The Festival City


The other name for Jaipur is the Pink City but now it can also be called the Festival City in the same breath. Rajasthan Post finds Jaipur Literature Festival’s success has encouraged many enthusiasts in other fields as theatre, art, music to follow the same way

Why does Jaipur always conjure up an image of a big, happy festival place? Does it have something to do with its pleasant weather or with its people, who love a good fair thrown in anytime, anywhere?

So there are art melas, auto-art melas, music and dance fests, Kahani fests and what not?

One wonders if the fascination for these big ticket festivals has something to do with the biggest literary shindig the city hosts annually – yes, it is the Jaipur Literature Festival.

The biggest word jamboree, which has become the most hyped, most fashionable, most talked about, most happening, most sponsored and a most attended event in recent times.  

The five-day event is often called the literary Kumbh mela and is meant for people who still care about the written word.

A celebrity event where Nobel, Pulitzer  prize winners rub shoulders with common people. If lucky, one may also get to sit right next to the luminary himself.

In addition, there are bookstores, umpteen eateries, children corners, trinket, artifact sellers, hot khullar tea with hot jalebis, picture, selfie stalls, camel products, ethnic wears and musical nights and what not!!!

The JLF at Diggi Palace
The JLF at Diggi Palace

The last eighth edition in Jan 2015 witnessed a footfall of 245,000, unimaginable when it started out. The literature fest now travels to London and Boulder, Colorado in US.     

JLF’s growth as a festival has been phenomenal. The first event in 2006 saw a motley crowd of a few hundred people who heard 18 authors speak. It has grown every year since then.

With a budget of Rs 13 crore now, the JLF from a three-day affair with 70 authors has transformed to a five-day mega gathering with over 300 speakers and performers and around 250,000 footfalls, according to its director Sanjoy Roy.

Most of the biggest names in literature, Bollywood, politics have attended JLF, including the reclusive J.M. Coetzee, Jhumpa Lahiri and Shashi Tharoor, Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Oprah Winfrey and many others.

JLF’s USP is that it is still free. But organisers insist it doesn’t pay authors and celebs. It is “the largest Free literary festival on earth”, its website says.

They also say sponsorship is still difficult.  It’s a general problem with literary festivals, especially in India. Most festivals are usually struggling to cover costs.

But JLF did charge an entry fee in London – the day pass cost £20 (Rs 1,960) and the weekend one £35 (Rs 3,430). JLF was a ticketed event at Southbank as per their policies. Its Boulder event on Sept 19-20 this year is not ticketed, as cited on the website but asks for donations.  

Abroad most festivals are ticketed. In India they are mostly free and the idea of an author charging fees to appear at a litfest is still not taken seriously.

Encouraged by the response from the JLF, many more local organisers are getting hooked to carnivals.

In April this year, an auto art festival was held with workshops, lectures and talks  by eminent artists like Himmat Shah, Wajid Khan, photographer Raghu Rai,  art collectors and vintage car owners. Around 100 art students from all over India, gave life to their thoughts through colours.

It was organized by vintage car restorer, Himanshu Jangid, 33, who wants to make it an annual event.

Now one of upcoming ones is the theatre fest Jairangam, which began initially in 2001 as Jaipur Theatre Festival. This time, it has also got bigger and better and starts from Oct 4 till Oct 11.      

The event running into its fourth year will be bigger with street (nukkad) nataks, art camps, street food festival, musical nights, online photography contest- khusboo-e-Rajasthan, Rock bands, theatre appreciation and conference of theatre throw in.

Apart from these, the main focus would of course be on celebrity theatre shows like  Rakesh Bedi’s Mera Wo Matlab Nahi Tha featuring Anupam Kher, Neena Gupta; Makrand Deshpande’s Karodon Mei Ek, Kalki Koechelin’s The Living Room and many others.

But the organisers say it is not an attempt to digress from the actual aim of bringing good, thought-provoking plays to Jaipur.

Samit Pahadia, part of the organising team told Rajasthan Post the team always had a plan to make this festival bigger and include associated fields.

And this time they have been able to do it for the first time by including events like art camp, photography contest, food festival, panel discussions and participation of school students.

The organisers just want registration to be done on their website and the entry is free at the venues Jawahar Kala Kendra and also at Birla Auditorium but only for the first 200 seats. The organisers are hoping for crowds, spanning the spectrum of profession and think-alike interest groups.  

Festivals, it seems will continue to crowd Jaipur’s calendar through the year now. And what would festivals be without their crowds? So here’s to more fun, more laughter, more coffee, more action at these festivals!  

2 thoughts on “The Festival City

  • September 11, 2015 at 5:09 pm
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    Jaipur has always had a feel good factor about the city, something in its history, in its colors, as a shoppers paradise, culture etc etc but having said that, the last time I went to the Jaipur lit fest, it was way too crowded, they should introduce a ticketing system, so that the book lovers would get a fair share of time turning the pages & listening to the authors instead of spending most of the time jostling with a large crowd, majority of which are there just for the sake of being there & have hardly anything to do with books.

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  • September 21, 2015 at 10:14 pm
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    This article brings to my mind fond memories of January 2015’s Literary Fest held at Diggi Palace, Jaipur,that I had attended with my husband and son.
    True to its spirit of intellectual vibrancy…the Fest was something that we had never experienced before!Being true blue Bongs from Kolkata…my husband and I have had a fair share of literary experiences at the Calcutta Book Fair held every year in winter….but the Jaipur Fest was far superior in the number of international and nationally-acclaimed authors it managed to draw!
    Indeed the place was teeming with people..but the ‘people’ comprised mostly of school-students who have every right to pursue their dreams of following their literary idols!If we seek any change in the pattern of the Festival..it should be a request for a larger venue so that it can accommodate every kind of literary enthusiast!
    Finally,I would like to mention the luminous presence of Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam at this year’s Festival…which will remain special because of his last and lasting presence….

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