Takeaways from NLF 2023

By Anaaya Kanchan, Grade 8 

The Neev Literature Festival was a 2-day event packed with performances, sessions, talks, masterclasses and readings. Authors and performers from around the world and the country came together to speak and perform to a large and diverse audience, leaving all of us with a vast wealth of knowledge and experiences. 

In one of the author talks I attended, ‘Books for Readers of All Hues’, Jyoti Rajan Gopal spoke about being a part of many geographies, and how the literature she read growing up, although connected with her, never reflected her cultural identity. I feel like this is such an important thing to be able to talk about. Being able to see diversity on paper can help many readers feel seen. For example, the author mentioned how her book, American Desi, connected to readers from Greece and Pakistan. This made me think of how important having cultural diversity in literature (especially children’s literature) really is, as you can see the differences and unity in society through such literature. 

Jyoti Rajan Gopal during her interactive session

In the masterclasses I attended, award-winning author and publisher Richa Jha talked about weaving in familial bonds into stories, while award-winning author Anita Nair’s masterclass was titled ‘Returning to a Favourite Fictional World’. The first masterclass by Richa Jha was pretty interesting, as it covered an important but understated aspect of children’s literature, family. The author spoke about family being an integral part of any character’s growth and actions. She also dwelled on how character interactions and the actions attributed to an individual greatly influence family dynamics and the plot of a story. Anita Nair spoke about finding elements that interest you, that can come together to form an interesting story. Both masterclasses helped me gain insights into the creative process. 

One of the most important and crowd-favourite parts of the festival were the performances. Most of the performances by the Maharashtra-based theatre troupe Goshtarang were short and sweet. These took place between many sessions, which helped work as a light-hearted break between the intellectually stimulating talks and sessions. The group used visuals, music, dance and fantastic body language to speak to the audience. One of their performances, ‘Glibbeish Gibberish’, was something that I really enjoyed. It was silly, as the name suggests, but the voice modulation and physicality of the performers was extremely well done. It was targeted towards children, but it hit the right chord with many adults too – fun has no age limit after all! Another performance I really enjoyed was Kapil Pandey’s ‘Ganga’s Curse’. It had been a while since I delved into the world of mythology, but this was the perfect way to do so. Kapil Pandey used music and his guitar, and a lot of audience interaction to interest the audience and get them involved. 

Goshtarang engages their young audience

Arguably the most awaited performance of the day was by the fantastic theatre group, Motley, who performed poems from the beloved collection of fables in verse Beastly Tales from Here and There by Vikram Seth and James Thurber. The group did a reading of the pieces, and instead of using fancy visuals and props, used their voices to illustrate a world for the listener. As said by the performers, storytelling works best when you can not only imagine, but can also listen to someone. Being fables, all tales had morals, which were further enhanced by the tonal variation and vocal talents of the performers. As someone who has read the book, I never imagined that someone could bring it to life in such a manner. The performance was a great and refreshing experience and a lovely way to end the day and inspire reflection in the audience – both young and old.

Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, and Heeba Shah of the Motley troupe in action

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