Mita Kapur on What Makes Mountain Echoes Literary Festival Click


July 26, 2016


Mita Kapur on What Makes Mountain Echoes Literary Festival Click

Mita Kapur on What Makes Mountain Echoes Literary Festival Click

Mita Kapur on What Makes Mountain Echoes Literary Festival Click

Mita Kapur, producer, Mountain Echoes literary festival
(Mountain Echoes)
In the world of literature in India, Mita Kapur has always stayed ahead of the curve, or rather, ahead of the word. She is the founder and CEO of Siyahi, one of India’s leading literary agencies founded in 2007, and is also a veteran at producing literary festivals and events. Given the fact that she has wrapped so much written word around herself, it’s not a surprise that she is a writer herself. But one of the best things that she has given to literature in the subcontinent is the Mountain Echoes literary festival, held annually in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan. It’s unique for several reasons — it’s not just a celebration of literature but of total creative aesthetics involving art and culture of the region as well. Besides, the milieu in which it is held is the closest one can get to an ideal author’s retreat, that haven of peace and serenity in beautiful environs, which has the power to inspire creativity.
At the upcoming edition of Mountain Echoes, the star attraction will be Amitav Ghosh. World-renowned writers such as Pico Iyer; Graeme Simsion; Kunzang Choden, the first Bhutanese woman to write an English novel; and Bhutanese journalist Namgay Zam, among others, will be part of the festival’s central program. Collateral events that lend this festival its uniqueness include a performance by legendary Indian band, Indian Ocean; an exhibition of artworks by the Jogi family of Rajasthan that has given birth to Jogi Art, from the collection of Tulika Kedia; a photography exhibition giving a peek into the history, culture and natural splendor of Bhutan’s Gasa region, by Dorji Dhradhul, titled “Good to Great Gasa”; and another photography exhibition on Rajasthan by Sudhir Kasliwal, among other events.

The component of travel, which cannot be missed if an event is being hosted in Bhutan, becomes an integral part of Mountain Echoes from this edition with the launch of a cultural journey called “Bonfire Tales.” It is a motorcycle trip led by actor Kelly Dorji, to the Phobjikha valley in the country’s Black Mountains and then to the warm climes of Punakha. The trip is designed to provide an authentic experience of Bhutanese culture, discovering religious sites, centuries-old monasteries and their art, while sampling local cuisine throughout the journey.

As the countdown begins for the seventh edition of the Mountain Echoes, to be held in Thimpu from August 25 – 28, Kapur discusses the singular aspects of the festival with BLOUIN ARTINFO.

As a veteran producer of literary festivals, could you share if conceptualizing Mountain Echoes was different from creating other festivals? Was there a conscious attempt to make it different from the plethora of literature festivals that have emerged following the success of Jaipur Literature Festival?

Working on Mountain Echoes has been unique in every sense. It’s been about learning and respecting a whole new culture, understanding it and then ensuring that the festival is representative of the shared experiences, stories, oral histories, and myths that run along the Himalayan belt. The festival represents the literary, cultural and aesthetic roots of both Bhutan and India, and producing it means that we work with a paradigm that balances both the regions and brings in some of the global trends as well. Each edition is an attempt to rejuvenate and add something new to the festival.

Going into the seventh edition of the festival, could you share the journey so far? Has the festival and its economics shaped the way you anticipated?

It’s been full of moments of sheer exhilaration and some missed heartbeats as well. To look back to 2010, I see a large curve that the festival has dotted on its own, organically. The economics of it remain a challenge. The festival directors and Siyahi had always envisioned it to become the best mountain festival in the world and I’ve been told that a lot of people believe that it is. The spirit and the essence of the festival is to keep the engagement between creative artists and their audiences personal, and we intend to make it remain that way even as the scope and range of the programming grows.

Carrying forward from above, how do you strike a balance between two contrarian aspects of a literature festival — to promote literary discourse, yet make money as well to keep it afloat?

Mountain Echoes, for us, is a commitment that’s fueled by our belief in the power of storytelling, interacting, debating, and exchanging ideas on global socio-political and cultural trends. Most importantly, the common concerns of the moment have to be addressed. For example, this year, there’s a capsule on climate change, another on the contemporary geopolitical world condition, another on Guru Rinpoche and 400 years of Zhabdrung. It’s a vivid collage and when you include workshops, music, art, and performances, you don’t dream of making money – you simply splurge and spend it!

Cinema, cricket, politics, travel, and food have become important entry points for the general population to enter the world of the written word as is evident from the popularity of books on these subjects. Is ‘travel’ the biggest driver for Mountain Echoes? If not, what makes Mountain Echoes click?

With speakers from Bhutan and India and other parts of the world converging in a pristine, calm setting among the mountains, travel, art, cinema, food, or what have you, will work. We do have panels on cinema, fashion, food, memoirs, women in the public domain, development and conservation, so that there is something for everyone. A whole day of children’s sessions, workshops on creative writing, fashion photography, writing in Dzongkha, brand communication, an open mic – Thimphu buzzes with a special energy for those three days.

Through ‘Translating Bharat’ series, you have attempted to take literature from other languages of India to the world. But most literature festivals remain heavily weighted towards English language writing. Is it still possible to have more representation for other languages in festivals?

Yes, of course. Even at Mountain Echoes, we have sessions in Dzongkha. It’s for us to keep ensuring that the languages of the region in which the festival is happening are represented.

What, in your opinion, is the biggest positive impact of so many literature festivals in the subcontinent, on the growth and development of literature in the region?

Festivals are a rush of adrenaline, that energy boost that writers need and readers need and most of all, sales of books need!

— Mountain Echoes 2016 will be held in Thimpu, Bhutan from August 25- 28. For itinerary and other details, visit

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