For three days in January, every year, Chennai sees frenetic activity with writers, novelists, artists, performers and literary enthusiasts descending upon this coastal city in Tamil Nadu. The Hindu Lit for Life takes over the metropolis with performances, conversations, discussions and workshops.
In 2010, The Hindu began its first-ever edition of this literature festival. The brainchild of Dr Nirmala Lakshman, Director, The Hindu Group, the festival began as a one-day show in 2010 and has burgeoned into a three-day bonanza, hosting brilliant authors and thinkers from all over the world.
The festival has expanded its reach every year exploring fiction, non-fiction, politics, history, the arts, cinema, regional literature — in fact, all genres that celebrate ideas. Over the course of its journey, The Hindu Lit for Life has enriched the literary space in Chennai.
The Hindu Lit For Life reflects the spirit of the times and celebrates free speech and expression. The idea is to connect literature to the masses and so, both in terms of curation and execution, it is as inclusive as possible.
An important highlight of the festival is the annual The Hindu Prize for Best Fiction. An eminent jury comprising critics, academicians and writers, reads hundreds of entries to arrive at a shortlist of five. The winner is announced at The Hindu Lit for Life every year. Past winners include Manu Joseph, Rahul Bhattacharya, Jerry Pinto, Anees Salim, Easterine Kire, Ashok Srinivasan, Kiran Doshi and Deepak Unnikrishnan.
The three-day event also includes a Children’s Fest, which was introduced in 2017. The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Awards are also given away during the festival. Past winners include Ritu Khoda, Vanita Pai, Priya Kuriyan, Sujatha Padmanabhan, Vishaka Chanchani, Prabha Mallya and Venita Coelho, Devika Cariapa, Nandhika Nambi, Chetan Sharma and Chatura Rao.
In 2016, The Hindu Lit for Life introduced the Annual Lecture Series. The series is intended to engage and explore important issues of the day with thought-provoking lectures that will inspire and expand the minds of the audiences. The first lecture was delivered by eminent historian and writer Ramachandra Guha on the topic India @ 70: A historian's report card. In 2017, Justice AP Shah spoke on the connections between Literature and Law. In 2018, the concept was expanded to include a dialogue between politician and author Dr Shashi Tharoor and former Governor of West Bengal Gopalkrishna Gandhi. Their discussion was titled India: Issues and Opportunities and touched upon issues like the forthcoming elections, the contentious Ram Janmabhoomi, crisis in higher education among others.
January 2018 saw The Hindu Lit for Life host the first Tamil literary festival in association with The Hindu Tamil. Eminent writers like Prapanchan, Pattukottai Prabhakar, Imayam, Azhagiya Periyavan, Kalanthai Peer Mohammed, Vennila spoke at the event. The Hindu Lit for Life Tamil will include presentations, screenings and conversations that will evoke pride in the Tamil language and literature.
In 2021, in the wake of the pandemic, the festival was a virtual one with sessions that reflected the need of the times.
What sets the festival apart from others is its balance between the world of books and the world around it. No wonder that The Hindu Lit For Life is known as The Sharpest Literature Festival in India.