The Hindu Lit Fest 2024, Day 1 | Chennai’s literary carnival off to a grand start

The Hindu Lit Fest is back this year with a whole new set of authors and speakers, covering various topics of interest throughout the event.

January 26, 2024 09:05 am | Updated January 27, 2024 10:54 am IST

The Hindu’s team of journalists brings the celebration to you in this form of a live update. The two-day event includes a wide selection of authors, artists and experts talking about everything from history and economics to arts, cinema and society. 

“We carry with us the honest and fearless traditions of The Hindu. The adherence to democratic values, to justice, to social inclusiveness, to diversity and pluralism...and the commitment to freedom of expression, which is the cornerstone of The Hindu and this fest,” said Nirmala Lakshman, Director of The Hindu Group and curator of the fest, at the inauguration ceremony.

The first day unfolded with a look back to the past and an eye on the future. From the role M.K. Gandhi played in India’s freedom struggle and the daring life of freedom fighter Chidambaram Pillai, the conversation also pivoted to the expectations of India’s economic growth by 2047. In between, authors and artists spoke about what it’s like to be a Muslim in India, home and life in exile and the beauty in Sangam poetry.

Apart from talks and panels, the festival will also conduct a range of workshops, curated to help readers hone their skills. Conceived by Ms. Lakshman, this literary celebration is more than just a confluence of pages and prose; it is a jubilation of free speech and expression.

For more details, click here to get a sneak peek into Chennai’s literary carnival.

This is the 12 th edition of The Hindu’s flagship event and is unfolding at Sir Mutha Venkatasubbarao Concert Hall in Chetpet on January 26 and 27.

The two venues at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall were packed beyond their capacity with hundreds of people thronging to listen to captivating talks by artists, writers, economists, performers and thinkers throughout the day.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former Governor of West Bengal and Distinguished Professor of History and Politics at Ashoka University, inaugurated the two-day festival in the presence of Ms. Lakshman; Suresh Nambath, Editor, The Hindu; L.V. Navaneeth, CEO, THG Publishing Private Limited; and Latha Aranganathan, Chief Marketing Officer, G Square Group.

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  • January 26, 2024 20:59
    That’s all from day one of The Hindu Litfest 2024!

    This is Priyali, signing off for the day. We have a riveting day lined up for you tomorrow. Make sure to follow along and share your thoughts and opinions with us @TheHindu on X. 

  • January 26, 2024 20:34
    Taapsee Pannu defends commercial films, says they bring in the money

    “No matter how much ridicule the genre(of movies like David Dhawan’s Judwaa 2), the unfortunate reality is that you get numbers clocking in these films,” she says.

    She also recalls how a critically acclaimed movie like Baby only managed to collect ₹99 crores, while Judwaa 2 made upwards of ₹25 crores. “I don’t know who the joke is on, me or the audience,” she says.

  • January 26, 2024 20:26
    I don't want to remember the part of my life when I participated in the Miss India contest in 2008, jokes Tapsee Pannu

    “At that time, like any other average girl in India, I felt like I look half decent, let’s just go and participate in Miss India. I applied, got selected in the top 28 (or 29), went all the way to Mumbai for the first time. Every day I spent there, I realised that maybe this isn’t for me,” Ms. Pannu recalls.

    The actor also mentions her biggest takeaway from the pageant was to never comb curly hair, and that she found her best friend with whom she owns a wedding planning company now.

  • January 26, 2024 20:12
    We are now headed towards the last session of the day -- ‘The Sporting Heroine’ with actor Taapsee Pannu

    Ms. Pannu begins her session by wishing the audience a happy Republic Day and taking a dig at winters in Chennai. “It’s really chilly out there,” she says.

    Ms. Pannu is in conversation with Vidya Singh, the princess of Vijayanagaram.

    The actor talks about her engineering days, and how people in India usually first finish their degree in the popular field before they decide what they want to do with their lives.

  • January 26, 2024 19:36
    Kathak performer Shovana Narayan takes the stage to perform a cameo on Begum Hazrat Mahal

    Shovana Narayan is an acclaimed Kathak performer, teacher and choreographer, with a career spanning almost seven decades. She is the recipient of over 45 national and international awards and was awarded the Padma Shri (1992) and the Sangeet Natak Akademi award (2001). She is a bureaucrat, having served in the Indian Audit and Accounts Service (1976 batch) till her retirement in 2010. She has authored over 19 books, several research papers and over 500 articles.

  • January 26, 2024 19:26
    The Hindu Lit Fest 2024 | Insights into Jainism by Devdutt Pattanaik

    Author and Mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik began his talk at the Hindu Lit Fest 2024 by a reference to its title, which is also the title of his latest book – Bahubali: Insights into Jainism (HarperCollins India). “The title,” he said, “was inspired by the movie. Everybody loved the movie.” 

    He called it wonderful but also admitted to finding the violence in it strange. “Bahubali in the mythological world is the first hero of non-violence,” he added. The fact that his name in the film industry is associated with a movie that celebrates violence, was both ironic and interesting to him, and Pattanaik said that he wanted, through his book, to remind the next generation of that hero – to “not just think about a very good but violent movie” when they heard the name Bahubali, but also a mythological hero who embraced non-violence over violence.

    Read more here.

