1st Crime Writers’ Festival 2015
What better way to spend a cold, foggy Delhi winter morning than to gather in the amphitheater of India Habitat Centre for a healthy dose of crime? So I landed up at the venue on 17 January 2015 to listen to a myriad of interesting sessions of the first edition of Crime Writers’ Festival, wrapped in the warmth of my thickest woollens.
In case you are wondering, that tall steel structure is what provided excellent heat in the extremely cold weather and stopped my chattering teeth.
While inaugurating the festival, Namita Gokhale shared how she conceived the idea of a genre-specific festival along with Kiswar Desai on a wet London afternoon and decided to bring the first crime-writers’ festival to India.
Ashwin Sanghi, a mentor of the Festival introduced Nordic Noir – a genre of crime fiction based in the dark, wintry Scandinavia, usually with psychologically complex plots. Whoever has read the Millennium Trilogy by Steig Larsson or watched The Killing will know the charm of the stories from the Nordic region.
Nils Nordberg painted a wonderfully charming picture of the cold, foggy Scandinavia where murder and mystery always go hand-in-hand in its literature. He is an essayist, editor, dramatist, author, translator all rolled into one and has served two terms as the president of the Norwegian Crime Writers’ Association. He also spoke about his present project – that of translating the entire Sherlock Holmes stories in Norwegian.
I was doubtful whether I would enjoy the next session, especially since I knew nothing about the author. At the end of it, I was ashamed of myself for never hearing about Surendra Mohan Pathak, a best-selling author of Hindi detective novels, who has sold more copies than Chetan Bhagat. He is the only author who has an active fan club and its members were present in the audience wearing tshirts bearing the cover of his latest offering! It was a pleasure listening to how he created an investigative journalist for his novels at a time when no one heard of such a career. When asked to offer advice to young, aspiring writers, he replied bitterly never to write in Hindi since there are no more takers for vernacular literature. Piyush Jha, the moderator wished aloud that we gain more and more writers who can gift the future generation great offerings in Hindi.
The World of Ibn-e-Safi was another gem of a session where Khalid Jawed, an Urdu novelist and Mahmood Farooqui, the translator of Habib Tanvir’s memoirs, brought alive the magical world of Jasoosi Duniya and Imran, the series of novels written by Ibn-e-Safi. His books achieved massive popularity in South Asia and were all bests-sellers. The highlight of the session was readings by Mahmood Farooqui in his baritone voice with the right dose of drama and suspense.
The highlight of the Festival, at least for me and MH was the session on Byomkesh Bakshi moderated by the actors Rajit Kapur and Dhritiman Chatterji and film-maker Dibakar Banerjee.. From Rajit Kapur’s anecdotes about how people still call him by his most-famous screen name to Dibakar Banerjee’s experiences of growing up on a staple diet of Byomkesh stories to Dhritiman Chatterji’s recollection of playing an older version of the detective on-screen – the audience was treated to enthralling snippets. Unlike other Literature Festivals where the speakers/authors vanish from stage the moment a session ends, the Crime Writers’ Festival had an unhurried pace. The speakers hung around and engaged in discussions with fans. MH even went up the stage and obtained this from his favourite childhood hero –
What I most enjoyed about the Festival was the workshops organised in Oxford Book Store in Connaught Place.
First up was an engaging and enlightening workshop on How to Write Crime Fiction by Ashwin Sanghi. My impression that authors are a competitive lot who hug their secrets to their chest was shattered as Ashwin Sanghi debunked the process of writing a thriller in 12 points and shared his ways and methods. If I ever write a crime novel, then let me acknowledge right here that the inspiration came from him.
On the second day, i.e. Sunday I ditched other sessions in India Habitat Centre with a heavy heart and arrived at the workshop venue to listen to Dibakar Banerjee give a few pointers about writing a screenplay. Script-writing has never been on my radar and I went just to listen to one of my favourite film-makers. I met aspiring scriptwriters and engaged in a wonderful 1.5 hours, learning tricks of an interesting craft.
The two days of Crime Writers’ Festival brightened up my gloomy, cold Delhi days and I am already looking forward to the next edition. I only have one request for the organisers – please do not have separate venues for the sessions and the workshops and force people to choose either of them. It is not fair on greedy people like me who want both.
All images have been taken by me with my Nikon D5100 AF-S 18-55mm VR lens or Samsung Galaxy Note II and cannot be copied by anybody for any purpose whatsoever without my permission.