The Times LitFest's flagship event unfolded in Mumbai over the past weekend. The three-day celebration of all things books borrowed a lot from the city it was placed in—Mumbai—and the hallowed grounds of the venue itself—Mehboob Studio. Here is a round-up of what not to do!
1. Do not imagine a Bollywood set
Yes, the venue is Mehboob Studio on Bandra hill road and right off the entrance there are giant installations of book replicas that add to the atmosphere of this being another Bollywood film shoot underway. A closer scrutiny will give away that the titles are the bestsellers of this year. Even the way to the author's lounge is a vaulted door which adds to the shared experience of being on the inside, literally. As you settle down in any of the indoor sessions, you can't escape the looming presence of the mesh of gangplanks overhead. And certainly visualize a director as the authors on stage speak: Lights, camera, action! But hold your horses and sit out the sessions with your ears open to get out of your dream zone.
2. Do not ask "kitney aadmi the?"
The LitFest ended with serpentine queues for the closing performance by the Wadali Brothers. But if you really want to judge the audience then check out the smallest of halls, and there you are more likely to find an interested and informed audience. Unlike other lit fests, there was a new breed of "networkers" at Mumbai—those who were dressed to the nines and were interested in the who, where, when of celebs. Wonder what they felt they were auditioning for: The Last Mughal or Rekha:The Untold Story?
3. Do not presume the party is for you
The after-parties of the Times LitFest were designed to be talked about. While other lit fests too have Bollywood celebs, they usually do not mix with the writers post sessions. Probably Mumbai being home, the celebs were in full force. While Karan brings along Ranbir and Alia, one actually feels upset when Konkana walks in without a few known faces in tow! And certainly the next car that's stopping will have Ms Funnybones dragging along with her the non-writer half of the power couple, right? As it was clear from the newspapers, only the Bollywood brigade make the cut. The authors? Incidental!
4. Do not expect a crowd around your favourite "serious" author
The Bollywood-ish sessions were by far the most popular. Gulzar Saheb, Karan and Twinkle found themselves speaking to packed halls. Of course, this made the likes of Ramachandra Guha, William Dalrymple and Rajdeep Sardesai much more accessible!
5. Do not underestimate book sales
Times LitFest shows how book sales should be done. Although it probably did not have the biggest of bookshops, it sold good numbers for the authors present, many of whom signed up to 200 copies each day.
And the dynamic duo behind the Times LitFest—Bachi Karkaria and Namita Devidayal, who personally ensure that each author is well taken care of—more power to you both.