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HLF- Highlights and Vignettes
Atreya Sarma

Inaugural function of HLF2012. From left T Vijay Kumar, Chandana Khan, Gulzar, Pavan Varma and GSP Rao

The literary breeze that wafted with all its fragrance and colour, light and sound, stirred the waves in the cool and pellucid waters of Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar when the much awaited HLF 2012, the second Hyderabad Literary Festival, came to be staged for three days (Jan 16 – 18) in the sprawling, verdant venue at the idyllic Taramati Baradari, overlooked by the hilltop historic monument within the premises, in the salubrious outskirts of Golconda area of the metropolis of Hyderabad.

It was a packed affair with over 40 sessions, many of them running parallel, and spread over 3 days in which more than 120 writers and artistes took part – in reading, conversing, discussing, and performing. Some of these writers came from as far as USA, UK, France, Switzerland, Germany and Malaysia.


The inaugural, with its customary lighting of the lamp, was an impressive affair with literary heavyweights making right and emphatic observations and valid points.

Diplomat-writer and Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, Pavan K Varma, the chief guest, spoke of the need to have our roots firm in our ancient civilisation and in the native originality of our thought. Globalisation along with the English language is irreversible and has certain advantages. We can confidently welcome it by continuing to preserve and follow the best in our adaptive culture. Even as we read and write in English, we need to resist the colonisation of our mind and culture. Our cultural identity impinges on using and enriching our own Indian languages – both regional and classical. The divide between the English speaking world of Indians and those of Bhashas needs to be bridged up. The linguistic apartheid practised by the Indian English speaking people should be undone. Towards this end translation of Indian languages from one to another and into English needs to be taken up at a much greater pace.

Noted film personality and Oscar-winning lyricist, Gulzar, the guest of honour, concurred with the views of Pavan Varma and felt it was high time that our curricula included literatures of celebrated writers like Kalidas. We should strengthen our languages by constant use and adaptation to the changing needs.

Principal Secretary to the Government of Andhra Pradesh, Chandana Khan, who presided, observed that literature was a part of tourism. ‘That more and more people are being drawn to book reading is evidenced by the increasing numbers that are attending book fairs. The elitist approach to literature needs to be corrected. We should give due importance to folk and subaltern literature. Besides big annual fests like this, AP Tourism would like to promote smaller fests catering to regional languages – and Muse India can be a partner.’ She would do her best to make the ‘iconic’ Taramati Baradari a permanent venue for the HLF.

Earlier the gathering was duly welcomed by T Vijay Kumar (Editor of Muse India and Joint Director, OUCIP). He said every arrangement was being made to make the stay of the delegates as comfortable as possible notwithstanding some ‘small and medium difficulties’.

GSP Rao, Managing Editor of Muse India, felt that Taramati Baradari was the most congenial locale for the fest associated as it was with romance, love & creativity. ‘Germany is the Featured Nation at HLF 2012 with participation of a few senior German writers and a Music band. Muse India has also carried a special feature on Contemporary German Literature in its Jan-Feb 2012 issue to coincide with the festival,’ he announced. He said Hyderabad Literary Festival encompasses all forms of creative arts.

The inaugural was followed by a variety of sessions spread over 3 days and they were held at three venues - Golconda Auditorium, Kohinoor Hall and Taramati-Premamati Rooms. The cultural shows in the evenings were staged either indoors or in the state-of-the art open-air stadium. Special events for college students were organised on the lush carpets of lawns.

Thematic Sessions

As many as 10 themes on varied topics were taken up and discussed in panels:

  1. In ‘Romancing Hyderabad’ Bilkeez Latif and Aminuddin Khan participated and discussed aspects of cultural unity among the people and adaptability of languages.

  2. Panel on ‘Past Continuous’ was moderated by T Vijay Kumar in which prominent writers Amish Tripathi, Indu Sundaresan, and Jaishree Mishra talked about their methodology of writing, inspirational points, their research, and relationship with their publishers.

  3. In ‘The Agony & Ecstasy of India’ Pavan K Varma was engaged by Sukrita Paul. They talked about our cultural and civilizational fortes and foibles, the need to strengthen our plus points and find correctives.

  4. In ‘Translating Classics, Cultures’ Constance Borde, Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, and Madhu Benoit (Moderator) brought out the difficulties and nuances involved in the eponymous task. Some writers were difficult to translate; and some compromise was bound to be there in translations.

  5. In ‘Development and its Discontents’ where Rahul Pandita, C Rammanohar Reddy and G Haragopal (Moderator) interacted, it was felt that any development paradigm to be balanced and harmonious should be concomitant with the progress, uplift and welfare of the needy and the weak.

