Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet, 2020

City of Joy keeps it date with literature and art


February 4, 2020

/ By and / Kolkata

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Accessible and open to all, this year, the literary meet witnessed one of the highest-ever footfalls and hosted discerning speakers, authors and artists from around the world with over 70 exhilarating sessions. Conversations on the final day showcased a multiplicity of voices, from iconic novelists to experts, reflecting the truly global and relevant reach of Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet 2020.

Renowned English author Joanne Harris, especially known for her award-winning novel Chocolat, inaugurated this year’s edition of the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet with Mani Shankar Mukherjee, a favourite Bengali author. While this is the 9th edition of the Kolkata Literary Meet, though it has been six years since its rebranding to the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet (TSKLM). The literary meet held from January 22-26, 2020 celebrated literature and allied cultural pursuits – dance, music, recitation, and theatrical performances over six power-packed days. The organisers say the meet aimed to encourage the evolving literary community, promotes a culture of patronage and creates value for the authors and other dignitaries.

With a large chunk of the audience representing the young, the meet’s outreach to shape minds and inspire imaginations has tremendous transformative potential. The event also had specially curated Junior Kolkata Literary Meet which had creative workshops, interactive reading sessions and interactions with authors. As always, the meet empowered participants through the stories it told and the importance it continued to emphasise upon the idea of dialogue to seek solutions – something which the divisiveness of the modern world chooses often to dismiss.

“We always look forward to this kind of events as here not only we get to express our views but also listen to the views of the audience who watch our films. We learn from these sessions, rectify and enrich ourselves,” Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, director of the movie Pink, who was one of the panellists on the session Cinema 2020 told Media India Group.

One of the star attractions at this year’s literary extravaganza was the epilogue session with Abhijit V Banerjee, the renowned economist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics 2019 along with his wife, Esther Duflo. The conversation, moderated by author Udayan Mukherjee mostly revolved around the ideas in Banerjee’s book Good Economics for Hard Times. Banerjee spoke about the economic conditions of India and said that the country could be passing through a phase of recession, and how the government’s priority should be on refinancing the banking sector, which is in “doldrums”. He also spoke about wealth tax and said, “Given the current state of inequality in India, a wealth tax is completely sensible. In such a case, more redistribution is required, and I expect this not to happen soon.”

Another attraction of the meet was the famous author for all seasons, Ruskin Bond, a regular at the event and one of the biggest crowd-pullers in the list. The 85-year old, Sahitya Akademi award-winner discussed mystery, magic and reading in his various sessions. There were also a few mesmerising musical performances by Carnatic musician TM Krishna and santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma on the steps of the iconic Victoria Memorial with the museum as the backdrop, while singer Subha Mudgal and flautist Hari Prasad Chaurasia launched their books at the event.

With the new decade, the meet had special 2020 sessions discussing visions about literature, the roadmap for women in the new decade, the economy of the country, cinema and climate. This year also saw a more inclusive presence of Bengali programmes with venerated author Amarendra Chakraborty, Indologist Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri, screen personalities Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Swastika Mukherjee, singers Anupam Roy, Lopamudra Mitra, Anindya Chattopadhyay and Chandril Bhattacharya participating in the sessions.

Bollywood and sports were also an important part of the sessions. While National award winner Ayushmann Khuranna discussed about his films and choice of characters, actor-director Nandita Das spoke about her journey with Manto which has now also been produced as a book. On the other end, Arjuna awardee and chief national coach for the Indian badminton team, Pullela Gopichandand, Devendra Jhajharia, the first Indian Paralympian to win two gold medals at Paralympics discussed India’s past records and future hopes at the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo this year.

“There are many literary festivals now happening all around the country and it’s a good thing. While a few people may feel that there are too many, for the audiences in the host city, it is wonderful as they get to meet writers and authors and listen to different ideas and that’s how we expand our minds. But this one particular is very interesting because of the audience. Kolkata has a history of being engaged, people are more aware of what’s happening around them, they read, watch films – so it is the quality of audience that makes it special, an audience that cares about what you say,” Nandita Das tells Media India Group.

The literary meet also celebrated unexplored ideas and unstoppable voices with a focus on literature, poetry, current affairs and women’s issues, among others. Each session witnessed noteworthy names being a part of engaging discussions with the audience, bringing together a range of expertise and perspectives on stage throughout the six days at the Victoria Memorial Hall. A few selected sessions were also held at The Saturday Club, Kala Mandir and the National Library.

Malvika Banerjee, director of the Kolkata Literary Meet feels that the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet is an annual celebration, free for everyone, which brings the best minds from across the world to engage with leading writers and discerning audience on books, ideas and words. She feels the greatest achievement of the meet is the huge presence of youths as they are the minds being created today to make the future tomorrow.

While it may seem there is an abundance in the number of literary festivals in India as TSKLM is preceded by a three-day literary fest and even followed by another at the international book fair, each has their own uniqueness, flavour and attraction. The meet celebrates its tenth edition next year, slated from January 26-31 and with more interesting sessions in the pipeline.

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