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A writerly banquet

Friday, November 16, 2018

The 9th Mumbai International Literary Festival is an overflowing cup of joy for Ronita Torcato

As usual, a vast banquet and a surfeit of riches at the 9th Mumbai LitFest – a festival of ideas, literature and culture – orchestrated by its Founder-Director Anil Dharker, over four glorious days (Thursday November 15 to Sunday November 18.) And such a stellar line-up he has assembled,  of poets, thinkers, novelists, biographers, critics,performers and screenwriters. Over 100 of them!  Which is why, this year, Tata Literature Live! is taking place at three venues, which will please downtowners and suburbanites alike: the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Nariman Point, Prithvi Theatre, Juhu and Title Waves Bookstore/ St Paul’s Institute of Communication Education, Bandra, where the literati will be regaled by discussions, conversations, workshops, performances, debates and quizzes.

Highlights include the Tata Literature Live! 2018 Awards for the best books of the year in Fiction, Non-Fiction, Business Writing, and Children’s literature and plays.  This will be followed by a ceremony to honour Poet Laureate 2018, distinguished poet Jayanta Mahapatra. The galaxy of stars,the list is long and yours truly could go on and on...we will sorely miss wordsmith Shashi Tharoor.

Let me tell you a bit about a few who will be reading from their works, participating in discussions, waxing eloquent on the art and craft of writing and sharing their thoughts on the state of the world.  Don’t know if anybody will talk about Brexit—decidedly not Deborah Moggach. There will be  few cinephiles in India who have not seen  the box office hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and its sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, starring Dev Patel and  Judi Dench, which were inspired by  Moggach’s  novel These Foolish Things about a motley group of British seniors who find a new life in India.  Moggach is a prolific novelist and screenwriter to boot, she wrote the screenplay for the 2004  version of  the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice. Moggach will be talking  about the process of adapting books to films, on November 17 with Christos Tsiolkas and David Ebershoff at the Tata Theatre. On November 18, she will discuss good writing with best-selling author Sabine Durrant and Folco Terzani, an  Italian writer and documentary filmmaker (venue NCPA’s Godrej Theatre) and Tradition, Islam and modernity with memoirist Neyaz Farooquee and Nazia Erum,author of the critically acclaimed book,  Mothering a Muslim. Activist author Javed Anand will chair this session at Title Waves.

Today, award-winning author Alan Hollinghurst, Mexican writer Alberto Ruy-Sánchez, and Chennai-born poet of Welsh-Gujarati parentage Tishani Doshi will tell the audience at the NCPA’s Little Theatre about the books that made them writers.  Readers should know Hollinghurst is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1989 Somerset Maugham Award, the 1994 James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the 2004 Booker Prize.

Tomorrow, you might like to catch Molly Crabapple  (real name Jennifer Caban)  who has  sketched the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City, illustrated Brothers of the Gun, a memoir of the Syrian War by war correspondent Marwan Hisham and written about ageing, photoshopping and abortion. She will  take part in a panel titled Code of Conduct: The new rules at work  with “raging feminist” Harnidh Kaur, actor Kalki Koechlin, and  new author Richa Kaul Padte at NCPA’s Godrej Theatre.

Eran Hadas, Israeli poet and  programmer will conduct a workshop on using artificial intelligence to write poems (tomorrow NCPA’s SeaView Room) discuss computer-generated literature at Title Waves (also tomorrow) and read his own poetry today at  Little Theatre.

The Tata Theatre will be the venue of Harishchandra Kavyam: A Story in Song and Art & Activism by  Vanamala Viswanatha. This is  her English translation of a 13th century Kannada poetic text; Viswanatha  will retell the story  in Kannada and English, accompanied by a musical recitation.

Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Awardee Mark Tully  will reminisce about his life in India and what the country means to him. The presentation to Mark Tully, will be followed by a conversation with Anil Dharker. There will be other conversations too. For example between journalists Karan Thapar and Sagarika Ghose, translator Vanamala Viswanatha and writer Aatish Taseer and authors Upamanyu Chatterjee and Shobhaa De.

The Godrej Theatre will be the venue of a performance by Obie-award winning Tim Crouch titled I, Malvolio.  A play about one of Shakespeare’s most notoriously abused and comic characters. I, Malvolio re-imagines Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night from the point of view of its most notoriously abused steward. And at the Prithvi Theatre, there will be a vibrant and physical retelling of an episode from the Ramayana by Adishakti.  At the Tata Theatre, Faulks will tell Tishani Doshi about juggling various pens.  Faulks has been commissioned to write the continuation of the series on James Bond and PG Wodehouse. All this while also being a successful novelist in his own right.  Prithvi will also showcase One Discordant Violin, a play based on Yann (Life of Pi) Martel’s short story about the power of war, literature and music.

In the Little Theatre, British satirist Craig Brown will  perform a selection of parodies, channeling Pinter, Naipaul, Hardy, Queen Elizabeth 11, Germaine Greer and President Trump.  What else? Foreign Body, a solo show about hope and healing after sexual assault, told from the perspective of the survivor and perpetrator of the same assault,  will be followed by a discussion. Please visit for complete details. And remember that the fest is completely free.

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