in Guwahati, Assam
Series of resourceful programmes along with cultural activities in front of enthusiast audience turned the venue of 1st Brahmaputra Literary Festival into a confluence of creative writers, energetic journalists, committed filmmakers, active theatre personalities, dynamic publishing professionals etc to attract a sparkling gathering for three days at Srimanta Shankardev Kalakshetra in northeast India.
The pre-historic city of Guwahati welcomed over 15 eminent authors from 10 foreign nations along with over 150 writers from different parts of the country for the three-day literary festival starting on 28 January 2017. Organised by the National Book Trust India in association with Assam government, the festival featured over 50 panel discussions, many book release and readings, a number of cultural events including film screenings based on literary creations.
First literary festival
First of its kinds in the alienated Northeast region of India, the festival received overwhelming response from the participants hosted in six venues inside the cultural complex that include Tagore Hall, Pandita Ramabai Hall, Premchand Hall, Subramania Bharathi Hall, Nalinibala Devi Hall and Bezbarua Hall. With this unique festival, the expanding city has emerged as an important venue of literary festivals have lately been held in Jaipur, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Lucknow, Patna, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Ajmer, Jammu etc.
The festival was formally inaugurated by the Union human resources development minister Prakash Javadekar.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Assam education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, celebrated Japanese author Randy Taguchi, Konkani author Damodar Mauzo, Arunachali writer Mamang Dai, NBT chairman Baldeo Bhai Sharma, its director Rita Choudhury, the State chief secretary VK Pipersenia addressed the gathering under a pleasing winter sky.
It was preceded by a spectacular literary carnival welcoming the participants to the festival venue in the southern part of the ancient city. Eminent authors including Neal Hall from USA, Alessandra Bertini and Carlo Pizaati from Italy, Nicolos Idier and Francois Gautier from France, Subramani from Fiji, Dhunpal Raj Heeraman and Ramdeo Dhorundhur from Mauritius, Selina Hossain, Shaheen Akhter and Urmi Rahman from Bangladesh, Rajiva Wijesinha from Sri Lanka, Raj Heeramun, Ramdev Dhoorandhar and Niranjan Kunwar from Nepal, Yugyen Tshering from Bhutan and many others participated in the discussions and bared their hearts on different relevant issues.
Many prominent writers from the mainland India including Narendra Kohli, Rami Chhabra, Vimala Morthala, Khalid Mohammed, Subhash Kashyap, Makarand Paranjape, Bhagirath Mishra, Amar Mitra, Binod Ghosal, Angana Choudhury, Mirza Ali Baig etc also participated in the festival.
Likewise, resourceful personalities like Manju Borah, Leena Sarma, Khalid Mohammed, Jahnavi Barua, Ravi Singh, Preeti Gill, Nabin Baruah, Bhaskar Dutta-Baruah, Dipa Choudhuri, Bela Chandrani, Utpal Borpujari, Rabijita Gogoi, Arup Jyoti Choudhury, Nanigopal Mahanta, Arup Borbora, Shiela Bora, Basab Rai also took part in various discourses.
A grand occasion
A number of famed Northeastern creative personalities and journalists including Arup Kumar Dutta, Yeshe Dorjee Thongchi, Sanjoy Hazarika, Dhruba Hazarika, Kula Saikia, Jnan Pujari, Prabuddha Sundar Kar, Wasbir Hussain, Phanindra Kumar Debachoudhury, Pradip Phanjoubam, Monalisa Chankija, Dileep Chandan, Anuradha Sarma Pujari, Maini Mahanta, Mrinal Talukdar, Prasanta Rajguru, Aniz Uz Zaman, Sananta Tanty, Srutimala Duwara, Monikuntala Bhattacharjya, Nilim Kumar, Suparna Lahiri Baruah, Geetali Borah, Monalisa Saikia, Juri Borgohain etc were also present on the occasion.
As part of the festival, few acclaimed movies including Adajya (Assamese feature film, directed by Santwana Bardoloi) and Mirzya (Hindi film, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra) were screened at the venue. Moreover, distinguished film maker Mehra, Bollywood film stars of yesteryear Asha Parekh and Shatrughan Sinha and film writer Shahid Rafi interacted with the art appreciators. The glamour queen of Kati Patang, Teesri Kasam, Dil Deke Dekho, Mera Gaon Mera Desh etc movies, Ms Parekh repented that she did not take the opportunity to perform in a movie of great Bengali film maestro Satyajit Ray. The Oscar winning film maker offered a major role to Ms Parekh for his movie Kanchanjungha, but she had to refuse it because of her busy schedule in Bombay (now Mumbai). The former chairperson of national film central board now regrets that she had actually lost a life time opportunity with that refusal.
On the other hand, the actor turned politician Sinha claimed that he had the experience of Uphas (making fun), Upeksha (neglect), Tiraskar (criticism) and Daman (exploitation) in his filmy life. He also commented that his biography titled Anything But Khamosh was an honest revelation of a struggling performer in the glamour world of Mumbai.
Terming the Brahmaputra Literary Festival a grand occasion for the people of Northeast India to celebrate, the New Delhi-based daily newspaper Pioneer reported that with the festival the region has also joined the league of glamorous literary festivals across the country, which is a reason to rejoice after decades of turmoil and conflicts.
The Pioneer also added that there should have been a literary festival in the region long before and now the festival would rediscover the literary and cultural extravaganza of all the states of the alienated region. The newspaper expected that the literary festival, proposed to be an annual affair, would help in channelizing new ideas and their dissemination simultaneously.
Earlier the NBT director Ms Choudhury also expressed hope that the festival would focus not only on languages and literatures, but also on cultures, society, politics, performance traditions, music, identity and the regional media. Herself a Sahitya Akademi Award winning author, Ms Choudhury also added that Assam aimed to make the festival a landmark event in the country’s literary calendar. She opined that after years of conflicts, the people of the region received a fresh air of friendliness, accomplishment and joy.
Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, while posting in her blog after participating in the festival, has termed the endeavour a refreshing experience. It had a crackling good mix of regional writers from all over India along with a few international delegates. It was heartening to note how all the guests were treated at par. The hospitality arrangements made by the organising committee were impeccable.
Talking about the Lit Mart, which was conceived and inaugurated by Ms Choudhury, the admirer described it a fascinating experiment at the venue. Assam Governor Banwari Lal Purohit graced the closing ceremony, where Gauhati University vice-chancellor Dr Mridul Hazarika, eminent Italian author Carlo Pizaati, famed Indian author Narendra Kohli along with few others were also present. Introducing himself not as a writer, but a vivid reader, Governor Purohit also recited few poems from Hindi literature.
The curtain came down on 30 January evening with a long poetry reading session among the delegates on an exotic cruise over the misty Brahmaputra river. The setting sun and its reflection on the wavy river water articulated a final goodbye to the visitors with the promise to meet again in near future somewhere.
The writer is a Guwahati, Assam-based journalist