The delay did not affect the people at stall number 614 and 615. The books were neatly arranged, the posters set up and the photographers ready. Fans had their books open to the first page and phones in front-camera mode. “Amma, even I want to take a selfie with him,” said a little boy standing a little away from the crowd. It wasn’t just another day at the book fair for the crowd. Ten minutes later, dressed in a shiny white kurta and flashing a warm smile, Vairamuthu entered the stall.
Saturday (04-06-16) was a busy day at the 39th Chennai Book Fair held at Island Grounds.
A crowd favourite in the past week, Saturday marked the busiest day for the stall. “I took off early from work to see him. This is his book that I’ve had for years,” said a man next to me, clutching his popular work Thanneer Desam struggling to make his way into the crowd. He didn’t seem to be bothered by the crowd as he got to meet his favourite poet.
Vairamuthu remained unfazed amidst the stifling heat and growing crowd. He signed books for fans whilst addressing the media, flashing that warm smile often seen in pictures. Children, although not quite sure of who he was, looked more excited than the grown-ups: it must be the idea of interacting with a celebrity perhaps – or just the feverish excitement around.
Waiting for the crowd to thin down, I glanced at the stall next to that of Vairamuthu. Film magazines and cinema-related books were on display with three people manning the stall, wearing a worn-out look. “Our stall has been popular but with Vairamuthu next door, we get a little break,” jokes Mr. Thirunavukkarasu from the stall called ‘Nizhal’. Mr. Thirunavukkarasu calls himself a film aficionado, having written many books on foreign film directors. His recent book on South Indian stage artist K. B Sundarambal is claimed to be the highest selling book at the stall.
Nizhal, owned by publishers of cinema magazines, is serious about world cinema. The 15-year-old magazine publishing house also conducts short-film workshops at colleges. For visual communication and film studies students, this stall is a haven of information on directors like Kim ki-duk from South Korea and Majid Majidi from Iran, apart from books on the nuances of film-making.
‘Nizhal’ is one of the many cinema-related stalls at the book fair. A rise in media related content is apparent this time, attracting the younger and older generation alike. Those who wish to learn the basics of C++ and Photoshop have the advantage of visiting the many tutorial stalls headed by publishers from Kerala, Karanataka and New Delhi.
E-book stalls are another addition to this year’s book fair. Solely focused on digitizing books, stalls that encourage reading through Kindles and tablets have made their presence felt. The Kindle stalls even offer a discount of Rs.2000, attracting readers with the proposition of being able to download nearly 60,000 books in one gadget.
With another week to go and more books and people to come, the book fair this year is no dull affair.