Every word matters: Interview with Manjiri Prabhu

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Pune is going to put a stamp on the literary world with its very first Pune International Literary Festival, to be held between September 20-22 at MIT Campus, Kothrud. And everyone is excited. Amidst all this fun, The Punekar speaks to one of the co-organisers, Manjiri Prabhu speaks about organising an event like this and what it has to offer.

How did the concept for a literary festival like this come up?
Such festivals were happening everywhere in India, right from Mumbai, Jaipur, Bangalore to Kolkata and so on. We realised that the city has a literary culture but no festival as such. It was high time we have such a thing. If we don’t have it now, who will? We plunged into the whole thing for months.

Sonya (Chandrachud, co-organiser) and you are in this together. How did you sort things out? How was the experience of planning it?
It has been a varied experience. The schedule took a long time. Since January, we have been trying to raise it. We kept aside our writings, though I did manage to squeeze in a book. But the pressure was still there. We felt that with the response we got, we should go ahead. We wanted to include knowledge-enhancing activities. There was also pressure in getting the right kind of sponsors. We decided to give it a try. This is the debut event and we know it will get better with the coming years.

You must have spoken to a lot of people about the event. What was the feedback like?
All unanimously told us it was fantastic. All were in awe and kept asking if we really doing it. We got support from publishers. We are really grateful especially to MIT Institute. When we thought of doing it, they said we should do it every year. Shobhaa De pitched in with her contacts. Siddharth Jain gave moral support. We had volunteer team like Kunal Ray and so on who pitched in. Now we have to see the response we get.

As a writer yourself, what can you tell others about the experience you can get here?
It is going to be a very rich experience. There will be four different streams covered. So in an hour, you have someone like Hussain Zaidi speaking, then in Marathi, you have someone speaking on Marathi non-fiction and so on. Sachin Pilgaonkar will be speaking about his autobiography and there is also Achyut Godbole. In Bollywood, Sriram Raghavan will be speaking about writing thriller scripts. A fantastic writer like Kiran Nagarkar will be coming too. There will be publishers like Penguin, Harlequin, Jaico and so on talking about ground realities in publishing. If you think you cannot find anything here, I don’t know where else you can find such experience.

Have you taken help from organisers from other literary festivals for organising and so on?
Not really. We did ask for a few tips from the Bangalore Literary Festival organisers but this is our brainchild. We got in some innovative ideas. This festival will focus on English and Marathi literature, plus the children literature sessions are happening. We have someone like Shrirang Godbole (maker of the film Chintoo) talking.

Who are the main attractions at the festival?
At the inauguration, you have Sachin Pilgaonkar, while lots of good authors and from other fields are coming in, like Ashok Banker, Khushwant Singh, Minnie Vaid, Neil Hollander, Jerry Pinto, Sachin Kundalkar, Durjoy Dutta, Preeti Shenoy, Anjum Rajabali, Annie Zaidi, Altaf Tyrewala, D Shivanandhan, Bhavana Somaiya, Lord Meghanad Desai and so on.

As a writer, how do you see the city’s attitude towards literature?
Pune is a good place to showcase literary work. At this fest, we are targeting the youth. We generally get a good turnout for our book launches. I have been living in this city for a while and my work has been well-recieved. The media has always projected me as a Pune writer.

What is the one thing that this literary festival will not be trying to be?
We are not going to be courting controversy. We are hoping that it is not going to be a high brow event. There is going to be wealth of knowledge, rich in infotainment and give something to take back home.

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