The penultimate day at the Jaipur Literature Festival found Neha attending multiple thought-provoking discussions – and she’s already talking about booking travel tickets for next year!.
The fourth day of Jaipur Literature Festival was marked by sporadic bursts of sunshine and consequently, more bare arms and less shivering all around. The crowd, noise, excitement and energy seem to only increase as we near the end of this year’s session. Fittingly, the dates of next year’s event- 21 to 25 January 2015-were announced today to a response that was no doubt supremely gratifying to the organisers. I only wish Indian railways allowed us to book tickets a year in advance!
The first event of the day that I attended was titled ‘Parde ke Peeche: The Scriptwriter’s Story’ with Mahesh Dattani, Sachin Kundalkar, Shashi Mittal and Rupleena Bose. Mahesh Dattani, Indian director (Morning Raga), actor and writer discussed the inherent differences between the craft of a scriptwriter and a novelist, calling the former a much more functional and technical document, almost like a blueprint of a play or a movie. Sachin Kundalkar, director (Aiyya) and screenplay writer agreed with him, adding that the role of a scriptwriter is essentially to serve the vision of a director or a producer. Both stressed that the job cannot be self-indulgent and creatively unfettered since films are a massive capital investment. Both spoke about the excitement of being a part of the current trend of independent and more challenging cinema, however niche, and expressed optimism regarding the industry’s future.
Shashi Mittal, screenwriter for television soap spoke about the greater significance accorded to screenplay in her industry but lamented the fact that it’s an invisible art, since audiences primarily care about the actors. To questions from younger members of the audiences about the terrible quality of Indian soaps when compared to their western counterparts, she said that hers is a market-driven industry that caters to both urban and non-urban majority.
Next stop was ‘Capital’ in the Front Lawns where British Indian author Rana Dasgupta discussed his novel with fellow writer William Dalrymple. Capital is a portrait of 21st century Delhi as Dasgupta sees it- its historical trauma, its class-snobbery, its cosmopolitanism, its contradictions, its women. He spoke of his deliberate decision to not be lured by the charms of its grand Mughal past, instead focusing on its current journey towards the elusive title of ‘world city.’ Dasgupta’s articulate vision and lack of emotional or political bias, at least an obvious one, seems to have served him very well in the enterprise, making Capital a very rewarding read for both Delhi-ites and outsiders.
In the following break, my friends and I stopped for some frozen yogurt (we like to live dangerously) and, hunger satiated, happily headed to the Google Mughal Tent where Mary Beard was talking about her book Pompeii. Beard personifies everything I love about the academia- an insatiable love of learning combined with humour and the desire to share knowledge. She spoke about her book, the historical reality of Pompeii, her own research experience and the ethical dilemma of preserving historical sites while retaining their purity.
Then followed a delightful talk on ‘Black Holes, Worm Holes and Time Machines’ where Professor Jim al Khalili spoke lucidly about Einstein’s theories of General and Special Relativity and their significance in the possibility of time travel. He explained with appreciable simplicity time paradoxes, wormholes, space/time continuum, multiverse theory and the effect of gravity on time. He gets extra cool points for mentioning Doctor Who, Star Trek and The Terminator.
The last event of the day was ‘Sex and the Citadel’ where author Shereen El Feki discussed her eponymous book with Jonathan Shainin. Frighteningly intelligent, the book is an incisive and insightful look at the complicated relationship the Arab world shares with sex. In her own words, “Sex is the lens through which I study society because what happens in intimate life is shaped by forces on a bigger stage- politics and economics, religion and tradition, gender and generations- and vice versa.” Her political vision is liberating, progressive and warmly, wonderfully human. The talk ended with enthusiastic applause and a mile-long line of people hankering to get their books signed.
Thus ends my second last day in this wonderful city. Tomorrow, the festival ends and so tonight, we celebrate. Adieu!