Spotlight on Festival Directors - Shinie Antony from Bangalore Literature Festival
This week it’s Shinie Antony in the festival spotlight, the founder and festival director of the Bangalore Literature Festival in India.
How long have you been with the Festival?
The festival was started in 2012 by three founders including myself.
Career background? Have you been involved in the literary festival scene previously? Or in the book world?
I have been a journalist (The Economic Times/The Financial Express), fiction writer (Barefoot & Pregnant, Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, The Orphanage For Words, The Girl Who Couldn’t Love, Boo), fiction editor (including all Chetan Bhagat’s novels, Rudrakshi Bhattacharjee’s award-winning This is How It Took Place, Madhavi Mahadevan’s award-winning Bride of the Forest, Preeti Shenoy’s Life is What You Make It). I am also Festival Director of the Bangalore Poetry Festival.
What do you love about the litfest world?
That literature jumps out of the books and comes to life at litfests. Words are magic, we learn this in childhood, and now stories go live right before our eyes.
What would you like to see more of at Festivals?
Writers speaking freely, poets reading ferociously/tenderly, children visibly enjoying events for them.
What sets your Festival apart?
After a lot of thought, we have come to the conclusion that it is the city that creates the abracadabra – there is excitement in the air. Minutes before the festival begins there is the hush. Like something very important and meaningful is about to start and change our life.
What is your favourite festival memory?
When the late and celebrated writer Girish Karnad lost his temper on stage on an intellectual point and defended his ideas with such articulate anger.
Aside from Covid-19, what has been your biggest challenge?
Managing to scale the festival while keeping it intimate and personal for authors and audience.
If you could have a festival panel featuring any authors dead or alive, who would you have and what would the topic be?
Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, the late Malayalam writer who penned the novel Cheemmeen (lit. ‘The Prawn’) which was later turned into an iconic film; Kamala Das, the late feminist Indian writer/poet, and Jane Austen, together in a festival panel on elopement.
Last book that you read and what are you looking forward to next on your reading list?
Just finished Anita Brookner’s A Misalliance. Next on the list: to reread Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending.
Authors we need to know about from your region/country?
- KR Meera: Her Qabar ( ‘Grave’) is a surreal tale of women, freedom, politics, folklore and love.
- Madhavi Mahadevan: She explores the world of mythology and epics, applying a modern sensibility. Her explorations of female agency, of their bodies especially, are thought-provoking and well researched.
- Mani Rao: All her poetry is highly intense and well-crafted, peaking with her latest book, an exquisite verse translation of ancient text Soundarya Lahari ( ‘ Waves of Beauty’)
Favourite literary quote?
“There is no training in sorcery. Only devotion… This is an art form. All arts involve give and take of emotions between people. There is no training for any emotional transaction. Only devotion.”
– KR Meera, Qabar
Any parting comments?
Literature festivals are a comparatively new genre. It is another great way to infect people with a terminal case of reading and writing.