“Literature makes sense of the past, enables to understand the present and envision a better tomorrow”

Says Sanjoy K. Roy, Managing Director, Teamwork Arts while sharing his views on the publishing industry and more.

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Sanjoy K. Roy, an entrepreneur of the arts, is the Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, which produces over 33 highly acclaimed performing arts, visual arts and literary festivals across 42 cities in different countries, including the world’s largest literary gathering — the annual Jaipur Literature Festival. Roy has received the National Award for Excellence and Best Director for the film Shahjahanabad: The Twilight Years.

He is a founder trustee of Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT).

Here Sanjoy shares his views on the arts and publishing world in conversation with All About Book Publishing.

Inspiration and journey…

‘Teamwork Arts, in its inception,was primarily a television and film company where its colleagues were also a part of this larger theatre movement.We used to create a lot of content for these channels and by the end of 1995, we had 14 daily gameshows, food shows, talk shows, soap operas running across a lot of channels.We soon realised that much of our lives was spent in the studios  and that is when we decided to go back to our roots – which was in the arts. We presented a festival at the Edinburg festival in 1999 and subsequently set up an office in Singapore in 2000,there by expanding to Australia, New Zealand, HongKong and across much of the world . Today we do about 33 annual festivals, in 42 cities in 18 countries annually across the world,” he shares.

The genesis of Jaipur Literature Festival…

“JLF was also set up accidently in early 2000. Faith and Jon Singh from Jaipur were passionate about restoring and preserving Jaipur heritage. We helped them set up Jaipur Virasat Heritage Festival and within that Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple had created a literature segment. This got split and JLF was created 15 years ago.Five years into the festival, we realised the need to reach out to different parts of the world to cater to our global audiences. So, we set up our first extension –JLF London and from there, we started similar festivals in Belfast, Colorado, Houston, New York, Australia and more recently Maldives. Every festival has to have a sense of where it is located; each programme is different wherein we look at local issues from national and international perspective,” tells Sanjoy.

On Indian publishing…

“India has changed dramatically in the last 15 years,especially when we are looking at the fiction and non-fiction space and we are market leaders in the academic publishing space. In the publishing of trade books, 15 years ago a bestseller used to be 3000-5000 copies in hardback and paperback used to be 7000 / 10,000 / 12,000 copies but  today it is more like a 30,000 to become a bestseller and number of books go on to be printed across many popular languages. The success of New Delhi World Book Fair and the Kolkata Book Fair shows the growing desire to buy and read,” tells Sanjoy.

He cites an example wherein the physical show of JLF 2020 had 500,000 footfalls, but  during the lockdown, the online show in 2021 had a viewership of 27.6 million people, and the figure in 2022 in leaps and bounds.

On translations…

“Worldover, there is a want to be able to access new writing and translations. Translations which used to be a very small aspect of the publishing industry have come in a big way, one can see how across languages one is able to get access to,” he adds.

On translations

“For good translations, we need skilled translators.Ten years ago, translators were paid a very minimal amount for translations. But things are changing now. We now have brilliant translators like Arunava Sinha who has done more than 70 translations from Bengali to English  and Navdeep Suri who translated the works of his grandfather, Nanak Singh, who was the father of Punjabi literature. Without translation, we wouldn’t have had access to this brilliant piece of writing,” he shares.

On inculcating reading habits in children…

“We all grew up on stories until social media and laptops became the default setting for many busy parents.What we need to do is go back at storytelling in so many different ways, focus on young people  and get them inspired to read because when you read a book, it opens up infinite possibilities of how you interpret a book,” he shares.

“Festivals are another way to popularise love for reading. I wish every town and village had a festival focussed on local writers, writing and stories,” he adds.

On social media….

“We need to use social media, proactively and positively to be able to share stories. So much is happening in the audio books scenario, we need to make story telling accessible in all formats and the rest will follow,” says Sanjoy.

Impact of pandemic…

“Pandemic had shut down all activities and gradually people started buying books online. Another major impact is that the plethora of writing which has come out has been unprecedented. This year at JLF, we gave a lot of space to self-published books. Another major impact was that Indie book stores became a focus,” he said.

On technology in publishing…

“Much of technology has been used to distribute a book and it is also being used to publish. I think technology will continue to be in the driving seat  for how you access content, but the challenge is that can technology in actuality create the content? Well, I don’t see technology replicating what the writer is wanting to convey, but I can see technology taking a book to the public in different forms,” conveys Sanjoy.

Need for the industry…

“I think publishing has to reinvent itself. It has to look for new voices and have a better way of figuring out what is original work and ensure that original voice finds its space. It is not enough for publishers to play safe and only look at books that they believe have a market. New age publishers are and will be path breakers,” tells Sanjoy.

On a concluding note…

“Literature historically allows you to make sense of the past  and enable you to understand the present and further envision a better tomorrow. Good literature can help you push back the narrative of hatred. We should continue to amplify knowledge and create the possibility of evolution of societies,” concludes Sanjoy.

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