LIMITED: The number of delegates who can physically watch a film is only one-half of the capacity of the auditorium for Covid-19 reasons. The venues are sanitized after each show. Thermal scanners are used to check whether your temperature is gone up or down because of your frustration with this year’s digital IFFI!

By Rajan Narayan

Another causality of digitalisation of Goa and India is the 51st International Film Festival. The glossy guides giving a summary of the films shown in various sections are only available online. You can book tickets for physical events including screenings only online on your smart phone. There are no hard copies of show tickets. The film code of the film that you going to see is embedded in your identity card slung round your neck. So at the entrance of the auditorium you sanitize your hand, offer your card for swiping. Naturally, anything digital may be hacked and misused and this is what is happening. For senior delegates this year IFFI is a nightmare. Of course, there are counters for booking but the young people here only help you book the films online on your smart phone! So is there a data privacy issue which is not taken care of either by the ESG or the PIB?

Last year’s 51st International Film Festival of India commenced this year in 2021 on January 16, that is Goa’s Opinion Poll Day. The Shyama Mukherjee Stadium, which has a capacity for 4,000 people, barely witnessed 300 people for the inaugural opening ceremony of this hybrid IFFI. This was because of the Covid-19 restrictions. It would have been impossible to accommodate even 2,000 people if the rule on maintaining physical distance had to be followed. The fact that inter-state travel is difficult during IFFI, gave an opportunity to many Goan artistes to perform at the opening ceremony. Fado singer Sonia Sirsat headed the list with her popular singing popular of Konkani numbers like “He pori konachi” and other Konkani hit songs. There were also traditional Goan dances performed by Goa’s tribal communities.
Despite taking such elaborate precautions to have a Covid-19 free IFFI, neither the Chief Minister nor chief guest from Karnataka, superstar Sudeep Sanjeev, were wearing masks. I notice that the CM never wears his mask on public occasions. Is this not setting a bad example? I don’t know why the police don’t fine him Rs2,000. The majority of the delegates were from the South and understandably there was a huge demand for invites for the very limited seats available for the opening ceremony. Since the opening ceremony is conducted by the ESG officials, they were selling the invitation for as much as Rs 5,000 to film crazy southern fans. As it is always happens very few of the invitees attended the inaugural film.
Whoever chose “Another Round” as the opening film has a black sense of humour. Or knows that the only reason why Goa attracts so many tourists and delegates from the south is because hard drinks are much cheaper in Goa. Indeed they are half the price at which they are available in the neighbouring states of Karnataka and Maharashtra. Which is why apparently, bus loads come to Goa from neighbouring states, on a one day drinking holiday to Goa. The title of the first film “Another Round” made by Danish film maker Thomas Vinterberg starring Mads Mikkelsen means having one more drink. The film was appropriately on alcoholism. Which is extremely common in Goa though Goans won’t admit it.
In the UK, if you drive while you drink, your driving licences will be cancelled even if you belong to the royal family or are the Prime Minister of the UK. In Goa there is strong resistance to implementing the changes in the central traffic rules which have increased the penalties for various offenses. The CM infact has postponed implementation for three months. I understand that the film glorifies alcohol. It refers to famous personalities like Winstol Churchil, the PM of the UK during the second world war as an alcoholic. Implying that you can be successful in life only if you are an bevda. My Goan bhatkar friends keep insisting that they drive better when their personal tanks are full of alcohol. On New Year’s, Eve and even after the New Year, the Goa police did not arrest a single tourist or local for drunken driving. Surely given the fact that alcohol is a serious problem, at least the person who sent the press note from PIB should have been more sensitive in describing the film. The Director of the Film is from Denmark and probably did not know much English. The PIB press note claimed that the Director celebrated alcohol in his speech at the opening ceremony. Surely Daru is not something to celebrate or encourage whether in Denmark or in India leave alone in Goa which has a largest amount of bevdas and bevdis in the country.

