Bangalore Literature Festival 2023: Where stories come alive

“Lit fests are mythical beasts come alive — hundred-headed, multilingual, come-hither, magic-carpeting into all directions,” says Shinie Antony, festival director of the Bangalore Literature Festival. The 12th edition of the festival, which will be held in the city between December 2-3, promises to be as interesting as the editions before, offering an eclectic, diverse set of sessions that, as the BLF website puts it, focuses on “rekindling the romance with literature and fostering fine reading and writing, especially amongst the young population of the city.”

Shinie lists some of the key highlights of the festival: a keynote address by Dr Abraham Verghese, a conversation with Devdutt Pattanaik on Jainism, an interaction with Sudha Murty, who will actually bring Gopi, the dog featured in her children’s book, to meet young readers, a stand-up session by Anuvab Pal on lit fests, a conversation between Shashi Tharoor and his sister Smita Tharoor on their love for language and a session with ‘adman-madman’ Prahlad Kakar, among many others.

Shashi Tharoor at a previous edition of the festival
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

There will also be music performances by Kavish Seth and Avrina Prabala-Joslin, a LitMart and ScreenLit too, where people can pitch their novel and screenplay ideas, and an entire carousel for kids, she adds. “It’s a flamboyant lineup. Crime, ghouls, feminism, book covers, bookshops, translation, satire… No topic is taboo,” she says.

It comes down to making sure that there are enough subjects to appeal to a wide range of people, believes Srikrishna Ramamoorthy, co-founder of the festival. “We make sure that there is something to draw people in, and they are enticed by the fact that there is a lot more than the festival can offer,” he says, pointing out that the fact that BLF is a community-funded festival— the largest in India — has helped keep the festival independent and neutral.  

Also, given that it is a city festival, it brings a very high level of involvement from individuals in the city. “We have contributions to the festival come from people of all walks of life. It endears the festival that much more so to them,” says Srikrishna, who firmly believes that if any city in India can pull off something like this, it is Bengaluru. “I think there is something about the soil here, the desire of its people to contribute to making the city a better place.”

After all, literature festivals are a great way of discovering new authors and taking you beyond what you already know. “A reader who walks casually into bookstores doesn’t get to see the sort of diversity that they would otherwise see in the programming in a lit fest,” he says, adding that literature festivals enrich the world of people who attend them. “I think lit fests are important because there are so many stories that need to be told, and this is a great place for them to be told,” he says.

Shinie Antony, festival director of the Bangalore Literature Festival

Shinie Antony, festival director of the Bangalore Literature Festival
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Author Tashan Mehta, who will be part of several sessions at the festival, admits to being “insanely excited” about it. “I have visited BLF as a spectator, but this is the first time I will be speaking there.,” says Tashan, who recently released her latest book, a fantasy novel titled Mad Sisters of Esi.

Literature festivals, she believes, help you connect really well with readers “not for the ‘public eye facing’ thing but genuine connections,” she says. “It is heartening; these dialogues are important to us as authors,” says Tashan, who also looks forward to meeting other authors at the fest. “We are all finding the words to find something that we find very difficult to say. It is really empowering to meet like-minded people.”

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A festival for little ones

Vikram Sridhar, the curator of the Children’s Literature Festival (CLF), which runs in parallel with the BLF at the same venue, calls the entire event “a family outing on literature.” Boasting close to 85 speakers, ranging from authors to storytellers to puppeteers to singers to illustrators, “it is as wide as literature goes for children,” he says, adding that there are sessions for children across three age groups: 4-plus, 8-plus and 12-plus. And no, it isn’t just for children. “Anyone who identifies with a session should be part of it,” says Sridhar, who firmly believes that festivals like this allow children the space to build an emotional connect with books. “A child may never read if you give them a book, but if you tell them about the book and take them towards the subject, then the book becomes a tool for the child to explore,” he says.

Move easy

If you’ve attended BLF before and struggled to find parking or get a cab, worry not. “We have made it very easy to go to the festival,” says Srikrishna, who says that there will be a free shuttle service from the Dr B.R. Ambedkar Station, a.k.a. Vidhana Soudha metro station on the purple line to the venue. Not only will this service be available at regular intervals all through the day, but there will also be paid parking at a nearby location with shuttles taking you directly to the venue.