Feluda: Gen Next

Feluda, someone all of us grew up with and one of the first detectives we ever came across. He captured our young minds and Satyajit Ray still remains one of my favourite authors. The thrill, suspense and action in the books left us wanting more. The movies later on, became iconic ones too.
In the movies, Feluda has been portrayed by Soumitra Chatterjee, Sabyasachi Chakrabarty, Abir Chatterjee and Shashi Kapoor.
I obviously cannot express in words, how excited I was about this session which had Sabyasachi Chakrabarty, Abir Chatterjee and Sandip Ray in store for us.
(And of course, I have a teeny weeny crush on Abir Chatterjee)

In conversation.
In conversation.

Sandip Ray admits, he had always wanted to start his career in films with one Feluda film. But never found courage to make it, as there were already two excellent movies that had been made. He even talks about some other hobbies of his like calligraphy.
Soumitra Chatterjee says he had always had the determination and desire to star as Feluda and was delighted to act in “Baksho Rohoshyo”. He was to look up the illustrations and says Sandip Ray’s guidance had helped him immensely. They say that they don’t plan to improvise much on the character of Feluda and don’t want to modernise him. They talk of how “Sherlock” has been a rage all over the world, but even then, they don’t want Feluda to be using tablets and phones in the movies.
On being asked how much of “Byomkesh” and how much of “Feluda” he feels, Abir (looking really handsome) says that he is thankful to the audience for accepting both and loving both. He says that neither of the two movies were made for a commercial purpose and they remembered at all times the amount of sentiments attached to the two characters. He was in a dilemma at first about doing both roles, but was excited ultimately when he was cast as Feluda.
They admit, that they will not make Feluda in Hindi as the people of Bengal would never want to watch it.

This was a splendid session and to see my favourite actors up front was indeed a privilege. To know future plans and hear about personal experiences, was equally interesting.


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On Breaking Boundaries in Indian Fiction.

The second session had guests like Indrajit Hazra, Devdan Chaudhuri, Soumya Bhattacharya, Abhijnan Roychowdhury. All of them are young writers, three in English and one in Bengali.

In conversation.
In conversation.

They were going to talk about exploring the unknown in their writings and the challenges faced. Fiction happens to be my favourite genre and thus I was particularly excited for this one.
Indrajit Hazra says he initially started writing when he found there weren’t too many good books to read on his bookshelves. He has tried to write to bring new things to the forefront. He claims that he does not write to reflect society but writes to present something new to the readers.
Soumya has never wanted to call himself a novelist of one particular genre and he tries to write books, which he himself enjoys reading too.
Abhijnan writes books of many genres including ghost stories, young adult fiction and more. He started off with balancing technicalities and at the same time making characters that can appear to be another boy next door.
They try using new elements which people of the current time can relate to.  They try to be “schizophrenic” to do justice to their jobs as a journalist and as a novelist. They say, “boundaries” are sometimes necessary. For example, Devdan says that he can write well only during the night time and that acts like a good thing for him. They say experience and exposure help greatly in breaking “boundaries”. Deadlines too, sometimes prove to be helpful.
The session spoke at length about writers and novelists who have other jobs too.


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The Written Words: Amit Chaudhuri and Adam Foulds.

In conversation.
In conversation.

The first session of the last day had in store Adam Foulds with Amit Chaudhuri. The session was moderated by Sujata Sen.
Adam Foulds is a British author who has been featured on the Granta list of 20 best young writers,
I was particularly excited about Amit Chaudhary, an Indian novelist who received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2002. His writings are famous for reflecting a complex literary sensibility, and great theoretical mastery, along with a probing sense of detail. One my mom’s favourite books are “A Strange and Sublime Address” that talks about life in the old times of Calcutta, something she related to perfectly.
Adam says, thats it is necessary to look into the little details and write about it. Details form an essential part of his imagination and life. By reading about specifics of a character’s appearance, the readers get a clearer view of his nature.
When asked where he gets the idea of all the details, he says that he observes and remembers all the small things he comes across and sometimes he jots it down, storing it all up. He sees things “separately” and not all in one order.
Amit Chaudhuri too, is known as the master of details. He can take the most ordinary things and make them seem interesting. He talked of how the nineteenth century novels emphasized majorly on detailing. One of looking at “detail” is dismantling the idea that a character is at the center of a story. He says, as a writer, he feels, nowadays people focus more on the character than the setting and surroundings, which is incorrect. There might be a “hierarchy” but that isn’t always necessary.

