What to Look For at This Year’s Gujarat Literature Festival

Gujarat Literature Festival 2016

Controversial debates around Gandhi’s morality, a dekko into what it means to write for films, untold stories and humour – these are some of the many themes being covered in the 4th edition of GLF 2016. CY outlines 8 broad themes under which interested readers can satiate their curiosities.  

On 16th of December, the Gujarat Literature Festival will be presenting its 4th Edition at the Kanoria Centre for Arts, Ahmedabad. True to its founding vision to include “all forms and mediums used to express literary creativity”, the founders have curated a veritable range of themes for discussion and debate – free for all.

  1. Deconstructing Gandhi

In the heart of Ahmedabad – a city that venerates the Gandhian legacy – a few scholars and writers have dangerously embarked on cracking the rose-tinted glasses through which we view the Father of the Nation. “Was Gandhi a Racist and Casteist?” is a controversial no-holds barred debate planned on Friday evening, with the likes of political theorist Lord Bhikhu Parekh who has written extensively on Gandhi’s political philosophy, and JNU professor Gopal Guru, taking part.

This Festival, founded by a group of experienced journalists, appears to be fittingly fuelled by a spirit of critical enquiry and an urge to bring out untold perspectives. For those curious to learn more, this session will also be pre-empted by a morning discussion – “Was Sardar meted out injustice by Gandhiji?” On Sunday, author of the latest fiction on Kasturba – Neelima Dalmia Adhar – will be speaking about “the secrets Kasturba lived with”. And around the same time, best-selling Swedish author and biographer of Gandhi – Zac O’Yeah – will be in conversation with Lissa Chazot, a distinguished educator at Mahatma Gandhi International School.

  1. Illustrious Line-up

For voracious readers, GLF will be a wonderful opportunity to meet with some illustrious authors this year. Ashwin Sanghi, author of Chanakya Chants and Rozabal Line – who has often been hailed as the “Indian Dan Brown” for creating compelling narratives in the fiction-thriller genre – will be unravelled in conversation on Friday afternoon. Namita Gokhale, acclaimed novelist and founder of the giant Jaipur Literature Festival – which has been described as ‘the greatest literary show on earth’ – will be speaking on Saturday afternoon with Padma Shri awardee Pushpesh Pant. Pant, who is a historian as well as an expert on Indian cuisine, will also be speaking about food history on Sunday evening.

One of Gujarat’s leading writers – Jay Vasavada – will discuss detective fiction and thriller writers on Saturday evening. Veteran Gujarati litterateur Dhiruben Patel will also be gracing the occasion on Friday afternoon for a session called “Alpviram: If this was my last speech!”

  1. Film Writers

This year, the Screenwriters’ Association will be bringing together some of the minds behind acclaimed Indian cinema. GLF kick-starts on Friday morning with what promises to be an engaging discussion on the portrayal of women in mainstream cinema – “Sati or Sunny?” – with the likes of Ritesh Shah (Pink), Juhi Chaturvedi (Piku), Jaideep Sahni (Chak De! India) and Pubali Chaudhuri (Rock On) present – all of whom have dealt with stories that challenged stereotypes. Immediately following this is a debate on the challenges of evolving linguistics, with a Bollywood perspective – “Hindustani; Hindi; Hinglish?” Furthermore, on Saturday, Anjum Rajabali (Rajneeti) and Saumya Joshi (102 Not Out) will be engaged in discussion on how contemporary Indian writing is increasingly being influenced by ancient scriptures, in the session “Mythology Re-born!”

  1. The Language of Gujarat

About a thousand years ago, a group of Gujaratis had migrated to Tamil Nadu, carrying with them their native language. The passage of time notwithstanding, their ‘Sorashtri Bhasha’ remains intact till today, well after they adopted a new Tamil identity. “1000 years old Gujarati is alive in Tamil Nadu!” is a session that will be held by the Sourashtra Heritage Chair on Sunday afternoon.

