The start-studded event saw the presence of the major luminaries from the Hindi literary canon, among others, including author and playwright Asghar Wajahat of Jis Lahore Ni Dekhya Wo Jamyai Nai fame; former director of NSD Devendra Raj ‘Ankur’; poets Leeladhar Mandloi and Anamika; king of pulp fiction Surendra Mohan Pathak; ghazal writer, poet and critic Sheen Kaaf Nizaam; Parliamentarian and BJP spokesperson Tarun Vijay; Congress representative Ragini Nayak, RJ Raunac of ‘baua’ fame; sociologist Abhay Kumar Dubey; folk singer and Padmashree Malini Awasthi; lyricist of the band Advaita Ujjwal Nagar, and senior editor of IBN7 Anant Vijay.
“Hindi is the biggest connecting language in the country. It is the medium of creative and polemic discussion and is celebrated worldwide through Bollywood. Vani Foundation has remained committed to celebrate the social scenario of Hindi public discourse, which is not restricted to literature. It extends to the social and political sciences, media, broadcasting, folk culture, and popular culture,” said Arun Maheshwari, chairman, Vani Foundation.
Maheshwari said the festival aims to curate the best of these streams embedded in the consciousness of Hindi. “Also, publishers, authors, poets and theatre personalities have come together to celebrate their mother tongue. This is a welcome move in our capital,” he added.
“To celebrate the quintessential spirit of Hindi, to make it increasingly visible and accessible, and to build an audience for Hindi literature has inspired us to create the Hindi Mahotsav,” said Maina Bhagat, director, Apeejay Oxford Bookstores, and Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival.
Bhagat added that the carefully curated daylong festival aspired to engage, enrich and captivate its audience with sessions on various topics ranging from literature, poetry, pulp, politics, feminism and new generation Hindi writers.
In her speech, Namita Gokhale, founder trustee of Vani Foundation and director of the prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival, rued the fact that though Hindi is the third largest spoken language in the world, it is yet to be recognised by the Unesco. “We will strive to achieve the global status of Hindi,” she said, adding, “Through Hindi Mahotsav, we want to extend a hand of friendship towards all languages in India and abroad.”
Aditi Maheshwari-Goyal, the curator of the festival, said she came up with the idea of the Hindi Mahotsav two years ago when she realised that majority of urban Indian booksellers would not give space to Hindi books. “Everyone in the ecosystem – from authors, publishers to booksellers complained that Hindi neither sells nor appeals to younger readers. However, the mammoth interest we witnessed in the Hindi Mahotsav has proved the market perceptions wrong,” she said.
According to Maheshwari-Goyal, there is a need to engage in conversation with the youth in their language, without compromising on the beauty of Hindi. “I have carefully programmed the festival so that it offers something worthwhile for everyone. I envision the Hindi Mahotsav to be the most dynamic representative platform for Hindi language, literature and performing arts in the 21st century. We are unique because we have the support from leading Hindi publishers and creative bodies,” she added.
Exploring the new and dynamic Hindi of today’s social media, and pop culture-riddled world, the event hosted speakers like Prabhat Ranjan, the winner of the first Dwarka Prasad Agarwal Award for his bestseller Kothagoi, Ujjwal Nagar of the band Advaita and RJ Raunac, everyone favourite Baua from Red FM. The speakers interacted with Saurabh Dwivedi, associate editor of the India Today Group (Digital) on the topic ‘Java(n) Zuba(n): The Lallantop Hindi’.
The panel on ‘Pulp Ka Tilism’, moderated by journalist, writer and translator Anu Singh Chaudhry had eminent writers Surendra Mohan Pathak and Pankaj Dubey, with Anant Vijay, senior editor of IBN 7. The panel discussed popular and pulp fiction while trying to deconstruct the social stigmas surrounding them.
In the session ‘Aaj Rang Hai: Rangbhoomi Ka Badalta Chehra’, journalist Ajit Rai discussed the evolution and scope of drama and theatre in India with novelist and playwright Asghar Wajahat, veteran theatre director Devendra Raj ‘Ankur’ and actor, director Sudhanva Deshpande.
‘Nayi Stree Ki Azaadi: Maayne Aur Chunautiyaan’ explored new vistas in the emerging women voices from the Hindi patti, and subaltern perspectives within them. In conversation were Peepli Live director and screenwriter Anusha Rizvi, Aditi Maheshwari-Goyal and Minakshi Thakur. Manisha Pandey, features editor, India Today (Hindi), moderated the session.
Diving into the seas of the poetics with ‘Sabad Saadhna’, bilingual new media professional and translator Swati Arjun was in discussion with poets Leeladhar Mandoi, Madan Kashyap, Anamika and Smita Parikh.
The last session of the day tried to untangle ‘Rashtravaad Ki Paheli’ with translator and editor Abhay Kumar Dubey, author, journalist Tarun Vijay, politician Ragini Nayak and journalist Sanjeev Paliwal.
Overall, the first-ever Hindi Mahotsav addressed the issues related to the gamut of the Hindi sphere, and explored the potential of Hindi in linguistic engineering for socio-political scenarios. The event also celebrated the interdisciplinary nature of creative expression and providing a space for the exploration of linguistic identities.