Festival of words steps into seventh year

The seven-year itch may be notorious but when it's a union of readers and writers, you can ditch the itch, and hitch your passion to the biggest literary carnival of the city.

By Samhita Chakraborty in Calcutta
  • Published 4.12.17
The star line-up of Kalam 2018

Calcutta: The seven-year itch may be notorious but when it's a union of readers and writers, you can ditch the itch, and hitch your passion to the biggest literary carnival of the city.

Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet (Kalam) will be back with its seventh edition from January 22 to 27, 2018. And this time, there's a divine dimension, too - it begins on Saraswati Puja!

Co-organised by Victoria Memorial Hall (VMH), in association with The Telegraph, Kalam 2018 will be held at the marble monument, with a few sessions in other venues across the city.

The guest of honour is poet-lyricist Gulzar, who will make his Kalam debut. Gulzar will speak about his new book in Hindi, Do Log, and its English translation, Two. At age 84, this is his first novel. You can also look forward to conversations on Gulzar's other recent book, Footprints on Zero Line: Writings on the Partition, and hear him read from his translation of Tagore, the Bengali original being read by actor Soumitra Chatterjee.

The other name to "bank" on for something new at Kalam is Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in transforming lives at the grassroots through his Grameen Bank. "Muhammad Yunus has been at the top of the Kalam wish list for many years, and to see the dream of hosting him finally come true is truly exciting," said Malavika Banerjee, the director of Kalam.

"I am equally pleased to tell you that Kalam favourites Ruskin Bond and Javed Akhtar will be back in 2018. Shabana Azmi will also come."

The Hindi cinema veteran list includes Sharmila Tagore, who will be in conversation with daughter Soha Ali Khan. The younger Pataudi has written a memoir, The Perils of Being Moderately Famous, which promises to be a hoot. There will also be a father-daughter chat, with actor-director Konkona Sensharma taking the stage with dad Mukul Sharma.

The spoken word performances will see participation from Indian-Canadian poet Rupi Kaur and Tishani Joshi from Chennai.

Between January 23 and 25, Kalam will host a children's meet as well, where Julia and Malcolm Donaldson will present Gruffalo to young readers at the inaugural session. Ruskin Bond and Devdutt Pattanaik will also hold sessions.

"Junior Kolkata Literary Meet (JKLM) is co-curated with young readers for young readers, to appeal equally to both the reluctant reader and avid ones, through workshops, storytelling sessions, book readings, launches and meet-the-author programmes. The sessions will be hosted at VMH, while the creative workshops and storytelling activities will be held at Galerie 88, The Den@ThinkArts and Story on Elgin Road, the bookstore partner of Kalam," said Ruchira Das of ThinkArts, which is co-organising JKLM.

There is a lot happening beyond the written word as well.

"The film adaptation strand of Kalam's programming will examine in depth five film adaptations, including Satyajit Ray's Shatranj Ke Khilari, while the others will be in Bengali and English," Malavika said.

"The music and performances are also possibly the strongest ever this year, with Shankar Mahadevan performing 'Baithak to Bollywood', which marries classical traditions to cinema music, and Devdutt Pattanaik and classical pianist Anil Srinivasan performing Black White and Grey: Shades of Feminine Divine. Dastangoi will make its Kalam debut with a selection of Ismat Chughtai works and Meghnad Badh Kabya will be staged by Gautam Haldar," she added.

Kalam 2018 will also host economist Bibek Debroy, Rajya Sabha members Swapan Dasgupta and Derek O'Brien, former diplomat and writer Pavan K. Varma, tabla maestro Zakir Hussain and many more. According to Team Kalam, more names will be finalised in the next fortnight, especially for the November Revolution Centenary, Bengali, #MeToo and media focus sessions.

"Kalam is now one of the most-anticipated events at Victoria Memorial Hall, and has set a template for high-quality conversations about literature and art that has melded perfectly with the ambience of India's most-loved museum. VMH brings a grandeur and elegance to the lit meet, which in turn lends to the setting its energy, its criticality, its inclusiveness. That's the synergy we seek to sustain," said Jayanta Sengupta, secretary and curator, VMH.