EATING OUT AT THE INOX COURTEYARD FOR IFFI…was mostly dismal becasue one could not live on fine wine and beer alone! The choice was limited to chaat, biryani, chole-bhature and a few other fryums. It is here most delegates congregated in between seeing films to exchange notes, do their film bookings and grab a bite and a a hot or cold drink. The venue also had other stalls like the water fill stall and IFFI souvenir and at the UP Tourism stall we found actor Randhir Kapoor walking around with director-editor Rahul Rawail who is convinced Goa is the best place for IFFI and it grow bigger, better in time to come!

By Tara Narayan

SIGH. THANK God the International Festival of India is over with for the year! With mixed feelings I tell myself now I need not wake up every morning dreaming of running away from life’s travails to see a films, at least until IFFI is in town next year. Same time, same place – when the akaash neems are blooming over and spreading their wonderful fresh fragrance across a hopelessly ill-maintained capital town Pananji pretending to be a city!
Indulge me. This week I’m dividing some food for thought with food for the belly sneaking in between. I don’t mind confessing it was not a good IFFI for me at least from the point of view of films, nobody is keeping scores but this time around I saw the least number of fiIms. Just couldn’t catch the films I was keen on seeing, let me say I just didn’t see enough films to make me feel happy and contented.
Usually I look forward to enjoying films intermittently when IFFI is on, but this time I must confess I am down in the dumps courtesy both getting organized to go see a film or it’s all the depressing eating out at the IFFI courtyard!
Films are food for thought and IFFI courtyard food is also food for thought. Regarding the least number of films I’ve see I have nobody to blame but myself. It has been stressful situations all around and against my usual quota of at least 20 to 25 films I managed to see only half-a-dozen films much to my disgust. When even my veteran 84-years-old Goan friend Philomena Diaz managed to see four to five films daily, back to back. I don’t know how she managed to do it but presumably it’s cheers to her stamina which she says she acquires doing yogasana headstands every day. Philomena is a regular feature come IFFI and I look out for her.
FOR some déjà vu reasons I also skipped opening and closing entertainment ceremonies, letting others more glamor-stricken than me do the job of covering it for the Goan Observer which is in print these days (I don’t know for how long though).
IFFI-time is also party time and sometimes I think much of the media paparazzi who turn up don’t want to see films as much as they want to party. I see films and most times am so exhausted up their where it matters that I skip the parties!
In any case I don’t know where IFFI must come with so many parties: In nine days it is something like five parties beginning with the Union Information & Broadcasting Minister’s party, followed by the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF), PIB, Entertainment Society of Goa at venues like the Gasper Dias Club and Taleigao Community Centre and finally the grand finale of the Chief Minister’s party which was at the Miramar Marriot this time. Does it make sense to reduce half-a-dozen parties to just one grand party for everyone?
Presumablly this would burden the public treasury less! I think it’s an excellent idea to sell off IFFI to some colossally rich private player — as in let it earn money for the public treasury (instead of for politicians and bureacrats). But the sorry story of our lives is nobody gives a fig about earning money to improve aam aadmi’s infrastructure in Panaji, Panaji doesn’t even have a reliable state-of-the-art public transportation system!
I WENT for the ESG party for the sake of a friend and because it was happening close by at the Taleigao Community Centre. The Bollywood band was atrociously loud, the food more or less agreeable (although normally I virtuously finish my dinner by 7pm!) – hate the too much boozing going around at parties in Goa. Goa is becoming the vice capital of Bharat despite all the hypocritical moralizing!
After a long time I found myself at the Marriott lawns for the CM’s party too, it was a hot evening when not a breeze stirred under the few coconut trees, it was like a hot house affair even out on the lawns – another Bollywood band played but I have some regrets about bands which do not know discretion. A party is not just purely an entertainment party from start to finish – too much belting out of songs one after another non-stop spoils a party for me! Bands must necessarily take breaks to give quiet lulling moments for guests to talk to one another. I should think it is also polite to stop playing for a while when a head of state like Chief Minister Pramod Sawant walks in with his entourage (which rarely includes wife Sulakshna I notice).
Then everybody makes a beeline to the CM’s table for some talk, notice or selfies and his protective bodyguard tries to gently at first nudge folk away if they spend too much time engaging in small talk with the CM! Bollywood stars were few or I didn’t recognize them, but I did manage to tell actor Randir Kapoor that I don’t think Goa is the right venue for IFFI forever after, which got his friend film producer Rahul Rawail protesting that no, no, Goa is the right place and all obstacles can be overcome!
The point is it is fine for filmi VIPs who do the red carpet presentations amidst limelight glare of photography presentations. I noticed that even the inner INOX lounge is reserved exclusively for VIPs and film folk who get these red-stripped VIP cards, but the VIPs don’t see films, they only say hello, smile and pose around and go do some luxurious rest and recreation in the five-star hotels in which ESG’s accommodates them.