For aficionados of Gujarati literature, there is no dearth of sessions at this year’s GLF. Writer Kaajal Oza Vaidya will be introducing “Masters of Gujarati Literature”, and renowned Gujarati author Pannalal Patel will be remembered by his daughter-in-law Drashti – both on Friday evening. The world’s first encyclopaedia of women, as well as the world’s second largest novel, are both written in Gujarati – and will be discussed by their authors on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, respectively.

  1. Untold Stories

Storytellers are deeply interested in the untold stories that lurk behind closed doors, thrive within furtive correspondences, or are lost in the speed of contemporary life. In this GLF, one can lend one’s ears to many such tales – stories of compassion witnessed across political borders in the midst of terror attacks (“Beyond Neerja from PanAm-73”, Sunday evening), and tales from the hinterland – with Prabhudas Patel recounting stories of Adivasis (Sunday morning) and IIM-A Prof Anil Gupta shedding light on the grassroots innovations made by marginal communities (Friday afternoon). A Sunday morning session “Poetry from the Prisons” will have inmates from the Sabarmati Central Jail reciting their written words. Another engaging session promises to touch on “the unknown story of an Indian James Bond” – ACN Nambiar a man who served as Nehru’s aide, Indira’s confidante and a Soviet spy, in his lifetime – on Saturday afternoon.

  1. ‘Non-Literary’ Literature

The founders of GLF believe that “literature is not bound within the covers of a published book”, choosing to celebrate equally the myriad other forms and mediums that explore literary creativity. This is particularly relevant in light of the Nobel Prize for Literature being recently awarded to Bob Dylan – fuelling widespread debate on whether songwriting constitutes literature. Adding to this debate will be poet and lyricist Irshad Kamil and Shellee, writer of Udta Punjab and Dev D, among others, on Sunday afternoon.

“Did the Radio Jockeys kill Gujarati?” also seems to be a question that might lead to an engaging discussion on Saturday afternoon – with the likes of RJ’s Dhwanit, Devaki and Mihir appearing in conversation with linguist Yogendra Vyas.  A session comparing Journalism and Literature on Sunday evening discusses how newspapers helped shape the finest Gujarati novelists, and an ensuing discussion will explore the works of academic writers in Gujarat whose works may not be ‘literary’ in the conventional sense but are extremely well circulated.

  1. Humour

One of the visions of this year’s festival is to hone a culture where we can learn to laugh at ourselves. People who appreciate comic books and comedy would like several of the sessions slated for GLF. Popular humorist Sairam Dave will open the Festival as part of the inaugural debate on Friday morning. A session on “the synonym of humour in Gujarati literature” will unearth stories from the works of celebrated humour writer Jyotindra Dave on Saturday evening; followed by popular cartoonist Manjul who will be speaking on “the art of offending” – on what it takes to make fun of powerful people. The world of children’s literature – often considered to be the most difficult, though seemingly simple, work of writing – is not to be left behind in this festival’s discourse, with a session on “humour in children’s literature” slated for Sunday afternoon.

  1. There’s more to the Festival than discourses and debates

Any good festival allows participants to equally engage in the subject matters being discussed. A range of workshops have been organised starting 15th December that promise to lend useful tips in various genres of writing. A session on adapting literature to cinema will be conducted in partnership with the Screenwriters’ Association on Saturday morning. Creative Yatra is hosting two workshops as well – one exploring how Virtual Reality works and its influence on visual storytelling (Friday evening) and the other exploring the world of Shakespeare and his tragedies with S.D. Desai (Saturday evening).

Additionally, a photography exhibition by Vivek Desai promises to be unmissable, located right at the gallery in Kanoria Centre. The evenings are also set for cultural delight, with Chintan Naik’s rock rendering of a 17th century Amdavadi poet, Irshad Kamil’s musical poems with his band Waahz, and Aditi Desai’s play ‘Dhaad’ slated to happen.

Be sure to check out the detailed GLF schedule online and to enrol for the event (thought it’s free) and workshops to make your plans for what’s set to be an enthralling three-day Festival.

GLF day 1


GLF day 2 GLF day 3

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