It is that time of the year when books and literature trend relentlessly all across social media. While the mother of all litfests, JLF, hogs all the limelight, its counterpart on the other side of the Vindhyas, the Hyderabad Literary Festival or HLF, is slowly but surely coming into its own with each passing year. Currently in its ninth edition, HLF will be held in the last week of January, as it has been since its inception.
Carving out its own space
Festival director Amita Desai shares the highlights of this year: “Each edition of the festival is getting bigger, better and busier, and we hope it will entice lots of people. Our agenda, since many years, has been to be all-inclusive – in terms of themes, sessions, interactions, social and gender minorities. We continue to show respect to our environment and raise awareness towards a no-plastic festival. This year we pay tribute to Kaifi Azmi and Mrinalini Sarabhai, and we focus on these stellar artists through the eyes of their daughters (Shabana Azmi and Mallika Sarabhai), who will be presenting several commemorative events on both respectively.”
Professor of English at Osmania University and festival director Vijay Kumar adds that another highpoint is going to be the events commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, with talks and panel discussions centred on the life and times of the father of the nation.
The literary festival has a lot of ancillary events lined up – from book launches, workshops, art and photo exhibits, Youngistan Nukkad (activities meant for young kids) and Nanha Nukkad (for kids aged seven to 12). It will also see in action prominent writers and thinkers Shashi Deshpande, Sandhya Menon, Salil Tripathi and Sudha Menon, among others. A new addition to its repertoire this year is Kavya Dhara, which has ten hours dedicated to poetry. Folk traditions from Telangana will dot the cultural landscape throughout the festival, with Kommu koya and Dappu dances.
Guest nation and language in focus
Each year, HLF has a guest nation and a regional language in focus. Starting with Germany in 2012, the fest has hosted Poland, Ireland, Philippines, Spain, and this year the nation in focus will be China. An eight-member delegation from the country will be at the festival to showcase selected authors, artists, feature films and participate in an impressive calligraphy exhibition.
Gujarati is the language of focus this year with Padma awardee Sitanshu Yashaschandra, Paresh Naik, Udayan Thakkar and Ketan Mehta finding a place, while Gujarati films with subtitles, folk dances from the region and poetry will showcase its rich literary traditions.
Housed in heritage
A big draw at any literary festival is its location which lends it both character and charisma. Be it the Diggi Palace with its elaborate frescos and magnificent arches or the stunning setting of the grounds of Kuthodaw Pagoda which lends to the Irrawaddy Literary Festival in Myanmar a unique charm, venues matter. Little wonder that the HLF has the heritage precincts of the Hyderabad Public School as its venue.
Established in 1923 as the Jagirdars College by the Seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, Sir Osman Ali Khan, it was Hyderabad’s answer to London’s Eton’s College and served as a school exclusively for the sons of nawabs and other aristocrats of the city. Renamed as the Hyderabad Public School in 1951 after the zamindari system was abolished in 1950, it boasts of a 152-acre campus with buildings inspired by the unique Deccan Osmanian and contemporary architecture.
Naturally, such a huge campus is a great ecosystem with an abundance of rocks, heritage and trees, and walks on all the three subjects will be conducted this year. Gopal Krishna, a heritage activist who founded Hyderabad Trails, is conducting a walk titled 'Stories of Hyderabad'.
He says that literature and stories are intertwined. “Apart from exploring its abundance of history and architecture, through this walk, we share the stories which Hyderabad is made up of – some myth, some history and some folklore. Stories of Quli’s love for Bhagmati, and the mystical intervention of the Sufi saints, Yousufuddin and Sharfuddin in Aurangazeb’s army camp, exemplify the quintessential ‘Hyderabadi tehzeeb’. Literature is all about stories, and we are trying to share the stories of Hyderabad," he explained.
Links to Hyderabad
Kumar says that the festival and the city of Hyderabad are interlinked. He explains, “The character of the city – both in terms of art and culture, are well-represented at the festival. From art installations to a session which celebrates the literary culture of Telangana, which will see three Sahitya Academy winners from the state — Ashok Tankashala, Baig Ehsas and Mercy Margaret — on one stage, it’s all about the city and its people.”
While the festival chugs along, its inevitable clash with JLF ensures that little of it is heard on the national stage. Kumar is unperturbed and shrugs, saying, “It was inevitable and not a conscious decision. The festival has always been scheduled in the last week of January. While writers' schedules do clash at times with JLF, for the citizens of the city it doesn’t really matter, for this is Hyderabad’s very own festival.”
The Hyderabad Literary Festival will be held from 25 January to 27 January. More details about the schedule can be found on its website.
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Updated Date: Jan 20, 2019 19:28:12 IST