Aakhar Dakshin was an ode to the beauty, power and resilience of the languages of South India, and the innumerable stories they tell
The inaugural edition of Aakhar Dakshin: A Festival of South Indian Languages completely captivated the city of Bengaluru in April. Hosted by Prabha Khaitan Foundation and supported by Shree Cement Limited, the festival aimed to celebrate the rich literature and languages of South India. The Bangalore International Centre, a renowned cultural hub, provided the perfect setting for this grand event.
The festival commenced with a warm inauguration by Chandrashekhara Kambara, a distinguished Kannada writer, president of the Sahitya Akademi and the recipient of prestigious awards such as the Jnanpith and Padma Bhushan. Anindita Chatterjee, executive trustee of the Foundation, felicitated each writer on stage as Kambar lit the ceremonial lamp.
The festival commenced with the soul-stirring performance of Songs of My Ancestors by Shilpa Mudbi, a renowned Kannada folk singer from the Urban Folk Project. She was accompanied by Prajna Beleyur, Poornima Kumar and Seethal Sharma. As their melodious voices resonated, singing of the challenges faced by women, the audience was captivated, experiencing goosebumps.
The first literary session, titled Mogacho Mauzo, featured Damodar Mauzo, an acclaimed Konkani writer and Jnanpith awardee, in conversation with journalist Stanley Carvalho. Mauzo shared his writing experiences, including the specific inspirations behind some of his most famous stories. This was followed by a session with Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, engaging in a discussion with Subodh Sankar, co-founder of Atta Galatta. Murugan, known as the ‘Born-Again Writer’, shared insights into the burning issues that inform his writing, with his book Pyre being longlisted for the International Booker Prize.
In the session titled Damsel No Longer in Distress, acclaimed Malayalam writer K.R. Meera discussed her feisty feminist heroines in the novels Qabar and Jezebel with editors Ajitha G.S. and Karthik Venkatesh. When questioned by an audience member, Meera asserted, “If you believe in the Constitution, then you are a feminist.”
Kannada writer Vivek Shanbhag explored the art and craft of writing in the session, How a Story Begins, in conversation with journalist and writer Deepa Ganesh. During When the Poet Writes, renowned Malayalam and English writer K. Satchidanandan, in dialogue with journalist Mahalakshmi Prabhakaran, delved into the various forms of poetry he writes and his motivations behind them.
“If you believe in the Constitution, then you are a feminist.” – K.R. Meera
Two panel discussions, The Language of Translation and Publishing in the South, featured esteemed panellists including K. Satchidanandan, Kannan Sundaram, Prathibha Nandakumar, Vasudhendra, Subodh Sankar, Deepa Ganesh, Syam Sudhakar and Purnima Tammireddy. These discussions offered in-depth insights into the translation scene and the publishing industry in South India.
Powerful poetry readings by Mamta Sagar, Prathibha Nandakumar (Kannada), Ramesh Karthik Nayak (Telugu), and Syam Sudhakar (Malayalam) captivated the audience with their profound meaning and nuanced expressions. The renditions of Tiruppugazh and Tiruppavai by singer Karuna Sivasail had a spiritual touch to the event. The festival’s grand finale left a lasting impression as Shinjini Kulkarni and Yamini Reddy took the stage with a fusion of Kathak and Kuchipudi. This mesmerising dance performance served as a conclusion to the authentic literary experience. While the profound words spoken by the eminent writers had stirred the audience, the dance left them in awe and wonder. As the host of the festival, Melodee Austin, brought the evening to a close, the day filled with passionate conversations and enlightening perspectives reluctantly came to an end.
Aakhar Dakshin was supported by Shree Cement Limited as their CSR initiative.