Aakhar Dakshin : A Celebration of South Indian Languages

The maiden edition of Aakhar Dakshin: A Festival of South Indian Languages – organised by the Prabha Khaitan Foundation and supported by Shree Cements as their CSR initiative – hijacked a lazy Saturday in Bengaluru in the best possible way on April 22. The festival at the city’s premium cultural centre, Bangalore International Centre, had planned on celebrating the literatures and languages of South India, so it went ahead and did just that! 

The festival was warmly inaugurated by eminent Kannada writer Chandrashekhara Kambara, president of the Sahitya Akademi and the winner of numerous awards like the Jnanpith and Padma Bushan. Anindita Chatterjee, Executive Trustee of PKF, and Ehsaas woman of Chennai, Kaveri Lalchand personally felicitated every writer on stage as Mr Kambar lit the lamp. 

The festival opened with ‘Songs of My Ancestors’, a haunting and melodious performance by Kannada folk singer Shilpa Mudbi of the Urban Folk Project, accompanied by Prajna Beleyur, Poornima Kumar and Seethal Sharma. As they sang of womanly woes, the audience leaned forward, goosebumped.

In the first literary session of the day, ‘Mogacho Mauzo’, Jnanpith winner and famous Konkani writer Damodar Mauzo spoke to journalist Stanley Carvalho about his writing experiences, including specific inspirations for some of his most famous stories. This was followed by Tamil writer Perumal Murugan in conversation with Subodh Sankar, co-founder of Atta Galatta. In this session ‘Born-Again Writer’, Murugan, whose book Pyre was longlisted for the International Booker, spoke about the various burning issues that inform his writing.

In the session ‘Damsel No Longer in Distress’, Malayalam writer KR Meera spoke with editors Ajitha GS and Karthik Venkatesh about her feisty feminist heroines in Qabar and Jezebel. Answering a question from the audience, Meera said, ‘If you believe in the Constitution, then you are a feminist.’

In the session ‘How a Story Begins’, Kannada writer Vivek Shanbhag discussed the art and craft of writing with journalist/writer Deepa Ganesh. In the session ‘When the Poet Writes’ Malayalam/English writer K Satchidanandan, in conversation with journalist Mahalakshmi Prabhakaran, went into the various forms he writes in and his reasons.

The two panel discussions – ‘The Language of Translation’ and ‘Publishing in the South’ – saw the panellists, including K Satchidanandan, Kannan Sundaram, Prathibha Nandakumar, Vasudhendra with Subodh Sankar, and Deepa Ganesh, Kannan Sundaram, Syam Sudhakar, Purnima Tammireddy with Vasudhendra, talking in depth about the translation scene as well as the southern publishing industries.

Poetry readings by Mamta Sagar, Prathibha Nandakumar (Kannada), Ramesh Karthik Nayak (Telugu) and Syam Sudhakar (Malayalam) were powerful depictions of meaning and nuance, with every poet taking the stage by storm. The rendition of Tiruppugazh and Tiruppavai by singer Karuna Sivasailam added a spiritual touch.

The grand finale saw the unforgettable sequencing of a dance performance by Shinjini Kulkarni and Yamini Reddy. This scorching coming together of kathak and kuchipudi was a fitting end to a beautiful and most authentic literary experience. If the words spoken by the eminent writers had the audiences shaken and stirred, the dance left them in a daze.

When MC Melodee Austin brought the evening to a conclusion, a day filled with feverish conversations and exciting insights came to a reluctant end.