By Swagat Sengupta
Bengal loves its cultural and literary heritage. But we haven’t adequately mastered how to pass it on to the next generation and prevent it from getting trapped in nostalgia. Our literary and cultural legacy can continue to thrive only when millennials understand its relevance and take it forward in their own unique ways. With this in mind, Oxford Bookstores created India’s pioneering Bangla Literary Festival titled Apeejay Bangla Sahitya Utsob in 2015.
Pioneering in its ideation and conceptualization, our team curated different themes hosting it in our nearly 100 year old bookstore at Kolkata’s nerve centre – Park Street. Our singular purpose in the inaugural year was to make a first attempt at creating a platform that honours the rich literary tradition of the Bangla language making it increasingly visible and accessible, build an audience for Bangla books and one that brings together eminent voices of contemporary Bangla Literature.
The first edition saw renowned voices speaking on epar and opar literary expression & writings, the impact of Bangla literature on films, how it has evolved over centuries and the rich and important role Kobita or poetry has played in Bangla literature.
Eminent voices of Bangla Literature like Shirshendu Mukherjee, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Samaresh Majumdar, Sankha Ghosh, Imdadul Haq Milon, Bani Basu, Pracheta Gupta, Ranjan Bandhopadhyay, Prafulla Ray, Sanjib Chatterjee, Srijato and Subodh Sarkar amongst others, renowned film Directors like Goutam Ghose, Suman Mukhopadhyay, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Mainak Bhaumik, veteran actor Barun Chandra and popular Bangla musicians Nachiketa, Surojit Chatterjee and Kalika Prasad left their mark in the festival along with Janab Zokey Ahad, Honourable Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Kolkata.
The Utsob resulted in the Wikipedia Bangla team come up with original content, Kolkata Bloggers blogging directly in English from the venue reaching the voices heard at the Utsob to those who do not read or understand the Bangla language and a group of 25 photographers from Streets of Calcutta who walked the entire stretch of College Street, visiting important landmarks, a famous book seller on the street, a famous author’s residence on the street, a famous publisher and finally how a manuscript is printed and becomes a book the reader treasures.
Buoyed by the love, the 2015 pilot edition received, Oxford Bookstores team has created a 2 day edition for 2016 starting October 21st. The festival was announced with a half-day literary heritage tour of residences and workspaces of Bangla icons on 16th October with a huge group of around 70 – 80 people, including friends from the Media. The tour covered residences of Upendra Kishore Ray Chaudhuri & Sons, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, Bangiya Sahitya Parishad, Rammohan Library and Calcutta Police Museum (residence of Raja Rammohan Roy). We were deeply touched by the response received.
Like last year, the Utsob, a first-of-its-kind in the world, will again break new grounds and present fresh concepts and ideas to engage everyone with many new firsts like – Cosplay of iconic Bangla Literary characters; Graffiti in Bangla; Tracking the evolution of Bangla literature through various forms of writings; Role of Detective stories & mysteries in Bangla Literature; Impact of social media on Bangla Literature; Bangla Literary Quiz; an online Short Story and Poetry Writing contest in Bangla.
The two day festival will comprise discussions like – “Rohosho – Romancho – Goenda likhlia e jonopriyo?” (Detective stories, Thrillers, Mysteries – Are the sure shot ways of becoming best-sellers?), “Cinema tey Sahityer Goenda ra” (From page to stage: Literature’s detectives on the big screen), “Kon Dhoren Lekhai Beshi Anando Pai?” (Which kind of writing is more enjoyable for the writer?), “Onu – Paromanu – Golpo- Kobita- Hujuk na Sahitya?” (Short and tiny tales or poems: Are they literature or gimmick?), “Lekhar Alongkoroner Ki Proyojon?” (Why does literature need illustration?), “Onno Jogoter Taroka Elen Onno Rokom Lekhai?” (Stars from the world of other arts writing different forms of literature), “Mukher Bhasha Ki Sahityer Bhasha Hoya Uchit?” (Should spoken language be the language of literature?), “Social Media Ki Sahityer Khoti Korche?” (Is social media hampering literature?).
The Utsob has been been curated as a celebration as well as a beehive of information about the wonderful literary legacy of Bengal. We hope that those who are in Kolkata will flock to our heritage bookstore hosting ABSU to participate and for those who are away, we are glad to make available live streaming on Youtube and blogging in English and Bangla directly from Oxford Bookstore Park Street: http://kolkatabloggers.com/category/bangla-sahityo-utshob-live/. Our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ABSU16 will carry live updates.
Mr Sengupta is CEO, Apeejay Oxford Bookstores Private Limited and Director of Apeejay Bangla Sahitya Utsob.
Apeejay Bangla Sahitya Utsob 2016 will be held from 21st – 22nd October at Oxford Bookstore Kolkata. Follow the hashtag: #ABSU16 to stay updated.