  • January 26, 2024 19:24
    Anita Ratnam begins her performance as part of the ‘Imaging Women Nationalists: Serving the Nation State’ session

    Anita Ratnam is a celebrated dancer and an influential theatre artist. She is a choreographer, writer, speaker and mentor. She is credited with having edited and published two best-selling editions of Narthaki (1992 and 1997), which is a directory of classical Indian dances.

    The performance is part of a longer production called the “Warrior Women of Bharat”. The cameo starts when Lakshmi Swaminathan leaves India and reaches Singapore in 1942 -- the year before Subhash Chandra Bose reaches the country.

  • January 26, 2024 19:19
    After every January 22, there will be a January 26, and that gives me hope: Shalin Maria Lawrence

    Ms. Lawrence is a Dalit activist, intersectional feminist, author and orator. She writes on social issues, especially gender justice, arts, cinema, caste and politics. She conducts workshops and collaborates with various human rights organisations across India. She is a columnist and her work has appeared in leading Tamil magazines, newspapers and digital portals. She has published three books in Tamil and a book in English. She received the UN population first’s LAADLI award in 2021 for gender sensitivity in news and media for the southern region.

    “Constitution is my holy book,” Ms. Lawrence says, explaining how important Republic Day is for the country.

  • January 26, 2024 19:09
    ‘Imaging Women Nationalists: Serving the Nation State’ begins shortly

    Women played a significant role in helping India achieve its Independence. However, their contributions are rarely highlighted and celebrated. In this session, Anita Ratnam, Shovana Narayan and Shalin Maria Lawrence discuss the role played by women nationalists.

  • January 26, 2024 18:30
    Meanwhile from The Hindu Pavilion: Author Shunali Shroff talks about being called an ‘aunty’

    “When my children’s friends call me aunty, it’s fine. But if someone 45 or above calls me that, it’s not fine. Somewhere it means that your shelf life is over,” Ms. Shroff says.

    In the session “Too Woke to be Funny”, Kiran Manral, Shunali Shroff and Rosella Stephen discuss the process of striking the delicate balance between humour and sensibilities.

    Ms. Shroff is an author, journalist, screenwriter and podcaster. She is the author of the bestselling books Love in the Time of Affluenza and Battle Hymn of a Bewildered Mother. She writes on modern Indian life, culture, travel and feminism for several print and digital publications. She co-hosts Not Your Aunty podcast with Kiran Manral.

  • January 26, 2024 18:22
    Dr. Shashi Tharoor explains how the title of his 2020 book ‘Tharoorosaurus’ came to be

    Dr. Tharoor chuckles and says he had seen versions of the word floating around on the internet. He throws back to his viral post on X (formerly Twitter) from 2017 that said, “Exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations&outright lies being broadcast by an unprincipled showman masquerading as a journalst (sic).” 

    “It all started with a really malicious television broadcast devoted to things I had not done,” he says. “I didn’t realise the tweet contained words that were going to astonish people – they were all words I would have used back in college.” 

    Dr. Tharoor says his post led to the Oxford English Dictionary questioning why almost a million people, mainly from India, looked up the word “farrago” when in the preceding 70 years it never had more than 6-7 searches of the word in a day from around the world.

    “Suddenly, I got stuck with this reputation for being somebody who used uncommon words. I then decided to play along with it.”

    Many similar instances later, the book Tharoorosaurus was published in 2020.

  • January 26, 2024 18:00
    Shashi Tharoor credits his father for instilling a love of words and wordplay in him

    Praising his father, Dr. Tharoor recalls how he found notebooks belonging to Chandran Tharoor where he taught himself English after moving to England from Kerala. “He was an amazingly gifted man with words...Although he worked in the newspaper business, he never actually worked in the editorial side of the paper, but he imparted that love of words and writing to me,” Dr. Tharoor says.

    Dr. Tharoor also recalls his father making up word games to keep the children entertained, one of them being oddly similar to the wildly popular Wordle, which was bought by The New York Times.

  • January 26, 2024 17:49
    Stay tuned readers, the much-anticipated ‘Wizard of Words’ session with Dr. Shashi Tharoor, in conversation with David Davidar, is about to start

    Dr. Tharoor is a former diplomat, a noted writer and well-known for his command over the English language. In this session, Shashi Tharoor, a three-time Member of Parliament representing the Thiruvananthapuram constituency, is in conversation with David Davidar.

  • January 26, 2024 17:47
    Reimagining Sangam-era songs with a Carnatic touch

    Carnatic singer T.M. Krishna and Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, who are long-time collaborators, took part in a bilingual session ‘Finding the song in Sangam Poetry’ during the first day of The Hindu LiftFest 2024 at The Hindu Pavillion, near Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, in Chennai on January 26, 2024.

    “We believe it important because it offers alternative themes for Carnatic music and a moving space, bringing back ideas from the past that have resonance for contemporary politics. It also has very important thoughts on caste,” said Mr. Krishna, who went on to sing the lines Semmannil Peitha Mazhi Pole, a Sangam poetry rendered into a keerthana format by Mr. Perumal Murugan.

    Read more here.

  • January 26, 2024 17:42
    We should not be under the influence that Muslims introduced beef-eating (here), it existed here: Subodh Kerkar

    Mr. Kerkar uses historical examples to support his point.

    He also recalls an incident from 1914 from Mahatma Gandhi’s life to prove his point about tolerance of food habits. When Mahatma Gandhi was returning to India via England on a ship, his wife Kasturba Gandhi requested the captain of the ship for a separate place to cook their food. The captain reportedly offered them an empty cabin, but Mahatma Gandhi refused to utilise the extra space and instead asked for a small corner in the shared kitchen itself, which had various kinds of meat. “That was the stance of Mahatma Gandhi as far as tolerance of other people’s food (is concerned),” Mr. Kerkar says. 

