Sundeep Bhutoria

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

When JLF comes can controversies be far behind

19 January, 2016: Like the Kumbh Mela, Jaipur Literary Festival (JLF) is the mother of all literary festivals in India. The very concept of JLF has directly and indirectly spawned over a hundred such festivals of different hues across India and beyond. However, none can match its stature and reach.
I find myself agreeing with the organisers when they say Jaipur Litfest is the biggest free literary festival in the world.
Another redeeming feature of JLF has been that of getting embroiled in one controversy or the other. In fact many people say, “If JLF comes can controversies be far behind.” It may be an invite sent to Salman Rushdie in 2012 or Ashis Nandy's statement on dalits and corruption that created a furore. Or for that matter a native-vs-foreign spat between author William Dalrymple and former editor of Open magazine, Hartosh Singh Bal.
Some poets thought it fit to read out excerpts from Rushdie's Satanic Verses and had to flee from Jaipur overnight when FIRs were lodged. That's not just it. There is more. A bottle was hurled at Ekta Kapoor of Jodha Akbar fame in the front lawns by a member of an activist organization.
Last year's JLF was relatively quiet with no rains to play the spoilsport or no banned books to read from or Vikram Seth to sip his red wine on the stage while in a conversation.
As I landed in Jaipur yesterday I wondered what lay in store this time at the JLF. I had a gut feeling that this year's JLF would be quieter with sun-lashed mornings discussing art, literature, history, theatre and so on.
Handing over Best Lobby Bar ward to Sawarmal Sharma, Aman Bali and Chef Vishal of Seesh Mahal Bar at the Times Food Award Function 2016
In the evening, at the Times Food Award Function, I heard that a public interest litigation (PIL) had been lodged against the organizers for not finding a suitable venue in terms of security and traffic. The hearing is on Wednesday. The organizers are working overtime to frame their line of argument in the court as to why Diggi Palace is a hassle-free venue with respect to the traffic and secrity.
With Dharmendar Kanwar
So is JLF going to be in the news once again for not only for its literary and organization merit but also its line up of authors and selection of programmes.
Coming back to the Jaipur Times Food & Nightlife Awards 2016 function, I met quite a lot of known Jaipurites. Though many say that with more and more booklovers and fest visitors thronging the sessions, the Diggi Palace, as a venue, seems smaller. The fact, however, is that the venue has increased in space with more space for seating, standing or strolling around.
Also, in order to reduce the pressure on the centrally-located Diggi Palace, the cultural events have shifted to Hotel Clarks Amer, Jaipur Book Mark to Hotel Narain Niwas and the tourism and cultural events to Amber Fort and Albert Hall. For me JLF would remain incomplete without the heritage charm of Diggi Palace.
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