What better way to celebrate the beginning to of a brand-new year than a three-day heart to heart about all things language and literature? Born out of a genuine love for the arts and literature, 4th January saw the opening of the Gujarat Literature fest, bigger and better than ever before.
Kick-starting the 5th edition of the famed Gujarat Literature Festival, the city of Ahmedabad couldn’t be more proud. A brainchild of Shyam Parekh and Samkit Shah, this year the festival is dedicated to exploring the art behind story-telling, its formats and narratives.
With a single-minded aim to bring more attention to the Gujarati language and attract more youth to not only listening but creating art in the language, the Gujarat Literature Festival is known for its appeal among the reader community. This time around they began by felicitating authors/writers and publishers for the efforts they put into creating the kind of literature we come across.
Like proud Papas, the GLF team announced GLF Awards for the first time in the five editions. With a series of awards in categories like most innovative book design, unique book publication, best proof-reading in the publication category, the Gujarat Literature Festival Awards shone a light on the faces we have never seen or heard of before as layman. The list consisted of Apruva Ashar for Best Book design, Divine Publishing for Most Promising new Publication house, Sahjanand Trust for distributing for them 30,000 books and RR Sheth publication for lifetime of publishing quality Gujarati work. Vejesingh Bhadia was recognized for his excellent skills at proofreading and the applause for this one reached higher than any other award.
Followed by the writers’ awards, the evening was a celebratory one in presence of the eminent dignitaries like Vishnu Pandya of Sahitya Academy, Sanket Shah of Gujarat University, Smt Amruta Fadnavis and the most awaited, Shri Vijay Rupani, Chief Minister of the State. A guest second time around for the Literature fest, the honourable Chief Minister in his speech, talked about the lack of importance the language has in its own homeland but also pledged support to initiatives like the GLF from the government. He also promised a policy formation in the direction and asked for help from institutes like Gujarat University and Sahitya Academy in including more of the language inclusively in the teaching curriculum for students across the state.
With high hopes for the future of the regional language, this one of a kind festival’s main attraction this time is INK Tank, an event where all aspiring writers can openly pitch ideas to publication houses who might then give them feedback, or even a signing amount/royalty if they deem these ideas fit. Aiming to bridge the gap between authors and publishers, this festival has more than 100 panels and events in these three days that are already gaining a lot of popularity.
The main attraction for the first day of the fest, a truly remarkable panel discussion between Directors R S Prasanna of Shubh Mangal Savdhan, Saket Chaudhary, known for the recent success Hindi Medium, Mikhil Musale of the very acclaimed Gujarati movie Wrong Side Raju were engaged in a very lively panel with screenwriter Anjum Rajabali. Between the four of them, they discussed the failures of 2017, the limitations of Bollywood and also also touched upon the lack of good scriptwriters that the industry is currently facing. Strong in their opinions, they concluded that with the changing face of technology and access as easy as Netflix, compelling story-telling and screenplay are the only way to make a good movie and decentralization of Bollywood from cities like Mumbai and Delhi is the best thing the industry has currently done.
Importance of writers and story-tellers seemed like a central theme for the day with the supremely talented Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra talked about Rang De Basanti being the one movie of his life where he had a solid foundation and a screenplay that did all the heavy lifting. Rakeysh was very firm in his beliefs that you can not make a good movie without a good script. And while scripts and screenplay has become more and more competitive with Hollywood being so accessible, there is an ardent lack of skilled writers who specialise in script writing and screenplay. Even with his oh-so-interesting stories about movies like Rang De Basanti and Mirzya, he maintained that India should have script writing and screenplay in its education and not discount writers as the country tends to do.
On a very different spectrum, Margie Sastry of Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle, Shekhar Mukherjee of NID and Kanan Dhru, creator of Law toons talked about the importance of telling a story with a tinge of humour and how that, is the key to not offend in a nation obsessed with being offended. Comic creation being an interdisciplinary art form, the most interesting part was how Margie Sastry talked about there being respect, harmony and balance between the writer for comics and the artist. She said that was the key to telling stories and if her work is a testimony to her words, there’s no doubt that’s the way to go!
From various aspects of a short stories to what it takes to write one, the 1 chapter stories panel with Madhu Rye was a panel of writers who have had stories they have literally picked off streets or written in a toolshed because the story-worm had bit them and refused to let go. It was so humbling to see these playwrights and novelists and storytellers talk about struggles they faced and accolades they won in between the struggle they still call life.
With three venues and multiple panels, the GLF ensures there is something for everyone, be it a student or an elderly with a love for poetry. From poetry and workshops to writing and cinema and acting, this edition of GLF already has established that it doesn’t want to contain itself in labels but wants to expand into as many lives and hearts as it can.
Photographs : Rajkumar Rao & Aditya Sharma
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