22 January, Sunday
10-11 a.m. | Baithak | Channeling Creativity | Christopher Merrill, Karim Alrawi, Kyoko Yoshida, Natasa Duruvicova and Vivek Shanbhag in conversation with Chandrahas Choudhury
Can creativity be primed? How is self-expression disciplined into meaningful writing? The International Writing Program at the University of Iowa is a much-celebrated creative writing residency. For more than 50 years, emerging as well as distinguished writers have gone to work on their manuscripts and exchange ideas with many of them going on to publish award-winning writing. Christopher Merrill, Karim Alwari, Kyoko Yoshida, Natasa Duruvicova and Vivek Shanbhag in conversation with Chandrahas Choudhury discuss the key to boosting this creative prowess and explore the ways it is altered when in direct confrontation with others’ work.
10-11 a.m. | Cox & Kings Charbagh | Napoleon the Great | Andrew Roberts introduced by Swapan Dasgupta
Napoleon Bonaparte lived one of the most extraordinary of all human lives. In the space of just 20 years, from October 1795 when as a young artillery captain he cleared the streets of Paris of insurrectionists to his final defeat at the horribly mismanaged battle of Waterloo in June 1815, Napoleon transformed France and Europe. After seizing power in a coup d’état he ended the corruption and incompetence into which the Revolution had descended. In a series of dazzling battles he reinvented the art of warfare; in peace, he completely remade the laws of France, modernized her systems of education and administration, and presided over a flourishing of the beautiful ‘Empire style’ in the arts. The impossibility of defeating his most persistent enemy, Great Britain, led him to make draining and ultimately fatal expeditions into Spain and Russia where half a million Frenchmen died and his Empire began to unravel. More than any other modern biographer, Andrew Roberts conveys Napoleon’s tremendous energy, both physical and intellectual, and the attractiveness of his personality, even to his enemies.
10-11 a.m. | Samvad | Experiments with Truth | Janhavi Prasada introduced by Madhav Khosla
Janhavi Prasada’s Tales of Young Gandhi is a gripping graphic novel that draws on Gandhi’s autobiography to remind us that he was an ordinary person who accomplished extraordinary deeds. In an enlightening session, she talks about young Bapu and the search within us all for individual truth.
11.15-12.15 p.m. | A line in the sand: Sykes, Picot and the shaping of the Middle East | Baithak | James Barr, Christopher Sykes, Robert F. Worth and Tarun Khanna in conversation with Vedica Kant
In the middle of World War I, two men — a naive British politician named Mark Sykes, the other, veteran French diplomat Francois Georges-Picot — secretly agreed to divide the Middle East. Post-war, Britain gained mandates in newly created Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq; France in Lebanon and Syria. For the next 30 years, this divide would make uneasy neighbours of two great powers and irreparably shape the Middle East. In A Line in the Sand, James Barr combs recently declassified French and British government archives and unearths a shocking secret war and its powerful effect on the local Arabs and Jews. He follows politicians, diplomats and spies through intrigue and espionage to show us T. E. Lawrence’s stealth guerrilla terror campaigns and he journeys behind closed doors to discover why Britain, and then France, courted the Zionist movement. Barr discusses his conclusions with Mark Sykes’ descendant Christopher Sykes, Middle East specialist Robert Worth and Tarun Khanna, the director of Harvard University’s South Asia Institute which housed the Indian Partition Project, in a discussion chaired by writer Vedica Kant.
12.30-1.30 p.m. | Mughal Tent | Jack the Ripper: An Establishment Cover Up | Bruce Robinson introduced by A.N. Wilson
The iconoclastic writer and director of the revered classic Withnail & I returns to London in a decade-long examination of the most provocative murder investigation in British history, and finally solves the identity of the killer known as ‘Jack the Ripper.’ In a literary high-wire act reminiscent of both Hunter S. Thompson and Errol Morris, Bruce Robinson offers a radical reinterpretation of Jack the Ripper, contending that he was not the madman of common legend but the vile manifestation of the Victorian Age’s moral bankruptcy. In exploring the case, Robinson goes beyond the who that has obsessed countless others and focuses on the why. He asserts that any ‘gentlemen’ that walked above the fetid gutters of London, the 19th century’s most depraved city, often harbored proclivities both violent and taboo—yearnings that went entirely unpunished, especially if he also bore royal connections. Dismissing the theories of previous Ripperologists, Robinson persuasively makes clear with his unique brilliance, The Ripper was far from a poor resident of Whitechapel . . . he was a way of life. Introduced by celebrated historian of the Victorians , A.N. Wilson.
