The 10th edition of Hyderabad Literary Festival (HLF) will be held from January 24 to 26. The calendar event, as always, will witness book launches, author interactions, panel discussions, and book stalls. Beyond that, “there’s something for everyone” in the words of one of HLF’s four directors, Amita Desai.
After staying put at the Hyderabad Public School (HPS) since 2015, this year’s fest will move to Vidyaranya High School for Boys. “The dates of the literary festival clashed with an in-house event of HPS and we had to go for a new venue,” says professor T Vijay Kumar, a festival director. Vidyaranya was chosen for its central location and easy access. Vijay Kumar adds that a permanent venue in the city, similar to that of the Dilli Haat or the India Cultural Centre in Delhi, with all required amenities, would be ideal to host the festival.
Australia is the guest nation and Malayalam is the Indian language in focus in this year’s HLF, so expect dignitaries in both streams.
Manu S Pillai
This year’s line-up has established authors alongside emerging authors and poets — Manu S Pillai, Jerry Pinto, Andrew Whithead, Kala Ramesh, Sita Reddy and Serish Nanisetti, among many others.
- HLF 2020 is organised by the Hyderabad Literary Trust, in association with the Telangana government, and with the support of several academic, literary, cultural organisations and publishing houses.
- Stall vendors do not use plastic bags and the lit fest takes an eco-friendly approach and minimises wastage.
- A large part of the venue is accessible to wheelchair users. The HLF is ability sensitive and gender sensitive. Authors of different abilities LGBTQI+ members are also part of the line-up.
- Where: Vidyaranya High School for Boys, opp. Telangana Secretariat
- When: January 24 to 26
- For the complete schedule and to enroll in workshops, check www.hydlitfest.org
Vijay Kumar, who has been closely associated with HLF since its inception, remembers the early years when the core team wrote to authors and publishers, hoping they would be a part of the lit fest. As the visibility grew, he’s glad to share that the tide has changed. “It’s a 1:4 ratio now, with we having to decline four resource persons (delegates/dignitaries) for every one author/poet we accommodate,” he says, adding that the HLF’s board of directors function autonomously, having complete discretion over whom they invite to host the sessions. A vetting process is followed in case of new authors and poets.
Any lit fest in the country tends to be compared to the biggest carnival of all, the Jaipur Literature Festival, and as Amita puts it, “We may not be a star-studded fest, but we have a line up of excellent speakers.”
Leading up to HLF’s turning 10, there have been outreach programmes organised as Festival Fridays in different venues in the last few weeks. “Despite our efforts in the past to promote the festival and let people know that they can attend it free of cost, we found that many aren’t aware of the fest. So this year we initiated the Festival Fridays and cultural partners such as the Saptaparni, Lamakaan, Our Sacred Space and Aaromale came forward and organised cultural events,” says Kinnera Murthy, another HLF director.
Visitors to the previous editions would have noticed a large number of students from across the city attending the workshops — Nanha Nukkad for young children, Youngistaan for the pre-teens and teens, storytelling and slam poetry sessions. “We reach out to many schools, not just the elite ones. In 2019 we hosted 33 workshops and all of them were full,” adds Kinnera.
With the downturn in the economy making sponsors cautious, the HLF turned to the public and invited contributions through its website. “A few donors have been really generous and others have chipped in with smaller amounts,” reveals Amita. A crowd-funded model where literary enthusiasts pitch in, the HLF board feels, is the way forward.
Understanding that not everyone might be a literati, the HLF has been hosting events pertaining to art, theatre, music, cinema, and workshops. HLF 2020 will remember playwright and actor Girish Karnad through a session by The Little Theatre. A session will also pay tribute to writer Nabaneeta Dev Sen.
Vijit Singh’s theatre presentation will narrate the story of Delhi’s Mohd. Amir Khan who was falsely accused of being a terrorist, spent 14 years in prison before he was declared not guilty by court and released.
A conversational jugalbandi will delve into the conservation of Kerala’s art forms, Koodiyattam and Theyyam.
Since Malayalam is the language in focus, the Moving Images will screen Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s films Elippathayam, Mathilukal and the documentary Dance of the Enchantress.
Anuradha Kapur and Vidya Rao will present Banaras ka Thug, adapting Khwaja Ahmed Abbas’s story on stage, featuring actor Danish Iqbal on stage while Vidya presents the music.
Let’s tell stories
Storytelling is a full-fledged stream this year. There will be sessions for different age groups, in six languages — Telugu, Konkani, Hindi, English and Malayalam. The participating storytellers include author Jerry Pinto, Deepa Kiran, Santosh Mohan Veeranki with the Tale Tellers Troupe, Heta Pandit, Sarojini Gaonkar, Chamundeswari of ‘Katha Cheppava Ammamma’, the Dabaki group from Hyderabad, and artist Koeli Mukherji, among others. “The programming is done consciously to involve those who have different interests and in different age groups,” says festival director Ajay Gandhi. He observed the turnout and participation among teens and young adults for the poetry session in 2019 and says, “Their enthusiasm was mind blowing”. He says that the lit fest is designed to have something for the entire family — while the adults listen in to panel discussions, the younger members attend workshops.