Every weekend, Doordarshan's Kitaabnama offers a peep into chapters from Indian literature.
Oroon Das’ voice resonates long after the song — which appears over a collage of book covers at the beginning of Doordarshan’s new book show, Kitaabnama: Books and Beyond — is over. The song ‘Kitaabein kartin hain baatein’, written by Prasoon Joshi, speaks personally to every book lover. “That is exactly what we wanted to do in this show as well,” says well-known author Namita Gokhale who conceived the show. The show has a fairly flexible format, including small discussions and interviews with eminent people on literature and book readings.
The 60-plus literary fests in the country that have sprung up over the past few years, says Gokhale, indicate that there is a hunger for good reading in this country. “But the readers are unsure of what they should read,” she says. And she hopes this show will encourage readers to pick up a wide variety of books.
Importantly, at a time when publishing is booming, the show introduces the readers to prominent writers of prose and poetry across the country. “We try to showcase good writing,” says Gokhale.
The show kicked off with an engaging discussion on actor-director-playwright Habib Tanvir’s life and his contribution to Indian theatre. Mahmood Farooqui, who translated Tanvir’s autobiography from Hindustani to English, articulately described the great man’s contribution to Indian theatre while Tanvir’s nephew, author Javed Malik, spoke about Tanvir’s personal life.
After a successful start, every weekend has been a peep into different chapters of the literary world — the relevance of poetry, the success of light reads in India, Bhutanese literature, the portrayal of two Indias in Dalit literature etc.
Kitaabnama tries to showcase the multilingual diversity of Indian literature by inviting laureates from different languages to talk about their work. It reminds one of the times when book stores were not overwhelmed by technical writing and self-help books; when literature and quality writing were not considered a waste of time; when the pleasure of reading was experienced by many.
In one session, poet Ashok Vajpeyi underscored the last point by saying that the readers of poetry have decreased and so publishers do not want to publish books that have a narrow market share. Such discussions that also talk about the economics of the publishing world are also important.
Listening to Vajpeyi talk to journalist Rahul Pandita about revolutionary and love poetry was an experience that one can enjoy only in language classes of reputed universities. Bringing that experience to the general public is praiseworthy.
While it is commendable that the public broadcaster funds a show that might have a very limited viewership, the production quality still has a long way to go.
Static cameras, predictable angles and an archaic set might drive away even the dedicated viewership that Kitaabnama has slowly built. “Only the national broadcaster has the commitment to overlook market pressures,” says Gokhale.
In an attempt to widen its coverage of literary events, DD Bharti sent crews to Tarjuman, the translators festival in Ahmedabad, and the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival in Bhutan. Interviews from prominent authors present at these events were telecast on Kitaabnama. Currently, the show has no sponsors. But the team hopes to get some sponsorship soon.
The show airs on DD Bharti at 8.00 p.m. on Sundays, and DD National at 6.00 p.m. on Saturdays.