  • January 26, 2024 17:33
    The one thing that defines the plurality of this country is the food we eat: Subodh Kerkar

    Bringing up the theme of the session, Mr. Kerkar says that normally, food is also the cause of religious fanaticism, although he says that he wants to use it as a weapon against fanaticism, and also to prove the point that “there is nothing that is pure – our culture is a mixture of many, many different things”.

    Mr. Kerkar also talks about the global influences that have made our food what it is, ranging from the Chola conquests to Portuguese and Mughals and British rules.

    Did you know that in 1667, the Dutch occupation in what is now Indonesia kept the Banda islands and instead gave Manhattan Island (now New York City) to the British after intense fighting between the two sides for Banda – all because nutmeg, the prized spice, was only grown there? Follow along for more interesting updates from Subodh Kerkar’s session.

  • January 26, 2024 17:14
    We live in times when our government is changing our past, Subodh Kerkar says

    Mr. Kerkar dives right into it as he opens his session “Food against Fanaticism” with a critical commentary on “the idea of India”. 

    “We live in times when the idea of nationalism, patriotism, and sedition is defined and redefined. We live in times when people get lynched for keeping beef in their refrigerator or falling in love with a person of another faith. We live in times where the “secular” in our Constitution is evaporating with the hit of Hindutva fanaticism. We live in times where spiritual is slowly disappearing from, and the political is entering our religion,” he says. 

  • January 26, 2024 17:12
    Now playing: Food against Fanaticism with Subodh Kerkar

    Thank you, Sruthi. Hello, readers! I am Priyali Prakash, and we’ll be looking at the last set of sessions from day one of The Hindu LitFest 2024 together. First up is “Food against Fanaticism” with Subodh Kerkar.

    Mr. Kerkar is an artist and an activist and uses art forms like paintings, sculptures, installations, and performances to comment on social, political, religious and other issues. His works have been exhibited widely in galleries, museums and biennales around the world. He is the Founding Director of the Museum of Goa and he also holds the Mario Miranda Chair as a Visiting Research Professor at Goa University.

  • January 26, 2024 17:07
    Handing over the baton

    Priyali Prakash takes over now as your guide for the evening! Enjoy the rest of the LitFest 2024 and share your thoughts and opinions with us @TheHindu on X. 

  • January 26, 2024 17:03
    Journalism needs to be subjective, shouldn’t pretend to be objective: Anjan Sundaram

    Seasoned journalist Anjan Sundaram offers some nuggets of wisdom in his session ‘Break-up: A Marriage in Wartime.’ 

    “In this age of information, journalism is losing trust,” he says, “We need to think about our profession and journalism needs to become more subjective and not pretending to be objective.”

  • January 26, 2024 16:57
    Watch: Revathi speaks after the “Faultlines of Faith” session
  • January 26, 2024 16:56
    Watch: TM Krishna speaks to The Hindu after his session at The Hindu Pavillion

  • January 26, 2024 16:55
    How is it like on the frontlines? Journalist Anjan Sundaram shares

    War correspondent Anjan Sundaram says the majority of books by foreign correspondents start from a place of authority portraying the objective truth. “But I write from a state of ignorancee and present myself as a subject, he tells Stanly Johny at The Hindu Pavilion session on Break up: A Marriage in Wartime. 

    Read more about the event here.

  • January 26, 2024 16:47
    The common thread through Indian philosophy: no beginning, no end, and no control

    Mr. Pattanaik speaks of the philosophical ideas that run through Indian religions- Jainism, Buddism, and Hinduism. 

    “There is no beginning and no ending and you have no control...No matter how strong you are you can not control the world...This is Indian philosophy,” he says

    He brings up the word ‘Sanathan Dharma’“-- maybe in Chennai I am taking a risk by saying about it,” he jokes---saying that it means that which does not end.

    “The world will never end, the problems will never end, be aware of your helplessness-this is what Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism says,” he notes.

    He notes that this is different from the religions of the Middle-East, where “you have only one life” and at the end of it there is a judgment day where you are judged by God.

    Neither Buddhism nor Jainism has a God, he points out.

    In this world with no beginning and no end, there are viras who try to change the world who fights the battles, he says.

    “But a mahavira is someone who has an internal battle with his own emotions, his own thoughts, his own weaknesses and his own ego.... when the mahavir wins, no one loses, everybody benefits,” he adds.

    Everyone wants to be a vira, but the Mahavir does not carry weapons because he know the true fight is within, he says.

  • January 26, 2024 16:30
    Bahubali: Insights into Jainism by Devadutt Pattanaik

    Sir Mutha Concert Hall now plays host to a talk about Bahubali, the revered Jain figure, by noted author Devdutt Pattanaik. The master of ceremonies has already made the observation about Jainism, not the film Bahubali, being the theme of the talk today, a thought which may have occurred to many (including your humble guide.)

    Mr. Pattanaik has read our collective mind - he shares that the title of his book is in fact inspired by the film, noting the dissonance between how violent the movie is and how peaceful Jainism is, with ahimsa as its core tenet. 

    What will follow is a talk about Jainism and the 63 mahapurushas who form a part of Jain mythology.

  • January 26, 2024 16:14
    Recap time: remember the first session of the Hindu LitFest 2024?

