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Olivier Litvine the new director of Alliance Francaise, Pondicherry, wants to encourage dialogues in music, fashion and design

REferring to Pondicherry as the meeting point of two cultures— French and Indian—Olivier Litvine, the new director of the Alliance Francaise, is keen to use this platform to cement the special relationship between the countries. Having assumed office on September 2, the former teacher of English literature and civilisation, promises exchanges and interactions between the artists, musicians and the fashion industries of both the countries. “We are entering an era of absolute instability and it’s important to have different perspectives. There are geographical considerations that may differ, but in the end, the ultimate goal is world peace and peace for all,” says Litvine, who is also a translator and is working on a piece by contemporary Bangladeshi poet, Kaiser Haq, whom he considers the best living poet in South Asia.

Looking back
First up, Pondicherrians will get the opportunity to witness a photo exhibition on World War I. Planned by Litvine, the exhibition has a collection of 35 rare photographs from different museums and archives, about Indian sepoys who fought as British soldiers along with the French army, at various places. This exhibition has toured various cities in India and the photographs depict the role played by the colonies during World War I. It contains photographs of Sikhs and armies from parts of Asia and Africa, too. “I don’t want to forget the role played by the colonies during the World War I,” he says, explaining how 26 Bengali army men were trained in Pondicherry, and went on to fight in Western France. The exclusive photos will be exhibited in the first week of December, he informs.

Knowing the city
Surprising us with his fluency in Bengali, Litvine says he studied the language during his voluntary service in Bangladesh, 30 years ago. Asked whether he will learn Tamil, he promises to attempt at least some key words. “I will surprise you when you meet me next time,” he assures. Litvine, who has visited places in the North, says South India has a very different atmosphere and he finds Pondicherry peaceful. “I visited the botanical garden, but the refurbishing work is still going on. I’m surprised by the charm of the old houses, especially in the busy side of Pondicherry. There are very few places like this, which incorporate things from other parts of the world. It has accepted many things and “Indified” them,” he says. Though Litvine is yet to taste a dosa, he is a huge fan of Mughal foods like the biryani and shammi kebabs. He signs off saying, “After a tumultuous tenure  in Dhaka, it’s a good break for me.”

Culture trail
Indian movies: I am a fan of Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak and Meera Nair. Bollywood is a lot of masala and is good entertainment
On writers: I am an admirer of R K Narayan, Rabindranath Tagore, Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai and Rohinton Mistry. Their literary expression is stupendous
Music: I have heard a lot of Hindustani music, but am yet to be acquainted with Carnatic music

—Pradeep Kumar

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