* World’s biggest free literary festival starts tomorrow
* Paul Beatty, David Hare and Rishi Kapoor among speakers
* Strong British presence
* ACV covering JLF 2017
THOUSANDS of lovers of literature, music, and culture will descend on the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) tomorrow (today).
Billed as the greatest literary show on earth, there is little doubt that it attracts a wide range of both western, global and Indian voices and sometimes engineers the most unexpected of debates and arguments.
Celebrating its 10th year is a remarkable achievement – as co-director William Dalrymple told www.asianculturevulture.com’s Suman Bhuchar last year (see home page). It had inauspicious beginnings but has flowered into something of world renown.
Among this year’s major draws are Paul Beatty, winner of this year’s Booker Prize, iconic British playwright David Hare and literary blockbuster novelist Vikram Chandra.
For the Bollywood inclined, there’s poet, lyricist and screen writer Javed Akhtar, offbeat director Imtiaz Ali and one time pin up and golden boy, Rishi Kapoor.
Another luminous name in the Indian film world is Gulzar who is part of the first day’s attractions. SS Rajamouli, the director behind India’s most expensive movie to date, “Bahubhali” will be talking about his eagerly anticipated sequel, which is scheduled to be released this Spring.
British academic Rachel Dwyer who specialises in Indian film is at JLF too and will moderate the Rishi Kapoor talk.
Broadcaster and journalist Anita Anand who talked to us about her first book, “Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary” in 2015, returns and scientist and broadcaster Aarathi Prasad is here to talk about her second book, “In the Bonesetter’s Waiting Room: Travels through Indian medicine”.
The book has many plaudits already, and features in the longlist of the Jhalak Prize, Britain’s first literary award dedicated solely to writers of colour.
For those who follow the British literary scene, there’s a culturally rich line up, straddling both literature and history.
Another former Booker Prize winner Alan Hollinghurst is among the speakers, as is poet and novelist Adam Thirlwell.
Representing perhaps different political perspectives is right-wing historian Andrew Roberts and the rather less establishment figure of historian and broadcaster Susannah Lipscomb.
Screenwriters and directors Neil Jordan and Bruce Robinson will draw those interested in films that tackle difficult and awkward subjects.
Broadcaster, novelist and therapist Lucy Beresford is among the strong British contingent at the festival this year.
Economics commentator Nassim Nicholas Taleb makes a return to the festival in a follow up to his hit and rather prophetic Black Swan book, which predicted the crash of 2008.
In the populist (in terms of numbers , politics) Indian novels category, Ashwin Sanghi is sure to draw huge crowds as he did in 2015 and 2016 (when Bollywood star Kajol joined him – see here) and he spoke to us about how he moved from business to being a popular novelist.
Indian journalist Barkha Dutt, whose memoir caused much controversy when it was released last year (for its chronicling of child abuse), will be another big star attraction.
Former BBC journalist Mark Tully is also likely to be the centre of much attention. An India correspondent for more than 20 years, he is revered here as an impartial and intelligent observer of Indian political affairs.
Another critical analyst who knows much about India is Patrick French.
Among the first day highlights are Sadhguru, a mystic and theologian with a huge following and who delivers his popular Youtube sermons in English, is in conversation with one of the organisers of the festival, Sanjoy Roy.
Beatty will talk about his prize-winning “The Sellout” with Meru Gokhale, while French is moderating part of what should be a lively discussion about ‘The Legacy of the Left’ with Maidul Islam, Mridula Mukherjee, Pratap Bhanu and Timothy Garton Ash.
Taleb appears in the session devoted solely to his own work alone and David McWilliams will introduce and chair.
Hare assumes centre stage after the morning opening and introductions by Vasundhara Raje, Gulzar and Anne Waldeman.
There’s also a veritable programme of concerts in the evenings at Clark’s Amer where Beth Orton, The Raghu Dixit Project and Kabir Café are among those providing the enterainment.
The Indian press has drawn attention to several right wing speakers who are close to the ruling BJP appearing and there has been some criticism too of main sponsors Zee, a broadcaster which some have accused of waging a campaign against opposition figures who are fierce critics of the BJP.
But what better place to discuss this all then JLF itself?
See you there soon!
*Sailesh Ram, editor of www.asianculturevulture.com is at the festival and will be covering it both on site and in real time – follow our Twitter or Facebook handles and look out for some surprise turns and unexpected encounters.