The Telegraph
Saturday , February 15 , 2014
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Touch of romance in lit fest

Romantic and straight talks rained on enthusiasts on the shower-soaked inaugural day of the second Patna Literature Festival.

Only 50 and odd people were in attendance on Friday during “Naman”, an occasion to remember the writers who passed away in the last one year, but the number grew to a packed auditorium at Patna Museum as chief minister Nitish Kumar arrived to inaugurate the meet. Ashok Vajpeyi, Om Thanvi, Usha Kiran Khan, Khagendra Thakur and Purushottam Agrawal paid tributes to Omprakash Valmiki, Mayanandan Mishra and Rajendra Yadav among many others during Naman.

The first session after Naman set the mood of the fest on Valentine’s Day. “Call it coincidence or nostalgia, premiere of the film, The Japanese Wife, based on a short story written by me in the 1990s, was held in Calcutta in 2010 on Valentine’s Day only. The teaser ad went like this: ‘How far will you go for love’,” said Kunal Basu during the session, “The Japanese Wife Retold”.

Moderated by Sundeep Bhutoria, the session witnessed a lot of participation from the audience.

The crowd simply went agog during Shayari Ka Safar with Saeed Naqvi that even brought smiles to poet Gulzar in appreciation. The 45-minute session was followed by release of Madhu Khanna’s book, Saktopramodah, by writer Pavan K. Varma.

An open-air session, “Art and Literature in an Unequal Society” on Buddha Lawns, saw participation of internationally acclaimed sculptor Subodh Gupta and photographic artist Dayanita Singh. “The best thing that can happen to Bihar, and Patna in particular, is the upcoming international museum. We hope that contemporary artists like me would get some space to exhibit their art works there,” said Subodh, an alumnus of College of Arts and Crafts, Patna.

Dayanita, whose artwork, “Fileroom”, was launched by retired Chief Justice Leila Seth, said: “The existing Patna Museum is one of the few places in the country that have exhibited contemporary art. We hope it only gets better in the future.”

Besides book lovers, the lunch break had something for the film buffs. A docu-feature on Mushahar, Aropit Pehchan Ke Paar by Sanjay Kumar, was screened followed by an open discussion with the director.

The intermittent rain throughout the day could not play spoilsport even to serious of discussions though the Buddha Lawns, the venue of many a session, looked like an island. The post-lunch session, “The Global India: The Challenges Ahead”, was quite interactive. No sooner had Shaibal Gupta, member-secretary, Asian Development Research Institute, taken up the role of moderator during the talks between MP N.K. Singh, London School of Economics professor Sumantra Bose and Pavan K. Varma than Singh spoke on how software market abroad enabled the country to be on the development path in the past decade yet the number of jobless youths had not come down. Bose and Varma also said how India should take up the challenges in the next few years vis-à-vis change in the global situation.

As the day was slowly getting ready to host the jugalbandi of vocal and flute, Vikram Seth came up with poetry reading session in the afternoon. In an hour-long session, Vikram, one of the few celebrity writers that the city has ever hosted, read from his popular poetry collections with the audience left speechless. Vikram was also ever ready to interact with his readers — even over a cup of steamed coffee under the shamiana decorated with local Madhubani paintings.

The evening ended with the thappa and thumri jugalbandi composition of Kalpana Zokarkar (vocal), Pravin Godhkindi (flute) and Ramdas Palsule (tabla). Since literature takes its inspiration from a host of art forms, the jugalbandi was simply essential to touch the tiring, yet enthusiastic, nerves amid the drizzle on the Patna Museum lawns.

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