    We’re here to refresh your memory. 

    The Hindu’s Radhika Santhanam captured the key moments of the first-ever session of the Hindu LitFest 2024- an engaging conversation about how India could become a wealthy nation by 2047.

    Hear N. Ravi, Chairman of Kasturi and Sons Limited; Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst; Montek Singh Ahluwalia, former Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission; Sanjay Kaul, development policy analyst and former IAS officer; and T.N. Ninan, Chairman of Business Standard, discussed how India can become a rich nation in a conversation moderated by Raghuvir Srinivasan, Editor, The Hindu businessline.

    A highlight: Mr. Ninan stressing that it is the quality of life that should be a determinant of wealth and pointing out that “India’s performance is fractionally better than China’s” on this front. 

    A second one: “Being developed is not enough, the wealth needs to be well distributed. Along with inclusive growth, you also need the development of public goods, which has to be provided by a caring government, and not the market.”- thus, Mr. Ahluwalia, offering a different perspective of how a future developed India should look like. 

  • January 26, 2024 15:48
    A glimpse into Mr. Tanvir’s world

    What is next is a literal backstage look at Mr. Tanvir’s work- through a 20 minute snippet of a film that follows two of his shows on the road. (The film, Mr. Deshpande shares, is available on YouTube)

    We see the stage, but we also see the actors waiting in the wings, the intense concentration of the musician at the side of the stage, the joyous dancing that interlaces Mr. Tanvir’s production, and the laughter of the audience that punctuates at opportune moments. 

    Cut then to less colourful moments- the marking of the stage for the set, the checking of lights. And then to Habib Tanvir himself, keeping a keen eye on his production, musing if his play is becoming boring, directing his actors with a firm hand. 

    Ramcharan, an actor in his production, says that when the audience laughs, that is when they enjoy it. 

    This is a clip that offers much to a theatre enthusiast and even more to a Habib Tanvir enthusiast- a glimpse into his world and his methods.

  • January 26, 2024 15:34
    Road to Naya Theatre: a quick time-lapse of Habib Tanvir’s journey

    “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a thief,” this is how Sudhanva Deshpande opens his talk. 

    His reason for this: the play Charandas Chor, by Habib Tanvir, which had travelled to his school. He was fascinated by this tale of a thief who vows to never lie.

    It is an introduction to him to Naya Theatre, Mr. Tanvir’s theatre troupe. It is a revelation to the audience as well.

    But Mr. Tanvir didn’t start Naya Theatre right away. His journey involved a stint in other productions, a visit to Germany to meet Bertolt Brecht (who inconveniently died a fortnight before Mr. Tanvir reached), and finally, collecting together a group of rural actors from Chhattisgarh to found what became Naya Theatre, in 1959. 

    It is this journey that Mr. Deshpande walks us through. 

  • January 26, 2024 15:26
    Recalling Habib Tanvir: A look at the theatre great and his work

    Next up in the Sir Mutha Concert Hall is a session and talk about Habib Tanvir, the theatre giant who founded Naya Theatre in 1959. The talk is spearheaded by Sudhanva Deshpande, a theatre actor-director and film actor. 

    Read more about the event here.

  • January 26, 2024 15:22
    “You be a trapeze artist. I’ll be your safety net”: A loving, equal relationship

    Mrs. Divakaruni ends the talk by giving up the “punchline” -- Narayana Murthy said “Only one of us can be in Infosys. But it can be you, because you are smarter than I am.”

    She could run Infosys as well as he could. But could he run the household as well as she could? The couple decided the answer to be “no.” So matters took place the way they did, the author shares. 

    Replying to a question from the audience member a while later, she quotes Mrs. Murty as expressing the sentiment, “You be the trapeze artist and I will be your safety net.” 

    This was also Mr. Murthy’s sentiments when Mrs. Murty wanted to write and open the Infosys Foundation, she highlights. 

    Read Sudipta Datta’s coverage of the talk here.

  • January 26, 2024 15:13
    Simple living, a life of values: the Murthy family

    “They’re the same to me as before,” is what Sudha Murthy said about her daughter and son-in-law Rishi Sunak, after he became the Prime Minister of Britain, Mrs. Divakaruni shares. 

    This is just one instance from their lives, marked by simple living and philanthropy. It is these incidences that Mrs. Divakaruni hopes will inspire those who read her book. “They weren’t special people, but did live according to their values,” she shares. 

  • January 26, 2024 15:06
    Only one of us can be in Infosys: the Narayana Murthy statement

    Mrs. Divakaruni shares the other side to the often-quoted story of Narayana Murthy asking Sudha Murty to not join Infosys, after she worked hard to get it off the ground, as he didn’t want it to become a family-run business.

    “He said, ‘Only one of us can be in Infosys,’ but also said, ‘That can also be you.’,” she shares, hinting that there is more to the story-- in her book. 

  • January 26, 2024 15:02
    Sudha Murty- a battle against sexism

    Mrs. Divakaruni draws back a little to talk about Sudha Murty’s life, starting with her being the first women engineering student in a Hubli college where even the principal thought she was taking a spot from a male student.

    She also recounts how a Telco job posting said that women need not apply, and Sudha Murty wrote to JRD Tata, finally receiving an interview call. 

  • January 26, 2024 14:55
    Memories both sweet and bitter

    The session speaks of the light-hearted moments of the couple’s courtship, their introduction. But it also delves into some more serious moments.

