Our programming has a healthy mix of genres and authors: Vikram Sampath

Expectations are high as the first edition of the three-day Bangalore Literary Festival (BLF) kick-starts on Friday.

Ranging from Gulzar, the poet who represents the genteel old world, to Chetan Bhagat, the bestselling author of the corporatised new India, a range of authors is expected at the festival at Jayamahal Palace, next to Cantonment Station. Food courts, cafes and close to 20,000 books, in addition to sessions with eminent authors, are on offer over the weekend fest.

Vikram Sampath, author and one of the organisers of the festival, spoke to The Hindu on what Bangaloreans can look forward to over the weekend.

Lit fests are often glam events that ‘showcase’ big names, with controversies thrown in to spice up the goings on. What is the focus of BLF?

Our focus is on literature and literature alone. Our programming has a healthy mix of genres and authors.

As organisers, I feel we don’t have the luxury of being arbiters of what makes for good literature and what does not. There is a thin line between being intellectually provocative and deliberately controversial, and we hope to remain on the right side of the divide in future editions of the festival too.

You have repeatedly spoken about “inclusiveness” of the festival. What exactly does this mean?

First of all, the festival is open for everyone in the city, free and non-ticketed. We envisage that this grows into something that Bangaloreans can proudly call nammadu (our own). At the same time, we also want to debunk the myth that literary fests can only be socialite gatherings or parties for intellectual snobbery. Literature, and different kinds of it, touches every individual’s heart, and we hope to have something in this for everyone.

What is the festival’s Bangaloreness?

Bangalore has always been a city of intellectuals, much before the IT revolution swept the city off its feet. The BLF is an attempt to reclaim this soul of the city, its [time-honoured] flirtation with ideation, books and culture. Like the city, the festival too hopes to be cosmopolitan and diverse in its structure, accommodating multiple viewpoints.

As a lit fest in a city also synonymous with modernism and technology, we would be relying heavily on technology.

We will have live streaming of sessions through our social media partner, Koan Metrics, a live audio streaming through Radiowallah that people can listen to on their androids and iPhones and AuthorTV that is videographing sessions to be broadcast on the site.

Do you expect to see a lot of interaction between Kannada and English writers?

We feel it is our duty to include as much of Kannada literature in the programming as English or any other language. Considering that authors from our city, English or Kannada, seldom get featured in fests outside, it is only right that a fair amount of representation goes to them. Typically Kannada and English litterateurs, I feel, operate in isolation.

What are your expectations in terms of numbers?

We are hoping Bangaloreans give the festival the thumbs up! The only vindication will be a large and enthusiastic participation from fellow Bangaloreans. We had a simple online registration on our website www.bangalore literaturefestival. org and have already had close to 2,500 registrations. So we do hope many Bangaloreans make the Jayamahal Palace their retreat this weekend.

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