Were we complaining about the crowds yesterday? Should have waited for today.
The Front Lawn was packed as the fans poured in for Rishi Kapoor. He talked about his autobiography ‘Khullam Khulla’. His ‘struggle’ in the film industry, his remarkable films and the need to pen his story. To questions about meeting Dawood Ibrahim and paying Rs 30,000 for a Filmfare award, he suggested we read the book. Fair enough.
Next came the ‘Bahubali’ gang, to talk about Bahubali — the book. And no, it doesn’t tell you why Kattappa killed Bahubali. For that, wait for the movie’s sequel. But they did talk about Jallikattu. Rana Dagubatti sympathised with the supporters. “If Jallikattu is cruelty to animals, so is horse derby and chicken breast”, he said.
Rajamouli added that “Before banning something, we must understand the cultural context.” And before I could ask another question — “Can we go back to talking about books please?” Righto!
But no. Tamil authors including Perumal Murugan were discussing The Tamil Story. What did they think of the protest? “Jallikattu has become a rallying point to express all the frustrations, political and social, that the Tamil people have felt since Jayalalithaa’s death.” But Jallikattu wasn’t celebrated last year, when she was Chief Minister. So why the outburst now? “Because it’s about perception. People feel that in the absence of a strong leader their state, their culture and their traditions are being relegated to the second place.” It’s not just about culture. What about the law, the Supreme Court’s order, the cruelty to animals? “India is the world’s biggest exporter of meat. So let’s drop this hypocrisy about cruelty to animals.”
More politics and charged arguments were in store. Of Saffron and the Sangha — Manmohan Vaidya and Dattatreya Hosabale fired away. They talked about scrapping quota. “It breeds alienation after a point. Aarakshan nahi, avasar dijiye.” They talked about the socio-economic condition of Muslims. “70% of India’s Muslims live in Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. These are backward states. So Muslims are backward. They’re better off in Gujarat than Bengal.” And why no Muslim candidates in the BJP’s UP list? “RSS doesn’t decide tickets. The BJP decides. They do so on winnability.”
They attacked the Kerala govt. “It has failed in its duty to protect RSS cadres from attacks. One man from the minority community died in UP and the media played it up. 20 people, including women and children, were burnt alive in Kerala. People don’t know about these incidents. Where are the so-called tolerant people?” They talked about the Sangh’s influence on education. “Distorted history is taught in India. Why are Aryans portrayed as invaders? We need moral education.”
They talked about intolerance. “It’s a western concept. Intolerant Nehruvian liberals did not give space to any other ideology. Why did some people boycott the lit fest because we were participating? Isn’t that intolerance? It’s academic and intellectual untouchability.” MA Baby and Raghu Karnad had pulled out of the festival amid the controversy over the participation of sangh pracharaks, but Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje and the state education minister were in attendance. Before the session ended, security men were shoving people to make way for the VIPs and cell phones were ringing as scribes sent flashes to their newsrooms.
I haven’t visited the bookstore yet. I missed the session on Haiku today. I haven’t had the chance to just listen to an author talk about a book. So much for attending a literature festival. Tomorrow. For sure.