    It was hard to draw out the hard things from Narayan Murthy’s life, Mrs. Divakaruni admits, touching upon the harsh disciplining of his father.

    She shares a particularly painful incident in Mr. Murthy’s life, where he was hit by his father and flew across the room, hurting himself on a metal trunk- the scar remains till today. There is also the matter of his not being allowed to go to IIT- his father asked him to give the scholarship money to his brother. 

    But then the talk pivots again to sweeter moments: the couple’s courtship in Pune, frugal and spare. Them watching movies together, though Narayana Murthy didn’t like movies: “She watched movies, and I watched her,” he shared. Him travelling 11 hours just to be with her - a “jobless romantic.” A proposal in a rickshaw- with a highly interested rikshawallah who stopped at the side of the road. A disastrous first meeting with Mrs. Murty’s parents-- with a rebellious Narayana Murthy garbed in red, talking about starting a political party and an orphanage and not getting a job.

  • January 26, 2024 14:41
    Everyone loves a love story: Sudha Murty and Narayana Murthy

    We’re back at the Sir Mutha Concert Hall with a classic theme- love. It is a tale as old as time, set against a modern backdrop- the love story of Sudha Murty and Narayana Murthy, now of Infosys fame.

    Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni in her latest book, An Uncommon Love: The Early Life of Sudha and Narayan Murthy explores this sweet side of the power couple, how they met, how they bonded over books, and how parts of their life felt like an Amol Palekar movie. She now shares the little tidbits she gathered over two years of research and conversations with the Murthys, in a talk with author Shunali Khullar Shroff. Interesting note: this is Mrs. Divakaruni’s first non-fiction work. The author is known for works such as The Palace of Illusions, Mistress of Spices and The Forest of Enchantments.

    Read more about the event here.

  • January 26, 2024 14:30
    Meanwhile at the Pavillion: May I Have Your Attention Please?

    After a break for lunch, the Hindu Pavillion is back on track. A conversation is underway with moderator Suresh Balakrishna about how to hold an audience’s attention. Who better than Anuradha “VJ Lola Kutty” Menon, TV anchor and funnyman Cyrus Broacha and comedian Kanan Gill to tell us how to achieve packed halls with enthusiastic crowds? Read more about the event here.

  • January 26, 2024 14:20
    While we wait: A little Vivan Sundaram art from our archives

    SM: 'Barricade' by Vivan Sundaram

    KOCHI,10/12/2012. Artist Vivan Sundaram with his ongoing artistic reconstruction of the lost city of Muziris at Aspinwall House done using discarded terracota shards from the Muziris excavation site at Pattanam for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.Photo:K_K_Mustafah.

    Immobile intensities: 'Great Indian Bazaar'

  • January 26, 2024 14:02
    Lunch break is here

    The Hindu Litfest 2024 takes a short break for lunch and so do we. We hope you return energised for the second half, adequately hydrated and motivated to soak in more lit and art and everything in between. 

  • January 26, 2024 13:57
    From oil paintings to Sharjeh Biennale: much to explore

    There is much to be learnt about Vivan Sundaram- his Kasauli years, at a house bequeathed by his mother, his associations with collaborators, his interest in the work Amrita Sher-Gil and her grandfather Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, a photographer. 

    On offer at the Litfest are two books pertaining to him and his work- Kasauli Art Centre, 1976-1991 and Vivan Sundaram is Not a Photographer, a misleadingly titled tome about his photographic work.

    The Hindu’s Swati Daftuar is also on the scene: read her account of the talk here.

  • January 26, 2024 13:47
    An expansive oeuvre: massive installations to industrial material garb

    The rest of the talk draws the audience further into the true breadth of Vivan Sundaram’s oeuvre-- through massive installation projects and collections created from Trash. 

    A clip plays, a haunting melody and a terse narrator takes the audience through “Structure of Memory” exploring the process of creating one of Vivan Sundaram’s expansive and engaging installations. 

    Dour models strut through in garb from industrial trash, in a collab project with Pratima Pandey in yet another clip.

  • January 26, 2024 13:41
    Remembering an artist and friend: Ashish Rajdhyaksha speaks about Vivan Sundaram

    Asish Rajdhyaksha.jpg

  • January 26, 2024 13:33
    New media, new messages: ‘Memorial’

    The talk moves the audience through this next phase of Vivan’s work- political commentary and new media (he stopped working with oil paints) intertwine. This next work relates to the terrible years of the Babri Masjid demolition and the riots that followed. 

    His ‘Memorial’ reprises a photograph of a man lying in the streets during the Bombay riots following the demolition of the Babri Masjid, incorporating messages about State authority and the senselessness of the man’s death. 

  • January 26, 2024 13:26
    Moving from the innocence of the ‘80s

    “And then something changed,” Ashish Rajdhyaksha notes, signalling a crucial shift for Vivan and his art: a move from the innocence of the 80’s to a more turbulent time. 

    On the screen is a drawing of Gulf War terrain as though caught in an explosion, part of a series called ‘Engine Oil and Charcoal on Paper.’ These were all drawn “in the middle of what was likely the planet’s first post-modern war,” Mr. Rajdhyaksha says. 

    The painting, titled ‘Approaching a 100,000 sorties’ signalled also a shift to art-making by other means. 

    A charcoal drawing sparked by a visit to Auschwitz is a mere entry point for the audience to be introduced to a new era of Vivan’s work- dark, dystopian, charcoal-heavy. Another in the series sees Indira Gandhi’s face atop a mushroom cloud.