They proceeded to reading a little from their own books which was a delight to listen to.

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Walking Cities in Kolkata.

Kolkata. A city which has fascinated authors, poets and ordinary people at all times. A city, which exudes warmth and entangles you in a bond you cannot ever forget.
In this session, we had four poets, Joe Dunthorne, Jonathan Edwards, Jeet Thayil and Tishani Doshi, who had toured the city for four days and were going to talk in respect to that.

Walking Cities started on the 4th of February, and they tried to cover a variety of places, moods and environments.
Jonathan says, “For me it’s been an amazing experience”. He finds Kolkata to be a vibrant one, full of different smells and sensual experiences. Joe, who has lived in Calcutta before, found it spectacular every time he visited it. He finds it a “fun place, full of strange and sometimes even frightening things”. He although, feels a little uncomfortable in the loud traffic, but enjoys the bengail food. Tishani, who has performed here before, she sensed a  sense of culture and art in the audience. she finds life here to be lively and overpowering, quite in contrast to the isolated beach where she lives. Jeet says, that he has been to the city three times, but this visit was like a milestone for him. He got a collaborative view of the city, and claims to feel “at home” in Calcutta. ”

For Tishani, she remembers, the High Court and one of the sessions they visited concerning dowry death and affected all of them. For Jonathan, he remembers the vibrance of street food, and colourful flowers at the corner of a street. Joe, on the other hand, enjoyed the change of atmosphere in the Park Street Cemetery. They even spent some time on the “nouka” on the Ganga and enjoyed its tranquility and peace.

All the four poets read out a little of their own poetry, which was interesting to listen to. Then, they read out one they had written by themselves, about Calcutta. I shall not write about it, because writing about it. will not do justice to its beauty.

On an extremely personal note, I don’t think the magic of Kolkata can be understood in just four days. You have to stay here and experience life in Kolkata as a resident and not as tourist to capture its charm and to understand its beauty. This city has a story to tell in every street, an adventure in every face and mostly happiness in the eyes.The city changes colour with each season, from the drenched waterclogged rainy season to the colourful vibrant Durga Pujo, the essence of the City of Joy can be truly understood only when you’ve stayed in it for some time.


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The Apeejay Jeet Paul Memorial Lecture by Sudha Murthy

The fourth session of Day 2 at the Kolkata Literature Festival features Infosys CEO Sudha Murthy delivering the Apeejay Jeet Paul Memorial lecture. Sudha Murthy is also a social worker and author. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2006 for her works in Kannada literature. The memorial is dedicated to Jeet Paul, who helped in setting up and stabilising many a business establishment. The session is a mark of remembrance and respect for the man that he was.

Sudha Murthy.
Sudha Murthy.

Sudha Murthy spoke about “nation building.” She discussed what makes a person truly confident. It is not about having money, or having connections in the concerned fields. It is all about hard work, in order to attain success. She spoke about her experiences as a teacher of computer science. Her students, she said, remembered the experiences she had narrated, rather than the lessons that she had taught out of the textbook.

She also spoke about her travails as a woman coming from a remote village trying to pursue her dream of becoming a computer engineering. Pressure from the family, and society, is an undeniable factor looming large over the fate of young girls all over the country looking to realise their dreams. She decided to stick to her choice, because she found it “legally, ethically right”. That is a characteristic of Jeet Paul’s life as well. She went on to talk about the experiences of being the only woman in the entire engineering college, in a batch of 250 students. “When you feel it is right, you must do everything you can to achieve it” she said, talking about how she gradually tuned herself to take over the “man’s world” of engineering. “If you run after money, money runs away from you. If you run after cause, money runs behind you.” is the message she had for entrepreneurs, relating to her personal experience of building Infosys from scratch.

