The Doordarshan, India’s national broadcaster, has completed 30 episodes of “Kitaabnama: Books and Beyond” on April 13, 2014 —showing that literature commands eyeballs on the television at a time when soaps and cinema are calling the shots in the popular cultural, arts, intellectual and entertainment space. It is yet another avatar of the literature festival — a term of engagement with live literature that Indians have been reveling in across metropolitan centres and cities across the country for more than a decade. Call it the new fine print revolution in the country.
Conceived by writer and literary activist Namita Gokhale, the programme has a participatory and inclusive format that showcases the “multilingual diversity of Indian literature”. Addressing literary issues of contemporary interest through dialogue and conversation, “Kitaabnama: Books and Beyond” has featured discussions, readings and encounters with writers, academics, journalists, filmmakers, publishers and intellectuals showcasing the multilingual diversity of India.
The show includes speakers from the spheres of Hindi, English, and various Indian languages including Bangla, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Khasi, Rajasthani, Gujarati and Asura amongst others. It brings international names and voices as well
Founder of the capsule, Namita Gokhale said the “prime time positioning and the extraordinary outreach of the national broadcaster Doordarshan has made the programme easily accessible to viewers across the nation. “I feel it is consistently high quality of the programming, which we have scrupulously maintained through the last 30 episodes, has led to audience appreciation and loyalty for our book show,” Gokhale said.
She said the response to the programme has been overwhelming. The awareness about literature has been growing in smaller towns — as mainstream cultural consciousness shifts from the metropolitan centres to the tier 2 and tier 3 cities because of the growing spread of education. Doordrashan still retains the widest beam-print in a country, where 40 per cent of the population lives in the villages with connectivity to probably one community television.
Official estimates suggest that Doordrashan is the most widely watched channel in heartland regions of the country.
“Every now and then, I get enthusiastic emails and messages from across the country from book lovers, who enjoy the diversity and multilingual insights into the many languages and literatures of India. In my experience from the Jaipur literature festival, and other such events, audiences respond to the challenge of intelligent and thought provoking programming on television and outside at interactive venues,” Gokhale said. She said to encounter the voice of the author and the insights into the creative processes is a fascinating privilege. "I have always tried to bridge the gaps in communications between literature in English and Indian languages. While I respect intellect, I don't value elitism. These things reflect in the show. Apart from that, the effort is to create a platform for diverse literary voices from India, south Asia and indeed the world,' she said.
The show has featured a “diverse range of celebrated names like Ashok Vajpeyi, Amish Tripathi, Geetanjali Shree, Mahesh Dattani, Mahmood Farooqui, Uday Prakash, Mamta Kalia, Keki Daruwalla, Bhanu Bharati, Urvashi Butalia, Ramchandra Guha, and Lord Meghnad Desai”.
Recalling two of the memorable shows, a spokesperson for Kitaabnama said “a conversation with writer, historian and commentator Ramachandra Guha moderated by Namita Bhandare had drawn wide response from the audience, who found Guha’s postulations on Gandhi “enlightening and educating”.
The writer of the book, “Gandhi Before India” had addressed the “multifaceted, complex personality of Gandhi” and had tried to posit how “his book was different from the vast public documentation already available on Gandhi”.
Another interesting programme included readings by Viky Arya from her book(s) of poems “Nomadic Dreams’and its translation ‘Banjare Khwab” and “Dhoop ke Rang”.
“Celebrating Habib Tanvir’—‘Yaadnama Habib Tanvir’ featuring Mahmood Farooqui, Javed Malick and Rupleena Bose last year had set the quality benchmark for the programme to live up to.