Published: 21st February 2019
Why Malavika Banerjee doesn't feel the need to make the Kolkata Literary Meet 'different'
"I read faster on the Kindle because you can adjust the font size," says Malavika Banerjee, Director, Kolkata Literary Meet
Speaking on her experiences of organising a literary festival in Kolkata and how tech helped bridge the gap, Director of the Kolkata Literary Meet, Malavika Banerjee said, "Nothing can stop a creative mind from creating." When we got a chance to speak to her after the panel discussion, she also told us more about how Ebooks are the way forward and it is wrong to say that reading is endangered by them. Excerpts:
Are paper books on the verge of dying because of Ebooks that are easy to carry and more accessible?
I feel even if paper books don't sell at markets anymore it's good in a way as we will be saving a lot of trees. (laughs) What might have preceded what we call as books, people at that time would have thought 'Oh my god what are these?' So, if I am reading a book like War and Peace on paper or on a Kindle, the words don't change, the emotions don't change. I think we get a little too caught up with the sentimentality of a book, of course, I still love books and a bookcase is something I judge a house by. But I don't think reading is endangered by the Kindle. In fact, now, I am in my late 40s, I read faster on the Kindle because you can adjust the font size according to what you require.
Tell me about the Kolkata Literary Meet. What are you trying to achieve through KLM?
KLM started in 2012 as a festival with no links to literature as such, or writing or publishing or academia. As time went by that proved to be an advantage because we brought a new perspective, more flexibility, and the view of a reader into the world of books. We have had wonderful writers from all over the world, all over India and performers, speakers, ideators, and it's been a very compelling and enjoyable ride. I am trying to have a festival where literature is the spine and it is not dissipated or diluted by too many primetime-type debates. It's a quieter festival. The other big mandate is I want to celebrate Kolkata and the fact that it still is this vibrant, thought-provoking and provocative, and yet, celebratory city. This year we had the DSC prize for South Asian Literature which was given to one of the writers, Jayant Kaikini, who read out an extract from his short story in Kannada and there must have been not a single one in the audience who knew what he was saying but they still clapped with such enthusiasm that it made me realise that Kolkata is what this festival's soul is all about. Literary is the middle word but Kolkata is the first.
How would you say KLM is different from other literature festivals?
We are doing pretty much the same things — a lot of writers come to each of the places. It's like my day job was sports marketing, so nobody asks the organisers at Wankhade stadium how's your test match different from the one in Eden Gardens, they are all test matches and they are all high-quality games of cricket. The important thing is not to do things differently but to do it with sensitivity, good thinking and a clear eye on good quality.
Malavika Banerjee, Director, Kolkata Literary Festival spoke at the ThinkEdu Conclave 2019 (Pic: Express- Jawahar P)
How has your journey been as an entrepreneur?
Well, it's been a good journey, I can't complain, I am not saying it's been a smooth and easy ride but there are worse things involved when you are working in a field where your passion lies. I am very passionate about sports, I got to work with some of the greatest sportsmen over the last two decades. I love literature, and to work with books was a dream come true. I love reading endlessly and when people ask me why I am reading, I say this is my job and it is one of the best advantages of running a literature festival.
Do you think tech is making Indian students un-creative?
No, I don't think that is the case. Creativity is a natural impulse so it is something that will express itself in the context of its time. So if the context of today is tech and all that comes with it, so creativity will still express itself in that framework. Nothing can stop a creative mind from creating, neither tech nor war nor pestilence or disease. A creative mind will create. I have seen a lot of youngsters during the literary meets, they all are reading and indulging in the world of tech, but I think they also have a creative side to themselves. The only cautionary aspect of this is creativity is also a transaction where someone creates and someone receives.
Tell me more about Gameplan, the sports marketing company you and your husband run
We started off as I was a journalist and wrote sports content for newspapers. Then there was this content boom through the dot com boom, so we rode that. And over the last two decades, we have taken various aspects of sports marketing and made it our own whether it was advertising or player management. We also worked closely with the Kolkata Knight Riders during the Indian Premier League. We have started a chess tournament, Viswanathan Anand played a tournament in India after few decades actually.