  6. In the panel on the ‘Art of the Matter’ there were the noted danseuse Alekhya Punjala, eminent Hindustani classical singer Vidya Rao and well-known stage personality Pritham Chakravarthy. Initial observation of Vidya Rao on Natyadharma and Lokadharma set the tone and agenda for the discussion. The discussion led into how to deal with anxieties of modern artistes within the constructs of traditional art.

  7. In ‘Salaam Hyderabad’ Vamsee Juluri, Harimohan Paruvu, D Krishna Shastri, and Meena Alexander (Moderator) shared their experiences of long association with Hyderabad and discussed their books dealing with some aspect of the city.

  8. ‘Translating Bharat’ in which Sachidananda Mohanty, Hemang Desai, Jeelani Bano, and Udaya Narayana Singh (Moderator) participated dealt with issues of trans-cultural translations and the challenges involved.

  9. The discussion on ‘Latest Trends in Telugu Fiction’ in which Saleem, Varanasi Nagalakshmi, U Atreya Sarma, and Vasireddy Naveen (Chair) participated, revolved around the nature of themes taken up, isms and style of language and dialects that went into the fiction.

  10. In ‘Adopting/adapting to India’ the writers Robert Bohm, Meitim Connolly, and Jean-Manuel Duhaut (Moderator) delineated how they had developed a close understanding and relationship with India, by trying to understand her ethos and culture.


Then there were as many as six reputed writers engaged in conversations by competent litterateurs.

Kiran Nagarkar, novelist in English and Marathi, engaged by Usha Raman, spoke of the hurdles he had faced and of the unorthodox ways in which he wrote his books. Among others, he spoke of his novels Cuckold (Sahitya Akademi Award-winning book), God’s Little Soldier, and The Extras.

German writers and translators Urs Widmer and Christopher Koleble were engaged by Amita Desai and Charanjeet Kaur (Editor of Muse India). Urs Widmer said that his family background – where his father was a German, mother an Italian, and wife a Frenchwoman – helped him in his translations. He wrote every day, and he released a book of his when he was 70. Christopher Kloeble said he watched lots of movies to draw ideas from for his novels and characterisation.

Gulzar, in his freewheeling talk (Guftagu) with Sukrita Paul Kumar essentially spoke of his work on translations. He took up two poems of Sukrita which he had translated and analysed the process and challenge involved.

Saeed Mirza in conversation with Indraganti Mohana Krishna (Telugu film director) and T Vijay Kumar said he would like to be offbeat and spring surprises on the reader which led Vijay Kumar to remark that this could be characterised as ‘anti-novels’. People should be encouraged to have righteous indignation and on right issues, remarked Mirza.

Adil Jussawalla whom Sridala Swami engaged felt that best poetry came out of strong and intense feelings. He referred to an anthology by young Indian poets edited by him for Penguin, UK as far back as 1974. A poet should print only the best of his.

Feminist writer Suniti Namjoshi in conversation with C Vijayasree (Director, OUCIP) said she liked playful subversion of accepted ideologies, roles, and positions by using the power of tradition. Her work and life had a mutual influence.


There were poetry reading sessions – in English, Hindi, Telugu and Urdu – besides one on English fiction. Eminent Indian English poets like Meena Alexander, Hoshang Merchant and Kazim Ali read alongside young poets like Sridala Swami, Anindita Sengupta, Navkirat Sodhi, M K Ajay, Arjun Chaudhuri and several others. Noted regional poets like Mamta Sagar (Kannada), Anghsuman Kar and Mandakranta Sen (Bengali), Udaya Narayana Singh (Maithili), Hemant Divate (Marathi), Anitha Thampi (Malayalam), N Gopi and V Chennaiah 'Doraveti' (Telugu), Ashraf Rafi and Mushaf Tausifi (Urdu) enthralled the audience with their renditions in regional language followed by English translation. Among those reading from short fiction were K Srilata and Sudha Balagopal. Several talented young writers rubbed shoulders with the seniors.

There was a books reading session by ‘The Little Theatre’ group, led by Shankar Melkote. Titled ‘Death Be Not Proud’, the session was in the nature of tributes to Vaclav Havel, Indira Goswami and Arun Kolatkar through readings from their books.

A Urdu-Hindi mushaira was the concluding session of HLF2012 where six noted shayars of Hyderabad read from their poetry. Sardar Saleem, Jagjeevan Asthana, Tasneem Johar (Compere), Elizabeth Kurian Mona, Narendra Rai, Syed Khalid (Chair) participated. This was a splendid performance that drew instant applause from the audience.