FILM delegates at ground level didn’t have an easy time the first two days but sportingly coped with the motley collection of eats dished out by half-a-dozen stalls at the INOX courtyard. Mostly some terrible chaat numbers, chole-bhature, biryani item numbers, ice-creams, wine and beer of course. Few afforded the wine, as usual more affordable beer flowed down gullets to ruin them!
Yucky moments most times and after a disagreeable leathery, oily aloo patice draped with savoury dry crunchies I stopped patronising any of this year’s IFFI offering of incongruous stall food – the popcorn and steaming hot corn was doing good business though with most delegates in need of just small economically priced bites to feed hunger pangs in between rushing off to see their booked films. No booking, no films.
I loved the water stall best! Where I could buy an empty IFFI glass bottle for Rs30, and kept filling up free delicious water as many times as I felt thirsty on a sultry hot November! Water instead of food when nothing appeals is a great idea. It was funny how the table-chair arrangements beneath the colourful shamiana of umbrellas at the INOX courtyard kept collapsing with any wrong moves on the part of anyone, down went people and all. Okay, tell me to once again to be positive instead of negative (it’s one of life’s evergreen moral stories being dinned into me these days day in and day out)!

THIS year there was an IFFI memorabilia stall retailing pretty mugs, diaries, the IFFI satchels (Rs300), coasters and some more. Since only one of my Bombay friends had turned up I didn’t have the heart to hang around for long at the INOX complex, the Kala Academy auditorium being under wraps for repairs. Most delegates, especially the seniors, find the Kala Academy auditorium, canteen and riverfront lawns a far better more relaxing venue to take breaks.
I’m told IFFI is here to stay and one may look forward to grander IFFIs once the promised Film City and Film School come up in Goa as promised by Union Information & Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur. A girlfriend of mind raved, “He is handsome and so young I thought…until he himself informed me he was 48 years, but he was pleased with my comment! He is quite an informal guy and chatted with me when I found myself next to him and asked some questions, I rather like him because he didn’t come across as some snooty hot shot politician!”
Well, mostly this IFFI I wasn’t hanging around too much and left sooner rather than later, grateful for the small cups of oversweet coffee at the media centre and lounge rooms; virtually gave away my party invites to those from out of town who begged for them. I remember with nostalgia the Self-Help Group women who in the past used to turn up at the IFFI venues with their Goan snacks to delight the palate – savoury hot batatvada, samosa, rava kappam fries and zitt-coddi. Terrific dosa-idli-meduvada and sweets ranging from ladoo to shankarpalli to ross-seviyon and more. What’s there left to say here!
I’ve seen some superlative food being served at the IFFI INOX courtyard with no need to head for Ahar or Sheetal or Kamat Hotel around about the marketplace areas within walking distance. Of course, since covid is still in the air and threatening to come back…everyone lives with equal quantities fear and guilt, pushing up and pushing down masks as they felt like. It’s part of the reason why I dare say virtual IFFI online is becoming more popular than IFFI offline with delegates struggling to book and cancel tickets online and turning up to queue up to see a film on big screen.
No queue problems this year around but that’s because delegate footfall was down to maybe 2,000 to 3,000 although some say it was 4,000 at one point with all the cinema students force as also the south Indian contingent from Karnataka and Kerala where film-viewing is a fine art. The Indian Panorama films see whole families trooping in to see yesteryear and new films in Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Hindi of course.

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