    The next image is a contrast- bright, and colourful, but the subject is no less dark- Safdar Hashmi, who had been murdered.

  • January 26, 2024 13:14
    Vivan: the friend, the artist

    Ashish Rajadhyaksha kicks off his presentation by remembering Vivan Sundaram the artist, and Vivan, a good friend. 

    “When an artist passes away, you see his or her entire life’s work as though in a flash,” he says, noting how strange it felt when Vivan, as he was known to most, passed away. 

    It’s as if the artist and artwork have fused as a whole, he notes. Describing Vivan the public artist, he refers to a 1980 picture with beautiful landscape and with luminous figures. The painting is based on the Mathura rape case, where a tribal girl was raped by two policeman. 

    The next work he takes us through is “The year of barricades”- a ‘telling of large stories through the intimate’, with letters and photographs. 

  • January 26, 2024 13:00
    Art and Revolution next- Vivan Sundaram’s life and art

    Hello! This is Sruthi Darbhamulla, taking over as your guide through the delightful intellectual feast on offer at the Hindu Litfest 2024. After a bracing conversation with A.R Venkatachalapathy and Ramchandra Guha, we move to a session about noted multi-disciplinary artist Vivan Sundaram, who we sadly lost last year. Five months after his death, a book titled Kasauli Art Centre, 1976-1991 was published, covering archival material over 15 years. 

    Mr. Sundaram’s oeuvre covered a gamut of media, moving from painting to photography, video and sculpture. His themes comprised the dystopian, the political, the radical. Today, we walk through his contributions with the expert guidance of Ashish Rajdhyaksha, film historian, author and art curator. Read more about Vivan Sundaram’s work here, and learn more about the event here

  • January 26, 2024 12:59
    Chidambaram Pillai: A saga of incredible proportions

    Mr. Venkatachalapathy concludes with the story of how he began researching material on the Swadeshi movement, around the same time he first met Mr. Guha, who sits across the stage today. “If there are some wonderful passages there, it is because I didn’t write them, but they wrote them themselves,” Mr. Venkatachalapathy says.

    Mr. Guha wraps up the brilliant exchange with the following insight: “A historian is allowed to be polyamorous. A allowed to be in love with more than one character.” Mr. Venkatachalapathy’s is a parallel love affair that he has been carrying on, and “it will also be about the individual and institution.”

    Want a closer look? Here is our reporter Radhika Santhanam’s report from the Lit Fest venue.

  • January 26, 2024 12:46
    ‘It took me going to the antinational institute of JNU to understand maritime history’: Venkatachalapathy

    Mr. Pillai’s saga is, as. Mr. Venkatachalapathy puts it, a “melodramatic” story. Why, because Mr. Pillai refused to come back to India until he bought a shop. He’s also a man who rattled the colonial system. “A man has only one life to live, but this man gets two life imprisonments.” One for seditious speech, one for abetting seditious speech. To this day, his case is an important case law in sedition cases. Moreover, his whole life is a great saga of mobilising people: “this is not an individual achievement. All people, of all castes, all communities are there”. What moved Mr. Venkatachalapathy most about Pillai’s story? His wife, Meenakshi.

    Mr. Venkatachalapathy’s passion takes a life on the stage. He spoke about the “indifference and apathy” that North India has towards the South, the lack of credible records on Indian figures, and the journey of piecing together the life of an incredible freedom fighter. “His facts are more incredible than his myths,” Mr. Venkatachalapathy quips. “It took me 100 years, it took me going to the anti-national institute of Jawaharlal Nehru University, to study, to understand the mechanisms of what is maritime history.”

  • January 26, 2024 12:19
    A.R. Venkatachalapathy and Ramachandra Guha talk about the Swadeshi Steam

    Let us stay with the past for now. In the next session, we have two historians discussing a book on freedom fighter V.O. Chidambaram Pillai, as he took on the might of the British in the early 20th century when he started a shipping company under colonial rule. A.R. Venkatachalapathy speaks to Ramachandra Guha, as the two thinkers talk about the ​Swadeshi Steam, V.O. Chidambaram Pillai and the battle against the British Maritime​. 

    Mr. Guha candidly introduced the author in the spotlight, calling Mr. Venkatachalapathy “the Indian history I most admire”. “The first love of his life, not the deepest of his life, was V.O. Chidambaram Pillai, who he discovered at the age of 16 when working in the library.” Mr. Guha was “slightly envious” of his singular passion for Pillai. And now with this book, Mr. Venkatachalapathy has ventured into new domains. “He has been a commanding scholar of literary, social, political history. Now he has ventured into economic history,” Mr. Guha notes. A formidable terrain. Still, Mr. Venkatachalapathy’s long-lasting passion has taken on a new form with this book.

  • January 26, 2024 12:14
    LitFest 2024: From the gaze of the audience

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    Photo credit: Special Arrangement

  • January 26, 2024 12:08
    ‘Need to remember Gandhi’s story at a time when supremacy, self-glorification claim our attention’

    Back to the times and tales of India’s Mahatma. Mr. Gopalkrishna Gandhi gave us a poignant slice of history: connecting India and South Africa, the oppression facing both countries then and the quest for freedom today. “This is the story of a man we need to remember at a time when supremacy, immaculacy and a kind of self-exempting, self-glorification is what claims our attention,” Mr. Gandhi says. 

