JLF to focus on ‘Need to Listen’ rather than intolerance: Roy

The Jajpur Literature Festival has kick started today amidst the pomp and splendour of Rajasthani culture. As the world of words open up over the five days at the Diggi Palace and book lovers throng the heritage site in droves, the festival’s producer and Teamwork Arts head, who Sanjoy Roy (most accessible despite his busy schedule) takes time off to talk to Rajasthan Post’s Iram Tasleem

1. In this ninth edition of Jaipur Literature Festival, what is new ?

Like every year we try to do something new, this year there will be poetry, a whole make in India series, Navigating change/modernity, Swachch Bharat, Women uninterrupted, migration, translations and many other things. This time we have instituted many new awards like Kanhaiyalal Sethia Award for poetry, which a person from Rajasthan called Ritu Raj has won.

For the first time we have integrated theatre with the festival, to commemorate 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare. We have invited ‘Piya Bahrupiya,’ a company theatre group based in Mumbai to perform play Piya Behrupiya, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at Albert Hall to be held on 22nd January. At Amer Fort on 23rd January, Mukhtiar Ali will sing Sufi music and Girish Karnad would read from collected works on theatre. This time we are also bringing out new collection called as ‘Best of JLF’ which will be a comprehensive collection of the best sessions from the past and every year.

2. Translations seem to be the USP at JLF this time. Why you have initiated it this year?

Yes, this year our key focus is on translations. We always feel that Indian languages actually have the best and rich content but due to dearth of translations, people don’t get to know about the richness of Indian languages. Our new effort is to create a platform for great translations across languages. So, for the first time we have created catalogue which will appear at Jaipur Book Mark, and furnish information of translations of pieces of work across Indian languages. We have commissioned eight translations across six Indian languages and this will be an annual activity from now onwards.

3. How do you react to concerns over the venue, Diggi Palace?

Diggi Palace is the perfect venue for us, providing us the historic element of Jaipur, the romance of the palace and also give us 120 toilets, food stalls and place to sit and relax. The venue can accommodate about 20,000 people per hour. In organising these kinds of festival, certain precautionary steps are necessary and there is an emergency plan prepared by the Commissionerate, traffic police, private security, police headquarter and many other agencies. So there is no missing link here. Last year there were two exit points, this year we three exit points, one towards Sangram Colony, second towards Vivekanand Colony and third is the Diggi Palace’s main entrance. The square footage has become 450,000 square feet of space.

4. What is special about musical performances this time?

The first day of festival will start with Gayatri Kaundinya from US, a Hindustani classical vocalist of the Baba Allauddin Maihar Gharana. Festivities on the second morning will kick off with Indian Classical and Rajasthani folk fusion artist Suman Yadav. She will perform music from her new album ‘Evening Serenity’ featuring classical devotional music, then we will have Kutle Khan Project, which is a unique collective of Rajasthani folk musicians led by Kutle Khan, a multi talented folk musician who has performed across the world. There will be lot more extravagant performances in this festival.

5. One of your most memorable moments in the journey of JLF.

Five year ago, a man and a boy walked through the portals of Diggi Palace and were stopped by the security. I walked up to them and asked why they were here. The man told me that he slept on the footpath outside the of Sawai Man Singh Hospital and knew that he would never be able to buy his son a book nor send him to school but felt if they come here, it would change his son’s life if he was to hear stories. And that’s why he braved crossing the Diggi Palace’s gate.

6. What about debate over intolerance?

There is no specific session on Intolerance but the platform itself allows for discussion on topics across religious, caste creed, colour divides. There in itself we try and say that too much hysteria has been building up about intolerance, so one of the key sessions is the need to listen. We did one session in Delhi as the inaugural and we will be doing it in Kolkata

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