The Bollywood-isation of Lit Fests: Coming soon to your city!
Once upon a time a Lit Fest was about writers and authors who met and discussed words that inspired and writings that roused thought. It was about discussions and debates between writers who were published and those that wanted to be. It was about chats and conferences that were enchanting and made you feel you were in the presence of something great.
There was a magic all around that flooded your very being and made you understand that the daily rut of life was not all there was. There was a Lit Fest - a meeting of brilliant minds.
I remember I stood in line at the Jaipur Lit Fest many years ago to get an autograph from an author who had moved me with his novel when I was an adolescent. His words had transformed me to the person I wanted to be. And I wanted to be an author too.
Today, the Lit Fests seem to be about celebs and page 3 individuals who speak well and may have written one novel and a column or two. Literature has truly been extinguished in the name of drawing crowds.
Today everything is about a number. How many copies did the book sell? How much money did you spend on the PR? How many people came for the Lit Fest? How much coverage did the fest get? How many sponsors did they have? No one truly asks - how many books were sold?!
If everyone is going to a Lit Fest to watch a TV celeb, a Bollywood actress or a filmmaker, who are the people who are buying books to read?
Where has the Literature gone?
Why is the craze today so much about glamour rather than substance? It’s wonderful that so many new celebs are writing. The writing process should never die. And creativity should always be encouraged from everyone.
But Lit Fests should be about real authors who write for passion, not money, for inspiring, not publicity, for breaking the norms, for encouraging debate, and for challenging themselves as writers, not so they can do something different with their lives!
Most authors are a shy bunch of people, preferring to stay in their small worlds writing furiously because the art of creating something brings them tremendous peace and hopefully moves people to think, feel and reflect. But today every author wants to be “commercially successful” rather than poignantly remembered.
Lit Fests have become about money, businesses, glamour and products – of authors and their books.
I would love to attend a Lit Fest that had lesser known commercially successful Indian authors mingling with well-known Japanese ones. Have a clash of discussion on societies, traditions, and the process of writing, ideas, inspiration and struggle. Instead we’ve become a nation that wants to watch only glamorous people entertaining us.
Please do attend Lit Fests but not just to see a Bollywood star, but to pick up a book you never thought you would read, to recognise the power of regional writers, to ask for tips on writing from someone you have never read and listen to a panel that may not interest you and above all to be around people who believe in the power of words, not numbers!