    His recitation of the events in the early 1900s involves many great figures of India’s past, including Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Sarojini Naidu. Among other things, Mr. Gandhi says the freedom fighter contributed to the timeless lyrics of India’s renaissance. To ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’, the Mahatma added: Ishwar allah tere naam. Mr. Gandhi also takes note of the challenges of Kasturba Gandhi, and the “countless and nameless women who suffered and yet overcame the travails let loose upon them by the partition”. 

    Mr. Gandhi leaves us with a poignant question.. Is it too late for this subcontinent of India, is it too late for South Asia?” He answers in the negative. “Whenever there has been violence in the name of religion, there has been extraordinary redemptive action by people who do not ascribe to that violence.” In this turbulent time, M.K. Gandhi “calls for a gentle recollection, for being ordinary and yet doing extraordinary things”. 

  • January 26, 2024 11:51
    Author Ronya Othmann on home and life in exile: ‘There are many layers to living'

    We take a look at a fascinating conversation brewing in the Pavilion: author Ronya Othmann is in conversation with Katharina Gorgen talking about memory and home. “It is harder for women migrants in a new country, which is not their ancestral homeland, to adapt to different traditions of the new place. There are many layers to living,” says Ms. Othmann.

    Read our coverage of the talk on the ground by Soma Basu.

  • January 26, 2024 11:39
    ‘He had no illusions about his stature, no illusions about his ability to sway the masses’, recounts Gopalkrishna Gandhi

    Back to our coverage of M.K. Gandhi’s extraordinary life, his grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi walks us through the early life, challenges and insights of the freedom fighter, during his time in South Africa and India. “In South Africa, Nelson Mandela described Gandhi as the man who had shown South Africa disciplined mass struggle. That is what he gave to India,” the author says. Mr. Gandhi reiterates a takeaway from the previous session on India’s economic growth, highlighting the need to protect people who make up India’s labour force. “[They] are the salt of the earth who we need to protect. They are going to make the India that Gandhi wanted to, that he dreamt of...As an ordinary man, he knew the extraordinary power of ordinary people.”

    Here is an excerpt of Mr. Gandhi’s book: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: I am an Ordinary Man.

  • January 26, 2024 11:29
    Happening closeby: A workshop on translations

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    In another session, author and translator Mini Krishnan is conducting a workshop on translation. She gives a first-person account of how to improve a translation to make it read like it was not written in another language!

    Photo credit: Akhila Easwaran/The Hindu

  • January 26, 2024 11:24
    Gopalkrishna Gandhi talks about Mahatma’s role in India’s freedom struggle

    What a charged exchange of ideas it has been. 

    Next up, we have Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, talking about the role MK Gandhi played in India’s struggle for freedom.

  • January 26, 2024 11:20
    Takeaways from Faultlines of Faith

    In the Pavilion, the ‘Faultlines of Faith’ session concluded after a compelling discussion on religion and identities. We had scholar Arjun Appadurai; Revati Laul, author of The Anatomy of Hate, an account of perpetrators of the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat; veteran journalist Ziya Us Salam with The Hindu’s Varghese K. George moderating the discussion. 

    The panellists delved into the many facets of faith and marginalisation: what it means to be a Muslim today in Northern parts of India, Hindutva politics, the impact of globalisation on identities, how religious fundamentalism is concerned about caste, religion and region. The session concluded with speakers seeking grounds for optimism in India, a land of minorities.

  • January 26, 2024 11:20
    India’s economic growth by 2047: GDP numbers are insufficient, focus on quality of life

    The first session on India’s economic aspiration wrapped up with robust discussions on the metrics of growth and quality of life. The panellists concurred there is a need to invest in human capital, focus on how income is distributed and pay attention to identity-based exploitation within the labour force. 

    Dr. Ghosh summarised the deficit in expenditure: “Quality of spending matters, but you can’t get away from low quantity”.

  • January 26, 2024 11:01
    Jayati Ghosh: ‘We are exploiting women’s work’

    It’s a long wishlist for inclusive growth. What needs to be done, and how do we find the money? Economist Jayati Ghosh says we need to ask what being ‘wealthy’ means to us. “[We see] wealth as the means to provide people with a dignified life, but it requires a different pattern of growth”, not necessarily GDP or per capita income., she says. It’s “absolutely crazy” that median wages are falling and real wages haven’t increased. “The conditions for the vast majority are not improving. That’s the sign of not being wealthy, that’s the real failure of that growth.”

    Dr. Ghosh also comments on the low female participation in the labour force, and exploitation along gender, caste and ethnic lines. It is “extraordinary” how India is exploiting women’s work, noting that “it is a huge waste of economic potential but also a massive burden of unpaid work.” 

    An exchange unfolds between economists Dr. Ghosh and Mr. Ahluwalia: how do we define women’s unemployment? Official indices say women’s employment is rising, but Dr. Ghosh points the only increase is of women working in family enterprises. “You have to be paid, otherwise every woman doing housework is employed.” 

  • January 26, 2024 10:51
    India’s rich economy: ‘We need to have a certain measure of realism’

    Coming back to the panel on India’s economic growth, T.N. Ninan and Sanjay Kaul discuss why quality of life should guide the conversation about development. “There are two ways of looking at the question. Look at the history of our own country and how it can be improved and then look at the history of other countries,” Mr. Tinan says. The real issues are quality of life: healthcare, clean air, education, jobs, personal safety, and India is fractionally better than China on these”. 

