Zee Jaipur Literature Festival 2019: Adaptations, power differentials in gender dominate conversations on Day 4

Canadian-Spanish author Yann Martel kicked off day four of the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, with a conversation with Jerry Pinto. The author of Man Booker Prize-winning Life of Pi began by talking about language and his sense of how things must have meaning (and how art and religion accomplishes that, taking out the randomness of life and imposing some kind of order). “Every book I write is a conscious attempt to understand some issue… Life of Pi was an attempt to understand this curious phenomenon called faith — a wonderful mechanism unique to the human species,” he explained.

He also talked about his relationship with India and how the county’s rain “nourished” him and brought to him multiplicity. “India is an endlessly thought-provoking and philosophically engaging country,” Martel added.

Andre Aciman (Call Me By Your Name), Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (The Mistress of Spices), Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) and Martel were then in conversation with Sandip Roy, discussing the adaptations of their works for the silver screen. The authors talked about the first time they saw the film versions of their works, the actors representing their characters, the similarities and differences that struck them the most, being on the set, and how novels converted into moves is a win-win situation for a writer — if it’s good, the sales of book will increase, if its bad, people will say the book version was better. The panel also touched upon how there are things which movies can do or portray better than books, and how different the adaptations of books into theater plays are.

During the lunch break, Reshma Qureshi, Ria Sharma and Tania Singh took to the stage for a conversation with Namita Bhandare. Qureshi, an activist, model and vlogger, was a victim of an acid attack when she was 17. Now an international anti-acid-sale activist, the face of Make Love Not Scars, an NGO working towards rehabilitation of acid-attack survivors, and co-author of her memoir Being Reshma, she talked about what life has been like since the attack, standing face to face with her attacker in court, being shunned from society and finding hope after meeting Sharma, the founder of the NGO.

Zee Jaipur Literature Festival 2019: Adaptations, power differentials in gender dominate conversations on Day 4

Glimpses from Day 4 of the Jaipur Literature Festival. Facebook/JaipurLitFestOfficial

Sharma, who is also the first Indian to be awarded the United Nations Goalkeepers Global Award in 2017, and the author of Make Love Not Scars, discussed working with acid-attack survivors, the need for the government to implement laws and what needs to be done going ahead, alongside Singh, the CEO of the NGO and co-author of Qureshi’s book.

Late in the afternoon, authors Andre Aciman, Simon Sebag Montefiore and Tova Reich were in conversation with Zachary Leader do discuss if the Jewish novel really exists. Or are there just individual Jewish novelists, and do great writers always transcend the cultural and religious world they come from? It was one of those sessions where it seemed no one on the panel was too thrilled to be there or knew what they were supposed to be talking about, or had anything to contribute. There were some agreements and disagreements, even a few interesting opinions floated about, but mostly an unmemorable and awkward hour to sit through.

Historian Mary Beard discussed her book, Women & Power: A Manifesto, with Germaine Greer, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Namita Bhandare, in a much-awaited session, moderated by Bee Rowlatt. Beard talked about the origins of her book and how one’s worldview on women is shaped by everything one observes, from the stories we hear to what we watch on the TV, and how gender coding works. Eddo-Lodge bough up power dynamics among women, and how race or caste leads to marginalisation within the gender — a topic which dominated the second half of the session.

Bhandare talked about how power dynamics work in India and how women dropping out of the workforce is one of the biggest challenges of the day. Greer, too, spoke on gender coding, as well as how men make a game out of everything and how boys and girls are treated differently from the start. Giving the example of the Black Lives Matter movement, she added how women are focused on their acts, rather than promoting their name by the acts they commit.

The eloquent Chiké Frankie Edozien talked about his book, Lives of Great Men, and experiences of gay men in Nigeria with Sandip Roy in one of the last sessions of the day. Edozien discussed his personal struggles as well as that of many other gay black men in not just Africa, but even those who move out of the continent, and how community pressure plays into it. Describing life as not being a dress rehearsal, and that the present moment will never occur again, he talked about bringing your best to the table every time. Nothing is worse than living an inauthentic life, he added.

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Updated Date: Feb 02, 2019 10:38:47 IST

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