confidence in the troops.
The two-day event featured story-telling and poetry sessions, panel discussions, a photography exhibition (see facing page) and much more. While the festival has ended, the organisation continues to run several simultaneous initiatives to train, educate and publish writings of aspiring authors.