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TETE A TETE WITH MEENU

When I heard my friend and former editor, writer, theatre and fashion show producer and director Meenu was organising the Doon LitFest I was intrigued. In conversation.

How did you envision a lit fest in Dehradun?
Having grown up in a small town.. my window to the world was the time I snuggled with a book and let my imagination take wings. That small town was Jalandhar and not Dehradun but when a friend Abhishek Bansal opened Pacific Mall in Dehradun and lamented how it was seen as a commercial intrusion in the valley and not a community space.. the idea of a Doon Lit Fest took shape. And with all the educational institutions and book loving people in the city.. it just seemed like the perfect idea.
 
How smooth or difficult has the whole process of setting up the lit fest been? What was the timescale between having the original idea for the literature festival and opening the doors to this event?
Like any other project on this scale you have to be bullish about your vision to catch and turn around every challenge and that gets thrown at you. And there are many. But I strongly feel that once your intentions are thrown out into the world.. help comes from all quarters. Local NGO Reach has pitched in with their support. But all intentions remain just that without financial support. And for that I owe the sponsors Pacific big time. Two months was the time between the idea and the execution!!
 
Did you encounter many difficulties in getting the event off the ground?
The biggest difficulty was the coordination of dates with the writers and filmmakers. All I can say is that I have good friends who are supporting me by adjusting their time schedules and being there.
 
What makes Dehradun Lit Fest different and special?
It is special because it is in a place like Dehradun. For visitors from outside it is also a stones throw from Mussourie and Landour. Secondly the very theme of this Literature Festival i.e. Reflections: Literature and Cinema takes it into a special space as it combines two mediums that feed the imagination. 
 
What are the criteria by which you chose panelists and participants at LitFest?
Once the theme was fleshed out and the sessions were decided then it was easy to decide who the panelists should be. For example when I was planning a session on Looking In: Books and Films as windows to the world of small towns I knew I wanted Imtiaz Ali, Advaita Kala, Anuja Chauhan and Anuradha Marwah. The hard part was coordinating their dates. But we managed. For some sessions we could not get the dates of the panelists who we wanted but by and large I think we have managed to get a really strong line up of people whom the audience will enjoy listening to.
 
Given the number of literary festivals across the country, how easy was it to encourage authors to appear at your festival?
I think the authors recognize the value of a literary festival. They just have to be sure about the intentions and capability of the people behind it.
 
Would you say you have a target demographic or is there stuff at the festival that everyone will be able to enjoy?
All the sessions at the Festival are on inclusive themes which all lovers of books and films will really enjoy being part of. Besides the sessions we have debates and workshops for youngsters. And we have planned two entertainment evenings which combine music, theatre, literature and cinema.
 
What are some of your personal highlights of this lit fest?
I am excited about each and every session at the festival. It is the most exciting project I and Namit have put together till date.
 
What is your key to running a successful lit festival in the current climate?
For success.. any festival needs a vision, organizational strength, a good network and strong financial support. Also one needs to go beyond just getting a great panel together but also think through the content of each session, get the right books at the stalls, have enough events to engage young minds and most important generate local participation.
 
Could you share some favorite books from your youth?
From Enid Blyton Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor to Star Romances to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to Manjula Padmanabhan’s Escape to Rabindranath Tagore’s Religion of Man.. it has been the usual exploration. Sadly once I actively started editing magazines and doing events I stopped reading avidly. The Lit Fest is my defining moment. I am starting to read again.
 
 
16-NOVEMBER-2013
 
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