“Be impractical, if you want to follow your dreams. Forget about what people tell you. Do not worry about what your society asks you to do. If you give for a cause, for the subject you love, and you get engrossed in it, and you keep hope in your heart, you will always be successful. A person can be represented not because he or she has the best clothes, or the flowers in their hair, or the scent they apply. It is about what is inside of you, what is in your heart and in your brain.” she signed off.


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The third session has in conversation Prakash Belawadi, Jayant Kripalani and Barun Chanda.
Prakash Belawadi is a theatre, film, television and media personality in Bangalore, India. He is an actor, writer, director and instructor working for the stage and screen.
Jayant Kripalani is an television and stage actor, best known for TV series, like Khandaan, Mr. Mrs and Ji Mantriji.

Barun Chanda is mostly remembered for his role in Satyajit Ray’s Seemabadhha.

I was particularly excited about this session as today, the theatre scene in Kolkata has changed a lot, and for the better. The are many new theatre groups, most of which are youth initiatives. I have quite a few friends in this circuit and thus, I’ve watched a few shows too. And of course, I have had a tiny crush on Barun Chanda, ever since I watched “Chotushkone”.

Barun Chanda, looking great as usual.
Barun Chanda, looking great as usual.
Jayant Kripalani.

Stagecraft involves both “design” and “execution” and there i always overlap between “art” and “craft” and they really cant be separated into different genres. Stagecraft involves expressions, reactions, body language and communication. In the traditional idea of stagecraft, what is written in the text, backdrops etc formed stagecraft. Nowadays, it is mainly about the idea and visual image comprising of make up and costumes that forms stagecraft. The idea is, that the actors and the viewers should be in the same time frame.

It can often be problematic of the director himself is acting in the play because you don’t know what you’re doing, and even if you went wrong, nobody is there to correct you.
Prakash Belawadi spoke extensively about how he translated Tagore’s works, staged it and got applauded.
The context of “scene” in cinema is very different from what in means on stage. A stage is like watching a cricket match at the stadium and cinema is like watching in on television. At the stadium, that is, technically on a stage, you feel the excitement and the moments but while watching it on TV you can judge all the tiny flaws and the same energy is not present.
This session, interspersed with humour, anecdotes and personal experiences enriched my knowledge of stagecraft.


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Chasing the thrill.

Clicked by Srabasti Bhattacharjee.
Clicked by Srabasti Bhattacharjee.

“Writing doesn’t come with a cheque, it can only come with a dream and passion”

In this session, we had Ashok Banker in conversation with Ranjan Bandyopadhyay.
Ashok Banker is an internationally acclaimed and best selling contemporary author and screenwriter. His writing spans crime thrillers, essays, literary criticism, fiction and mythological retellings.
His books have very interesting names like “Blood Red Sari” and “Burnt Saffron Sky” and he says, the name plays a great role in the sale of the book. Even though he has written plenty of mythological stories, he doesn’t want to be classified as “divine”. He takes equal interest in writing mysteries and thriller.

He says, there aren’t too many writers writing thrillers in English in India and thus, he finds plenty of opportunities to find stories. In a culture where there are so many caste divisions, varied systems and traditions that the genre of crime fiction would find plots everywhere. It happens to currently be an “unchartered territory” and authors just need to search. Regional writers have written these stories but English writers just need to devour them and write more of thrillers. He has gone ahead and experimented with mythological characters and interpreted them in his own way. He has been extremely passionate about these ventures, and it is perhaps thats why that he did not face too many objections from the fundamentalists.

He deals with “unheard stories” and the voices of those who have been through crimes, but his perception of punishment is different.
He claims never to stick to one particular version of a epic or story, and thus, writes only of those that “obsess”. He reads all the available versions and only then. decides on his take.
Ashok Banker is a splendid speaker who speaks in an eloquent and poetic way and can really leave the audience mesmerized.

