By Rafikul Islam
If winter comes, can the festivals be far behind? The 5th Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 2014 (AKLF), which is not to be confused with Kolkata Literary Meet, was held at various venues across Kolkata. The festival was inaugurated at the Victoria Memorial on 8 January, 2014.Thereafter, it was held at places like the Park Hotel, Apeejay Lawn, St John’s Anglican Church, and Tollygunge Club from 9-13 January, 2014.
The Governor of West Bengal, Shri M.K. Narayanan, inaugutated the festival. This year is Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s 125th Birth Anniversary. The Governor mentioned the important contribution of Maulana to Indian politics. He praised the role played by Maulana in initiating modern education in Independent India. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the Lalit Kala Akademi were established by the Maulana.
It was a wintry evening. Aamir Khan, who is related by blood to the Maulana, came to deliver his speech on Maulana’s faith in secularism and reiterated his foresight. Aamir read from a portion of an interview given by Azad to a Lahore based Urdu magazine. Aamir, who promised to make a film on Azad, mentioned that Azad advised to ‘follow your heart.’
On this occasion, Dr. Syeda Hameed’s book, Maulana Azad, Islam and, the Indian National Movement, was launched by the Governor of West Bengal and Mr Aamir Khan. Dr Syeda Hameed, a scholar and a Planning Commission member, spoke about the Maulana’s liberal interpretation of Islam. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies and AKLF jointly paid a tribute to Maulana Azad on his 125th Birth Anniversary.
AKLF, which started in 2010, is Kolkata’s very own literary festival. AKLF takes pride in showcasing the heritage of the city and different cultural sites, which offer a wonderful ambience for literary activities. There are intimate encounters between the booklovers and the authors during the festival. AKLF 2014 endeavored to connect the written word with the world of arts – music, dance, cinema, theater, visual arts etc. Aamir Khan,Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Bina Ramani, Mark Tully, Farrukh Dhondy, Prajwal Parajuly, Romesh Gunesekera, Urmi Rahman, Salima Hashmi, Rana Dasgupta, Vikram Sampath, Shrabani Basu, Jyoti Dogra, Taiye Selasi, Xiaolu Guo, and several others were present at this year’s AKLF.
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s book My Father, My World, Bina Ramani’s autobiography, Bird in a Banyan Tree, Farrukh Dhondy’s Prophet of Love, and Bhaichand Patel’s Mothers, Lovers and, Others Strangers were launched during the AKLF.
Pakistani artist and art scholar, Salima Hashmi, emphasized on the evolution of the visual and the textual in contemporary art. She held a discussion on the theme of ‘Image and Word’ with Sarnath Banerjee, the Indian graphic literature pioneer.
Jyoti Dogra performed ‘Notes on Chai’ on the closing day. The piece highlights the speech of everyday conversations. It was inspired by the Tibetan chanting techniques.
The AKLF collaborated with the British Council, the Goethe Institute, the Pro Helvetia Swiss Arts Council, the Danish Arts Council, and the Alliance Française to give it an international feel. The festival directors, Maina Bhagat and Anjum Katyal, had taken personal care for the success of the event. The volunteers played an apt role, too. The next year’s festival promises to be a bigger and better one.
Rafikul Islam teaches at Howrah Rabindra Vidyamandir School. He obtained his M.A. in English Literature from Burdwan University and his B.Ed. from Calcutta University. He is passionate about his voluntary role as a Kolkata City Guide.
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