Something old and something new — Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet held in association with Victoria Memorial Hall and The Telegraph has taken the Lancashire bride’s mantra to heart. We will be bringing something old — two authors from our inaugural festival who are returning after a decade — and a lot that is new. Here is a list of some of the first-timers at Tata Steel Kalam, be it speakers, themes, or trends. The A to Z of what is new in the festival this year.
A for Agashe/Anirban: The past continuous and present perfect of exceptional acting, Mohan Agashe and Anirban Bhattacharya will be speaking back-to-back at the Victoria Memorial on Saturday, March 26 evening.
B for Broacha: It has been a brutal two years for each one of us, and we could do with a laugh. Cyrus Broacha will join Calcutta’s funny man Anuvab Pal for a stand-up tango at GD Birla Sabhaghar on March 23 and for a session on the endangered art of being funny at Victoria Memorial next afternoon.
C for Centenary: Our beautiful home, Victoria Memorial,opened its gates to visitors in December 1921, in May that year, Satyajit was born to Sukumar and Suprabha Ray a couple of miles away, while R.K. Laxman was born in Mysore that October. And Sahir was born in Ludhiana in March that year. It was clearly the year of the super-achieving babies, and we celebrate each of these wonderful centurions. Ray being Ray, we have seven sessions to celebrate his legacy.
D for Dhritiman: A long-overdue debut, Dhritiman Chaterji can speak on a slew of topics, but this year, we are sticking to Ray. He will join the other heroes of Ray’s City Trilogy, Barun Chanda and Pradeep Mukherjee in a showstopping session on Saturday afternoon. He will do a reading of a Ray short story the next day.
E for Early Indians: Tony Joseph’s bestselling exploration of the migrations that made India will make readers rethink their country, their history, and indeed themselves.
F for Fab Four: The Beatles And India, a 95-minute documentary on the journey of John, Paul, George and Ringo to India, and their discovery of Maharishis, meditation, sitar and Rishikesh will be screened for the first time in India.
G for Garewal: A very special rendezvous with the actor who has worked with two of the greatest filmmakers, Ray and Mrinal Sen. Simi Garewal’s session will be the closing talk of the 2022 edition, before the musical finale.
H for HMT: Jeet Thayil debuts as a singer with his band HMT (Hollis, Madhavan, Thayil) this Saturday at Skinny Mo’s. Thayil will also speak on his new book Names Of The Women.
I for Isabella Nardi: The art expert, who has worked extensively on Indian visual art, will be making her Kalam debut. The inaugural Kalam in 2012 had showcased Italian authors, and in our tenth year, we are celebrating the 700th anniversary of Dante’s Divine Comedy. There is also a session on Italian footprints across the centuries, from Italian Brahmins to Kolkata’s Firpos!
J for Jim Sarbh: The Rocket Boy who many fans would agree is ‘made in heaven’, this actor is the face of new cinema and the Indian web series. Sarbh has played an astonishing array of historical figures from Malik Kafur to Jawaharlal Nehru, he will be speaking about taking on the role of Homi Bhabha.
K for Karnad& Son: Girish Karnad will be debuting posthumously, even though his absence in the roster of Kalam will always be a regret. His son Raghu will join Mohan Agashe and Arshia Sattar to discuss the legend’s memoirs.
L for Labanakto: Anita Agnihotri’ new novel once again proves that she is one of India’s most insightful authors. Dealing with the salt farmers of Kutch, her novel flits between Gandhi’s Dandi March and the current plight of these farmers.
M for Mallika Sarabhai: The ageless dancer and conscience keeper of India’s soul, Mallika will be here with a new piece for her Bharatanatyam recital, but before that she will speak about how her father Vikram Sarabhai was depicted in Rocket Boys.
N for Nicolas Wild: So old that he is new, like our interest in Kabul Disco. When Wild came in 2012, it was a time of hope for Afghanistan. Today, that hope has eroded and Wild explores what changed in a matter of months in 2021. He will also speak about French cartoons and how they espouse a culture of freedom.
O for OTT: The web series boom has put OTT platforms front and centre of any discussion on cultural trends and indeed writing. Many authors now are as interested in their books being optioned as they are in readership reach. Sarbh and Anuvab Pal will feature in sessions about how OTT shows captured our attention.
P for Precautions: Masks and social distancing, as well as sanitisation, will be mandatory. Covid appropriate behaviour will ensure that we can take baby steps towards live events. Virtual is not real and will never be.
Q for Quarantine: A word that struck panic and claustrophobia in millions, this handmaiden of the pandemic and the physical and mental cost of the pandemic will be discussed at the festival, with Dr Kunal Sarkar and mental health activist Ratnaboli Ray.
R for Remo Fernandes: Goa’s gift to Indian music, Remo will launch his memoirs, one of many music sessions.This edition will also include Calcutta’s own trailblazer Usha Uthup whose biography is now in English.
S for Shujaat Khan: The Ustad who carries forward a centuries-old legacy will close the festival with a sitar recital on the main steps of Victoria Memorial.
T for Tagore: Abanindranath Tagore’s artistic legacy will be discussed on the final evening of the festival. This is Abanindranath’s sesquicentennial year and Victoria Memorial is the custodian of some of his finest works.
U for Uttam Kumar: It has taken us 10 years for us bring Uttam Kumar to the festival. Sayandeb Chowdhury’s wonderful biography has ensured that this gap in our roster has been covered. The session will also feature Amitav Nag’s biography of Tapan Sinha.
V for Vir Sanghvi: The incisive editorials, the polarising opinion on food, and a lifetime in the hurly-burly of media, he will be speaking on his memoirs, A Rude Life, on the opening day of the festival.
Wfor Watershed/ Wildlife: Mridula Ramesh’s book on water conservation and Bikram Grewal, Bittu Sahgal, and Sumit Sen on Indians rediscovering wildlife and nature. Both sessions will be about the conservation challenge and whether the pandemic has made the world respect its natural resources.
X for Ten: This is our tenth full-length on-ground festival in the city. From Vikram Seth and Sunil Gangopadhyay inaugurating the first year to Javed Akhtar doing the honours today, it has been an incredibly fulfilling ride.
Y for Youth: The festival is getting older but many of the delegates are under-35. From Riddhi Sen to Agnijit Sen to AndaleebWajed and Rijula Das, it’s time to greet tomorrow’s voices.
Z for Zaidi: S. Hussain Zaidi is in the news for the much-talked-about Gangubhai which is a riff of a chapter in Mafia Queens of Mumbai. Not a regular at lit fests, the cherubic chronicler of the murky side of Mumbai will speak about all things from Dawood and Dongri to Black Friday and beyond.
The author, Malavika Banerjee, is the festival director of Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet