Published: 03rd August 2018
Everything you need to know about Bengaluru Poetry Festival 2018 and the people behind it
What started off as a small idea by the Atta Galatta couple, has now grown into a literary must-be-at do that performers are in love with
Keats rightly said 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever'. And isn't all that's beautiful poetry to someone or the other? While you ponder over that, let me tell you about a group of individuals who also happen to be admirers of beauty and poetry. These are the thousands who assembled at Bengaluru's The Leela Palace on August 4 and 5 to listen to their favourite poets recite and discuss poetry, and a few of the country's most talented singers sing their favourite songs. Yes, I'm talking about the third edition of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival that was held over the weekend.
The brainchild of Subodh Shankar and Lakshmi Subodh, the founders of Bengaluru's famous Atta Galatta bookstore, the fest was a huge hit the last two years. Nevertheless, Subodh's worries on that Friday night, with just a few hours left for the fest to began, were no less. "What will happen if Shabana Azmi is reciting her father's poetry and the only audience there is the 30 volunteers we have?" he asked me nervously when we spoke just before the event. Both of us knew that that wouldn't happen, but being the organiser of a fest this big, that features over 60 acclaimed poets, writers and singers, one cannot blame Subodh for worrying.
Bookish knowledge: Since its inception four years ago, Atta Galatta has hosted over 500 events
How did it all begin? Don't we have enough lit fests already? Why did Subodh and Lakshmi think that curating a fest exclusively for poetry was a brilliant idea? Subodh had the answers to all these questions. "There are so many lit fests these days. But these lit fests don't really showcase poetry. There's so much more happening with fiction and non-fiction and every year, the discussion on prose increases. So, we wanted to create a platform like this, exclusively for poetry." Atta Galatta itself is a venue for a lot of literary activity. The couple saw how poetry events brought a lot of enthusiastic people who write, read and listen to poetry together and how their bookshop was the place for a lot of recitals, storytelling sessions and book readings. "That's when we understood the revolution that poetry can create," Subodh says.
Reading together: Lakshmi and Subodh Shankar, the foudners of Atta Galatta
Hence, in 2016, Bengaluru Poetry Festival was born. "The first edition was truly an experiment. We got together and read poetry. Our organising team consisted of a lot of published poets. That helped us identify dozens of people who would be interested in being speakers. The response we received from everyone was so overwhelming. Then, we put together a structure and created a format. That's how it all began," he recalls. After weeks of worry, the team got to see 4,000 odd people gather at The Leela Palace to attend that year's fest. "There was literally no room to breathe. You exhale and two people would be thrown out. That's how packed the venue was!" exclaims Subodh. That obviously left him and the team already thinking about the second edition of the fest. And clearly, the trend has continued.
Throwback time: A glimpse from Bengaluru Poetry Festival 2016
So, is the fest all about people coming up and reciting poetry throughout? "Definitely not! It is a mix of recitals, discussions, music and workshops. Panelists will talk about poetry here. It is a sensory form of literature. And therefore, poetry has a craft and theory. Last year, we had Ashok Bajpai talk about the craft of poetry. Also, there were publishers talking about getting poems published. So obviously, there's a lot of talking and poetry reading as well," explains Subodh. To add to this, this year's fest had a good line-up of singers as well. "There's a strong connection between poetry and music. So, we included a lot of musical sessions. Acclaimed Hindustani singer Neela Bhagwat spoke about her life and journey. That was very refreshing," he says.
While organising the fest, there were quite a few 'wow' moments too for the team. One such incident followed after young musician Kavish Seth confirmed his presence in the festival. "A few days later, Shinie Antony, the festival director received a call from acclaimed singer Kavita Seth, who is Kavish's mother. She asked Shinie, 'Kya humein nahi bulayenge aap?' (Won't you call me for the fest?)," narrates Subodh. His excitement saw no limits at that moment. He adds, "I was flabbergasted. Having Kavita Seth as a panelist is such an honour for us. I felt like the king of the world." But wait, we're not done throwing names around. Singer Usha Uthup was also present at the festival. Another big name at the festival was Rajasthani folk singer Manisha Agarwal.
This is my first time at a poetry festival. A lot of my friends would joke around saying it's a fest for the elite. But when I looked at the line-up, it seemed pretty interesting. I'm honoured and thrilled to be a part of this
Kavish Seth, Singer
Was that all the fest had to offer? Not at all. There were also workshops for the young audience by Amar Chitra Katha and Funky Rainbow. "Children may not be that keen to listen to poetry. So this is the way to attract their attention," says Subodh, all geared up to start organising the fourth edition of the fest.
Here's the team behind it:
Shinie Antony – Festival Director
Shinie Antony has authored short-story books, The Orphanage For Words, Barefoot and Pregnant and novels, When Mira Went Forth and Multiplied and A Kingdom for his Love
Prashant Sankaran stepped off the hectic corporate treadmill after 25 years to mentor small entrepreneurs and serve on the advisory boards of a few not-for-profit and for-profit organisations
Roy is a Hindi poet, author of three books and the editor of Karnakavita, which is an anthology of Hindi poets based in Bengaluru
Armed with a Master's degree in Sociology from the Bombay University, Amruta Dongray worked in the tourism industry for eight years. Her poems are her take on the dynamics in society and are generally very short
Maitreyee B Chowdhury is a poet and writer, with two books to her credit, Where Even the Present is Ancient: Benaras (poetry) and Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen: Bengali Cinema’s First Couple (non-fiction)
Shikha Malaviya is an Indo-American poet and writer. Her book, Geography of Tongues, was published in December 2013 and featured in several literary festivals
Performance storyteller and theatre practitioner Vikram Sridhar believes in storytelling as a strong medium of conservation, which is highly relevant in the modern context