Muse India Awards

The first Muse India National Literary Awards were announced and given at the festival. Prof Eminent poet Adil Jussawalla gave away the awards. Ranjit Hoskote, the noted poet, cultural theorist and curator won the Muse India Translation Award 2011 for his work ‘I, Lalla. The poems of Lal Ded’. The other two nominees for the award were Jai Ratan for his translation of Kamleswar’s short stories and Naresh K Jain for his translation of dalit writer Omprakash Valmiki’s short stories.

The Muse India Young Writers Award 2011 was bagged by Anindita Sengupta for ‘City of Water’. The other two nominees for this award were Amrita V Nair and Semeen Ali.

Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize

A sidelight of HLF 2012 was the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize 2011 given away by the distinguished poet Meena Alexander to Aditi Rao. Instituted by the Rayaprol family, in association with the University of Hyderabad, in memory of the noted poet srinivas Rayaprol, the award was being given for the third time. Aparna Rayaprol and Sailaja Rayaprol, members of the trust welcomed the gathering.

Book Launches

The Lit Fest, true to its comprehensive character, became the launching pad for the following new books:

1. Pavan Varma: When Loss is Gain
2. Sagarika Chakraborty: A Calendar Too Crowded
3. Vidya Rao: Heart to Heart: Remembering Nainaji
4. Kavita Panjabi: Poetics and Politics of Sufism and Bhakti in South Asia


The glitter of the HLF was complete what with its fair share of good entertainment mix.

  1. A concert by Triotonos World Music Jazz Band from Germany (sponsored by Goethe-Zentrum Hyderabad and Seagram’s 100 Pipers) in the state-of-the art open-air stadium was a thunderous success.

  2. A German children’s movie specially screened for school children by Goethe-Zentrum

  3. Hindustani vocal concert by the noted singer Vidya Rao mesmerised the audience.

  4. A ballet ‘Darshanam: An Ode to the Eye’ by the reputed danseuse Ananda Shankar Jayant and her Shankarananda Kalakshetra ensemble enthralled the audience.


As every good thing should have a finale, the HLF too had its, with the valedictory.

T Vijay Kumar said that the objective of HLF - to be a forum for local, national, global writers to meet and interact with each other and with audience - was largely fulfilled despite a few hiccups. Celebrating creativity was not confined to the written or spoken word but extended in all its forms – by way of workshops, exposition and performance by the artistes concerned. Vijay profusely thanked the writers, delegates, and the audience, and also every partner and sponsor who made the event possible. He specially thanked Jayesh Ranjan, former secretary of department of tourism and Sandeep Kumar Sultania, MD of APTDC for their ready support, and all members of the Advisory Council of HLF.

Amita Desai, director of Goethe Zentrum Hyderabad who had pitched in with ebullience all along responded by thanking HLF and Muse India for having honoured Germany as the featured nation.

GSP Rao said that the event was organised at Taramati Baradari for the first time. It was a learning experience. The organisers will build on these experiences to make future editions better. Rao said that he was happy that HLF had now come to be recognised as a festival with focus on regional writers as well as young & talented ones from across the entire country.



Issue 42 (Mar-Apr 2012)

focus HYDERABAD LIT FEST - Discussions
  • Articles
    • Aparna Rayaprol : Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize
    • Atreya Sarma : HLF- Highlights and Vignettes
    • GSP Rao : Muse India National Literary Awards
    • Sujatha Gopal : Special Events for College Students
  • Panel Discussions
    • Atreya Sarma U : ‘Latest Trends in Telugu Fiction’
    • Harimohan Paruvu : ‘Salaam Hyderabad’
    • Madhu Benoit : ‘Translating Classics, Cultures’
    • Pritham Chakravarthy : ‘Art of the Matter’
    • Robert Bohm : ‘Adopting, Adapting to India’
    • Sachidananda Mohanty : ‘Translating Bharat’
    • Vijay Kumar T : ‘Past Continuous’
  • Conversations
    • Sridala Swami : In conversation with Adil Jussawalla
    • Sukrita Paul Kumar : Guftagu with Gulzar
    • Usha Raman : In conversation with Kiran Nagarkar
    • Vijay Kumar T : In discussion with Saeed Mirza
  • School Children’s Creative Work
    • Poetry by School Children
    • Short stories by School Children
  • Impressions
    • Atreya Sarma : Bytes-n-Cites
    • Dileep Jhaveri : Impressions
    • Pavan K Varma : Impressions