In conversation.
In conversation.

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Changing Roles of Women.

In Conversation.
In Conversation.

The first session of the day involves Saskya Jain, Deepti Kapoor, Lipika Bhushan, Farah Ghuznavi.
Saskya Jain is a renowned author whose work has featured in literary magazines including Intelligent Life, Hyphen and The Baffler and has written popular books like Fire Under Ash.
Deepti Kapoor has written books like “A Bad Character” which offers a frank portrait of what it is to be a woman living alone in Delhi
Farah Ghuznavi is a writer, translator and newspaper columnist, with a background in development work.

This happens to be a topic I wrote about about a couple of days back, as part of the marathon blogging contest. So needless to say, I had my own opinions and views about the topic which was about to be discussed.

Farah comments, eariler on, expression of women came mainly from frustrations and the atmosphere around them but now, women write about everything. At the beginning, women writers used to write about the contemporary situation of women at that time, and they explored constraints and hardships. But now, women write about “what they want to write about” and basically, everything. She highlights Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a book that changed the perception of many Americans’ of the Civil War.

Saskya Jain says she’s been asked questions like “Do you write because you have emotional baggage, as you are a woman?” Everyone lives with some or the other sort of emotional stress, but that is not necessarily the reason why women authors write. She would perhaps prefer sitting on a panel of “writers” and not “women writers”. She talks of Arundhati Roy’s “God of Small Things” as a book

Deepti says, the portrayal of women characters sometimes have brought about positive changes in the society itself. She enjoyed reading the works of Shobhaa De, involving the sassy women characters but also felt, they were often depicted as stereotypes. She has tried portraying a woman, with all her complications and desires, without making her seem “good” or “bad”.

“Change often defies stereotypes” and now most of the writers, publishers and even readers happen to be women. Publishing is shrinking and writers happen to be facing marketing challenges.

I found Deepti to be a very interesting author. She quit her job as a journalist to study yoga in Goa. She said, she did so, because she had to write and she needed to detach a little.

This session brought to the forefront the changes that have come about in the lives of women writers as well as the women characters today.


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Day 2! #KLF2015

Yesterday, I really witnessed some of the finest speakers, authors and singers. From Shobhaa De’s boldness to Usha Uthup’s capturing performance, it was indeed a great start. I learnt so much about the “Craft of Indian Cinema” in the session that included Vishal Bhadwaj in conversation with Bedabrata Pain. He spoke in detail about characters like “Roohdar”, which was adapted from one of Shakespeare’s plays, in critically acclaimed films like Haider and  how he interpreted them in his own way and modified them.

In converstaion with Vishal Bhardwaj and Bedabrata Pain.
In converstaion with Vishal Bhardwaj and Bedabrata Pain.

So after a very exciting and engaging first day, here’s what is in store for Day 2.

Time: 2:30pm
Session: Changing Image of Women in Indian Fiction
Guests: Saskya Jain, Deepti Kapoor, Lipika Bhushan, Farah Ghuznavi

Time: 3:30pm
Session: Chasing the thrill
Guests: Ashok Banker in conversation with Ranjan Bandyopadhyay

Time: 4:30pm
Session: Stagecraft
Guests: Prakash Belawadi, Jayant Kripalani and Barun Chanda.

Time: 5:30pm
Session: Apeejay Jeet Paul Memorial Lecture
Keynote Speaker: Sudha Murthy

Time: 6:30pm
Session: Walking Cities in Kolkata
Guests: Joe Dunthorne, Jonathan Edwards, Jeet Thayil and Tishani Doshi. The four poets tour the city for four days.

Time: 7:30pm
Session: “Jesus”
Dance Performance by Alakananda Roy with jail inmates.

Personally, I am looking forward with great enthusiasm to the last two sessions. I have seen Alakananda Roy perform before and she is one of the most graceful dancers ever. And to hear a session about my own city, well, gives a lot of joy.

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