Bruce Robinson is the director and screenwriter of Withnail and I, How to Get Ahead in Advertising, Jennifer 8 and The Rum Diary. He has also written the screenplays for The Killing Fields, Shadow Makers, Return to Paradise and In Dreams. He is the author of The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman and Paranoia in the Launderette, and of two books for children, The Obvious Elephant and Harold and the Duck.
2.30-3.30 p.m. | Cox & Kings Charbagh | After the angry young man, the traditional woman, what? | Javed Akhtar introduced by Rachel Dwyer
Poet, lyricist, screenwriter and public intellectual Javed Akhtar examines the heart of Bollywood cinema, its protagonists and its interpretation of the larger Indian consciousness. Who are the iconic figures that personify our present day morality? And at a time of mass upheaval and churning, where and how do we search the heroic?
3.45-4.45 p.m. | Mughal Tent | Christopher Sykes introduced by Alex Ross
In 1975, Christopher Sykes was commissioned by the biggest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world to photograph the behind and onstage action of what was then the largest and most decadent concert tour ever mounted known as the Tour of the Americas or T.O.T.A.
For three months Sykes lived and toured with the Rolling Stones, hanging out with them in their hotel rooms, backstage and on their plane, The Starship. ‘Arriving on the tour, which had already been in progress for ten days, in the middle of mid-America, in Milwaukee, Kansas, felt rather like my first day at school,’ remembers Sykes. This illustrated talk captures the intimacy of the relationships within the band and manages to transmit the electric atmosphere of those ground-breaking concerts.
5.15-6.15 p.m. | Mughal Tent | Passage to America | C. Raja Mohan, Devesh Kapur, Hardeep Singh Puri, Shivshankar Menon and Robert Blackwill in conversation with Jyoti Malhotra
The long, usually cordial, history of Indo-American diplomatic relations is under scrutiny with a search for signposts under the Trump presidency. A distinguished panel discusses the implications and possible outcomes of the new dispensation on issues of terrorism, climate change, and visas. They exchange views on foreign policy, future India-U.S. relations and the road forward.
Hardeep Singh Puri is the author of Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos, which was published by HarperCollins in 2016. Singh is a former Indian Foreign Service officer who served as the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations in Geneva from 2002 to 2005 and in New York from 2009 to 2013, coinciding with the period in 2011-12 when India was a non-permanent member of the Security Council. He was president of the Council in August 2011 and November 2012.
5.15-6.15 p.m. | Mughal Tent | Poetry Hour | Aidan Singh Bhatti, Atul Kanakk, Sangeeta Gupta and Tajindra Singh Luthra, Suraj Mal Rao and Volga, moderated by Sadaf Saaz
A daily series of multi-vocal poetry readings featuring writers from around the world. Different languages, rhythms and poetic styles converge in a joyous celebration of the poetic imagination.
5.15-6.15 p.m. | Front Lawn | Bruce Robinson, David Hare, Neil Jordan, Prasoon Joshi and Ritesh Batra in conversation with Raja Sen
How do you write a successful screenplay? What are the secrets of turning an idea into a finished movie script? How do you visualize your own words? Some of the world’s most successful screenwriters and filmmakers — Bruce Robinson (The Killing Fields, Withnail and I), David Hare (The Hours, The Reader), Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, The Company of Wolves), Bollywood lyricist and screenwriter Prasoon Joshi (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag) and Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox) spill their secrets in conversation with Raja Sen.