Inspired by the Jaipur Literary Festival, the decision of the Goa festival organisers Sahitya Akademi, Goa Writers Group and The International Centre Goa (ICG) to include other art forms worked rather to their advantage.
One was able to move seamlessly from a conversation between writers U R Ananthamurthy and Damodar Mauzo on “Who is the Outsider?” to filmmaker Saeed Mirza telling the audience about his new-found passion for writing. “If you have a passion for something, go out and do it,” Mirza said.
That pretty much summed up the driving force behind the widely travelled photographer Pablo Bartholomew who started out with his award-winning series on foreign drug addicts junked up on heroin in Delhi of the 1970s.
Bartholomew’s camera has focused through the years on major disasters here and
abroad, capturing in unsparing detail death and destruction in momentous events like the Bhopal gas tragedy, the storming of the Golden Temple and the 1984 Sikh massacres post Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Pablo picked up the camera from father Richard Bartholomew, a well-known art critic in his day and pays tribute to him in “A Critic’s Eye”, the book on his father’s work.
Four new books were released at the festival, Sudeep Chakravarti’s new novel “The Avenue of Kings”, Jerry Pinto’s “Leela: A Patchwork Life” based on the actress Leela Naidu, Manohar Shetty’s latest collection of poems “Personal Effects” and architect Charles Correa’s “A Place in the Shade”.
As writers and poets wrestled verbally indoors — Chakravarti in conversation with Aniruddha Bahal, Samanth Subramaniam (‘Following Fish’ winner of the 2010 Shakti Bhatt First Book Award) speaking with Dilip D’Souza, Shetty with Pinto, out on the lawns the stage gave way to singer Remo Fernandes reliving the journey of his metamorphosis from musician to performer; his years in France, his decision to re-anchor in Goa; the tentative move from stage to “Jalwa” and a few other Bollywood contracts.
Nurtured on Portuguese, Brazilian and Goan folk music Fernandes was soon immersed in the Beatles and the astonishing and brilliant range of music from the Woodstock years.
Pop music would not scale the heights of the Beatles or Woodstock era again. “The Beatles took music to a pinnacle with albums like Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” Fernandes said, ruing that nothing in pop since has been able to match their brilliance.
His years at Mumbai to study at the J J College of Architecture were a revelation.
Unexposed to Indian music, Fernandes soaked in the new influences. A journey in later years would take him to Chennai and another musical discovery: A R Rahman and Ilayaraja. “I wondered then why Bollywood had not used them at all.”
A panel discussion on Goa’s Regional Plan 2021 chaired by Correa might have seemed like an odd ending to an arts and literary festival. But it was not, given the concerns here with over-development and Goa being sold out to holiday home buyers from the rest of the country and abroad. A packed hall and passionate arguments ensured a lively discussion on the final draft of the contentious regional plan. The ball in now in the government’s court.
Members of the Goa Writers Group say after the success of the first edition of the festival, things can only get better. “I can’t imagine why we didn’t have one earlier,” one of them said. Director ICG Nandini Sahay has plans to include participants from South Asian countries next year. However it shapes up, everyone is agreed — the Goa Arts and Literary Festival is here to stay.