VIRTUAL: If you want to attend any of the master classes which have always been part of IFFI you have to participate in them only via Open Telecom Platform (OTP). Remember there is no physical interaction with iconic fim maker Shekar Kapur, who made films like `Mr India’ and even an English film on Queen Elizabeth I of England

I did not attend IFFI 51 though historically I have attended all the IFFIs held in Goa since it became a permanent venue for film festivals. I used to get my media card as the editor without any problems. This time because of Covid-19 I was told that they have limited the number of media card to one per publication. Since it is the better half who is the film buff and actually is affected and writes about films I offered to step down so that she could get a media card. The local PIB headed by Vinod Kumar refused to even respond to my calls and messages. We are very obliged to the Director General, media & communication based in New Delhi who was in charge of media registration for the media cards for our correspondent and photographer.
Even when the late Manohar Parrikar was the chief minister, invitations for the opening ceremony were hand delivered to Editors at home. This time off course despite requesting the public relations manager I did not get my invitation for the opening ceremony. I presume only editors of Saffron papers got the invitation. In retrospect I am glad I did not get my media card. Because this IFFI is not for senior citizens. This IFFI is not for those who are digitally challenged. It is only for smart kids who are super smart on smart phones.
NO guides were printed this year on the International and Indian films being screened. There was no material offline even on the films participating in the competitive section of the film festival. As if this was not bad enough there were no schedules printed. To help you make up your mind on what films you want to see. In fact unlike in the past there were no tickets issued at any of the counter set up at the venues where the films were being screened. Everything was online. The schedules of the films were online. You could only book tickets for the films you wanted to see online. Yes! there were desks to help and guide both media and other delegates. But they were there only to help you to book tickets online. When you book the ticket for a particular film it was entered on the chip on your delegate card. So at the entrance you had to swipe your delegate card to gain entry to the auditorium.
SINCE I am 73 going on 108 I am digitally illiterate. Having enjoyed the luxury of having had a secretary from the age of 24 when I became the editor of my first magazine, I never had to learn to type. Or later when the computers came to input data. I am even worse when it comes to the smart phone. I cannot think of anyone who is as dump as I am in using my smartphone. I and hundreds of other senior citizens, who have registered as delegates, do not know how to book tickets online. At least earlier I could plead with my younger colleagues to book tickets for the films I wanted to watch online. But now even that facility is not available since you are supposed to book your ticket on your smartphone. There is no question of collecting physical ticket for entry to the auditorium as there are no physical tickets.
The on-going IFFI is a nightmare for senior citizens. For any citizen who does not want to be part of the virtual world. Even in the case of IFFI 51, most of it is in the virtual world. You have the option of watching the films on your computer or smartphone. Yes all the other elements that make up a film festival are there. There are press conferences with the producers and the cast of the film. There are master classes by senior film makers for the benefit of students of cinema. But none of them are physical. You need to be a specialist at webinars or zoom to watch these events. SO much so the master classes are as ineffective as e-learning. And I can’t imagine the majority of the delegates, particularly the senior citizens being able to watch the virtual events.
Given the fact that no guides have been printed or schedules have been printed the cost of IFFI 51 should be much less. There is no sign of the peacock in print. Perhaps Narendra Modi who apparently has his pet peacock will not let it come to Goa for IFFI. The ESG has not spent any money even on the tickets for entry into the auditorium. I do not know who paid for the renovation of the Kala academy and Inox. I do not know who paid for all the Covid-19 sanitization adopted. You cannot go into an auditorium without thermal screening. Though to come to Goa by train or bus you don’t need any certificates saying you are not infected. Only those who come by flights have to produce a negative certificate issued three days before travel. There is a sanitizer at the entrance to each of the IFFI event venues. But how much money did they spent on all the fancy digital software, which converted a warm flesh and blood event into a mirage. It was like being in the desert of the gulf and imagining things which are not there. So if you are digitally challenged don’t waste your time on IFFI.
In fact if you have a smart phone you can see all the IFFI event on the Open Telecom Platform (OTP). Perhaps either the ESG or the Director of Film festival has a deal with smartphone companies and get a commission. My 24 year old colleague does not read newspapers as it is all there on her mobile phone. Except that the mobile phone will not give you information on the side effects of the vaccine or the goons in the United States preparing to stop the swearing in of Joe Bidden as the President, with Indian origin, Kamala Harris, as the Vice-President. Anything is possible with Donald Trump and his supporters. He may even drop a nuclear bomb on the white house. But my colleague who is super savvy with her smartphone knows everything about every film star. Which is the primary content of smartphones. The TOI even has an app called MX Player which is a one stop source of all entertainment. If you are looking for a job you can become an agent for the MX player app of the TOI.

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