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Mark your dates for winter tryst with words & ideas

Diwali may be over but there's more fireworks in store for the city in January. The Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet (Kalam) 2016 has a cracker of a line-up in its fifth edition, promising some sparkling conversations on books, cinema, the arts and the idea of "intolerance" that has gripped the nation.

Scheduled from January 22 to 26, Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet will be held in association with Victoria Memorial Hall and The Telegraph at Victoria and other spots across town, including on the Hooghly. The meet will be inaugurated on January 21.

The first list of confirmed participants includes Amartya Sen, Amitav Ghosh, Nayantara Sahgal, Ruskin Bond, Amish, Devdutt Pattanaik, Kiran Nagarkar, Kunal Basu, Javed Akhtar, Tabu, Sunil Gavaskar, Capt. Amarinder Singh and many more.

"This will be our fifth year. When we started, we didn't think we'd come this far! But I'm really happy that not only are we all set for year five, we've also co-published a book - Soumitra Chatterjee's dramatisation of four Tagore short stories - and partnered the University of East Anglia for their annual writing workshop in Calcutta. We've realised that our engagement with the city is not just those five days but round the year," said Malavika Banerjee, the director of Kalam.

Coming to the five days, the sessions are still being finalised and speaker combinations stitched together but "intolerance" will be one of the key topics. "Our aim is to give a balanced perspective, which includes all sides of the arguments on intolerance and selective outrage," Banerjee explained, adding that the team was working on the Bengali itinerary too.

Some of the themes of 2016 will be a writer's dharma, Partition literature and cinema, the words of war, the pull of the epics, media in South Asia and humour. Some new titles will also be launched.

Like Kalkatta, Kunal Basu's November novel on the grimy and glamorous life of a gigolo in Calcutta. "Reading from my new novel Kalkatta at Kalam 2016 will be my high point of the new year - my city, my book, my favourite festival," said Basu.

The Amitav Ghosh session will happen on a cruise on the Hooghly, with the author dwelling on the presence of the river in his work, from The Hungry Tide to Flood of Fire, as well as his ecological concerns about rivers.

Mythological fiction writer Amish, who will speak on the enduring allure of the epics, is happy to return to the city where he studied. "I always love coming to Calcutta. I've studied here (at IIM Calcutta) and truly enjoyed my time in the city. Calcutta has a strong and discerning reading culture. The fact that my books have been received well here is indeed an honour. By the way, we'll also be launching the Bengali edition of the third book of the Shiva Trilogy, The Oath of the Vayuputras, at Kalam 2016. I know this translation has been delayed and my apologies for that to the readers. But it will be here soon!" he said from Indonesia, where he's on a family holiday.

Calcutta will also play host to handsome British-Indian writer Sunjeev Sahota, whose The Year of the Runaways was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year, and Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar, who was in the news for her alleged friendship with former minister Shashi Tharoor and a Twitter spat with his late wife Sunanda Pushkar.

Among participants from cinema there will be Tabu, talking about "acting the text", having played Shakespearean women multiple times, as well as Ashima of The Namesake.

The team at Victoria Memorial Hall is gearing up to co-host the annual literary do. "Victoria Memorial is an icon of Calcutta... this is where a cultural event like the Kolkata Literary Meet should take place. We want monuments like these to become open cultural spaces that are not about dead people and dead objects but which vibrate with the pulse of the present," said Jayanta Sengupta, the secretary and curator of Victoria Memorial Hall.

"Many young couples come here to spend a few quiet moments together. When they see stalwarts from the arts, literature and culture speaking at sessions, they often join in. We like to believe we are contributing to 'educated dating' in the city," he laughed.

Last year Tata Steel came on board as the title sponsor and they are back this year. "Tata Steel has always been supporting and promoting art and culture. Kolkata Literary Meet provides one such platform to continue our engagement with the leading lights and intellectuals of the city," said Chanakya Chaudhary, group director (corporate communication & regulatory affairs), Tata Steel, adding that during the previous edition he was most impressed with the turnout.

"I was amazed to see the excitement and enthusiasm of the youth of Calcutta, especially during their interaction with Ruskin Bond. I am sure Tata Steel Kalam 2016 will recreate a similar passion among the youth and the intellectuals."

'Bookstore partner' Story of Elgin Road will put up a stall outside the Victoria Memorial Hall premises to stock books by all participating authors.


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