    Mr. Kaul talks about targeting underlying causes of economic challenges, such as low participation of women in the formal labour force. Simple things, such as reservation, “that don’t have a huge budgetary impact can make a difference”.

  • January 26, 2024 10:41
    Author Ziya us Salam talks about the status of Muslim women, Pasmanda Muslims

    In the session on Faultlines of Faith, Indian author and journalist Ziya Us Salam comments on the Hindu right-wing argument that they are helping Pasmanda Muslims and Muslim women. “Almost all victims of lynching since 2015, barring Dalits, have been Pasmanda Muslims. Has the Prime Minister ever tweeted or have the governments announced any compensation?” he asks. 

    “As a Muslim, nobody (Muslims) buys the argument that the government of India has done anything for Indian Muslims. The law is still full of loopholes and goes against reconciliation.”

    Here is Udhav Naig’s recounting of the event, offering a succinct summary of a very topical talk.

  • January 26, 2024 10:29
    ‘Why does bad news always move faster?’: Arjun Appadurai

    In The Hindu pavilion, we have Arjun Appadurai, Revati Laul, and Ziya us Salamin in conversation with Varghese K. George. Mr. Appadurai, explaining the role of media, asked, “Why does bad news always move faster?”, adding that it’s a struggle to avoid the speed of bad news.

    For a full list of speakers and sessions during the two-day festival, click here

  • January 26, 2024 10:26
    Day one, session one: India's economic growth

    If you’re just joining us, day one of the LitFest is live at at Sir Mutha Venkatasubbarao Concert Hall in Chetpet. The first session is off with leading thinkers like Jayati Ghosh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and journalists N. Ravi and T.N. Ninan discussing the future of India’s economic growth.

    Earlier, we heard from the Director of The Hindu Group Nirmala Lakshman about how the fest is more than just a confluence of pages and prose; it is a jubilation of free speech and expression.

  • January 26, 2024 10:24
    ‘Rigid, top-down, precise systems are not good’ for India’s development, says Montek Singh Ahluwalia

    In the first session, journalist N. Ravi sets the tone of the conversation by accounting for India’s economic gains and the faltering per capita income. Economist Montek Singh Ahluwalia says the question of a ‘rich economy’ is understood best through the latter: a scenario where per capita income is well-distributed.

    “Looking 22 years ahead, can we grow at 8.5%, will it be inclusive, will the governments be responsive to the need to provide public services that a developed country needs?” Mr. Ahluwalia asks. He lists some factors that are likely to influence India’s development: new technologies that infiltrate the production space, labour force development, flexibility of governments, most of all. “By any standard, we must accept that the growth is not where it needs to be. And that’s partly why we’re not seeing the employment results we want,” he says. 

  • January 26, 2024 10:03
    Can India become a wealthy nation by 2047?

    Will India become a wealthy nation by 2047, the anniversary of our Independence? 

    We have a panel moderated by Raghuvir Srinivasan, where economists Jayati Ghosh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and journalists N. Ravi and T.N. Ninan will discuss the economic growth of India when the country celebrates its 100 years of Independence.

    Read more about the session here.

  • January 26, 2024 09:56
    Gopalkrishna Gandhi: ‘Honest doubt spurs honest questions’

    Gopalkrishna Gandhi, author of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi I Am An Ordinary Man, is speaking at the inauguration ceremony. “We celebrate today, thanks to The Hindu, the trust of books’ honest words”, not the dazzle of language or the praise printed on covers. “Books can and should claim one thing -- honesty, simple honesty,” he remarks.

    You’ll be hearing more from Mr. Gandhi at a talk later today.

  • January 26, 2024 09:45
    Freedom of expression, diversity are the cornerstone of this fest: Nirmala Lakshman

    Nirmala Lakshman, the director of The Hindu Group and curator of The Hindu’s LitFest, welcomes panelists and audience members to the literary carnival. “Over the next two days, we have the privilege of hearing a distinguished galaxy of writers and thinkers” and to “celebrate the magic of words and ideas”. 

    “We carry with us the honest and fearless traditions of The Hindu. The adherence to democratic values, to justice, to social inclusiveness, to diversity and pluralism...and the commitment to freedom of expression, which is the cornerstone of The Hindu and this fest,” she says.

  • January 26, 2024 09:38
    Get, set, LitFest!

    Radhakrishnan Sreenivasan kicks us off at the Sir Mutha Venkatasubbarao Concert Hall in Chetpet. We’re here to celebrate freedom of thought and expression and to discuss, agree, disagree, agree to disagree, debate, understand, smile and laugh. 

    “The Hindu is a way of life in this part of the world. We get up, first in the morning, both our hands occupied, one with a cup of coffee, and the other with The Hindu,” he says.

  • January 26, 2024 09:24
    Day 1: What to expect?

    Are you ready to tune in? Here’s a curated reading list by Swati Daftaur - a list of books by speakers and on subjects you’ll be hearing from today. 

    Read here: Get a head start for Day 1 of The Hindu Lit Fest 2024: A reading list.

  • January 26, 2024 09:23
    The Hindu LitFest 2024 is live!

    Hello readers, welcome to this year’s edition of The Hindu’s Lit Fest. I’m Saumya Kalia, and I’ll be taking you through the enchanting conversations at the literary extravaganza. We have a thrilling line-up of speakers who will talk to you about everything from history and politics to arts, society and cinema — from the heart of a city that cherishes the world of literature. 

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