54TH IFFI OPENING CEREMONY…..one of the highlights was film star Madhuri Dixit and her team swirling and dancing to yesteryear’s glorious music. She won a lot of applause!

By Rajan Narayan

THE ongoing International Film Festival of India is the 20th edition of IFFI to be held in Goa. It may be recalled that the late chief minister of Goa, Manohar Parrikar, brought IFFI to Goa courtesy the then Information Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj. Having got Sushma Swaraj to agree to making Goa the permanent destination for IFFI, Manohar Parrikar started creating the infrastructure for IFFI.
Goa did not have a modern multiplex cinema auditorium to screen the finest films of the world at IFFI. However, within two months Parrikar built the INOX multiplex with four auditorium screens with a total capacity of about 1,200 seats. He also took over the old Panaji Goa Medical College & Hospital quarters and adapted them into additional structures for housing IFFI staff offices. Though the Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG) is the coordinating authority created by Parrikar, the festival is primarily a national affair and it is the Directorate of Film Festival which chose the films in the competitive section of IFFI. Every IFFI also includes an international section of the best cinema of the world.
The media domestic and foreign is taken care of by the Press Information Bureau. Reportedly, this IFFI, the 54th edition, there are 6,000 to 7,000 delegates who have registered themselves. Besides of course, there are film critics from all over the country. Indeed one of the highlights of the IFFI is the master classes conducted by veteran film-makers with senior film critics.
The opening film for this year’s IFFI was “Catching Dust” by award-winning British filmmaker Stuart Gatt. The mid-festival and closing films are “About Dry Grasses” (France) and “Featherweight” (UK), respectively. The inauguration of the 54th edition of IFFI was done by the Hollywood actor-film producer and chief guest Michael Douglas of the UK. The major attraction at the inaugural ceremony was Madhuri Dixit Nene and her troupe of dancers. There were dance performances by Shahid Kapoor, Nushratt Bharucha and others.
Major film stars who attended were Shahid Kapoor, Shriya Sharan, Nushratt Bharucha, Pankaj Tripathi, Shantanu Moitra, Shreya Ghosal and Sukhwinder Singh who mesmerised the audience with their scintillating performances at the star-studded opening ceremony. The big shots of the film industry Sharukh Khan and Salman Khan very seldom attend the film festival.

THE film festival also has a Film Bazaar where producers and director of films may interact with leading distributors. The whole festival has gone digital with even the films being routed via digital mode to the large screen. The IFFI venues as usual are the INOX four screens. In addition, there are the INOX theatre auditoriums at the Mall da Goa in Porvorim; and this time Ashok & Samrat cinema halls have also be taken to provide more seats for IFFI delegates and media people.
Media may see five films a day if they have the time to see even one (this for the daily reporting staff). Delegates are allowed to choose three films for the ten days of IFFI. Booking of the films is digitally done on the IFFI App downloaded by each delegate on their smart phones. You may book online and cancel online.
Unlike last year when the booking for the next day’s scheduled film started only at 2pm, the booking this year is open at 8am to 10 am each morning. Our better-three quarters Tara Narayan is a film lover. In the old IFFIs she managed to squeeze in three to four a day if not five films. Then over the years perhaps the novelty of seeing world class films wore off and this year she visits with me first thing in the morning and evening at the GMC and recounts the stories of the films she has seen or hopes to later at night. This is the first time she is running off to see a film in late evening hours.
A major attraction unfortunately is the hard-core pornography films. These are films which do not pass the Censor Board. However, since the presumption is that festival films are reportedly seen only by mature adults, a few uncensored films are permitted to be screened at IFFI. We do not know yet what they are this year.

THE 54th IFFI in Goa is a tribute to Manohar Parrikar who worked very hard to get the infrastructure ready on time for the first IFFI in 2004. The main prestigious venue of IFFI was and remains the Kala Academy in Panaji, which was closed for a long time but has been finally repaired and refurnished to re-open just in time for this year’s IFFI. The Kala Academy has the largest seating capacity of almost 1,000 seats.
The other events of the film festival like the master classes educate aspiring filmmakers in film production, direction and editing and these are being held at the Kala Academy. IFFI’s opening film “Catching Dust” this year was about a young lady Geena who wants to separate from her criminal husband Clyde, but was not able to do so. Some of the best IFFI films are made interestingly in Brazil and Latin America.
I was fortunate to be present at the first competitive film festival in Delhi in 1965. I recalled that the opening film “Godfather” was by Mario Puzo. I was part of an international seminar on parallel cinema. I had come to the conclusion that a commercial film with a good team should also be financed by the Film Finance Corporation. At that time the FFC financed art films only and they were difficult for the common man to understand.
To prove my point I chose “Namak Haram” by Hrishkesh Mukherjee and had it screened to an audience comprising of textile mill workers of what was then Bombay. There was great appreciation of the film which shows a clash between a trade union leader and the company management. The lead role was played by the late Rajesh Khanna who was the biggest star in the 80s.

I ALSO had an opportunity to participate in a seminar on parallel cinema, where unfortunately the late BR Chopra described films as “randi ka pesha.” Many leading filmmakers like Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal and Basu Chatterjee left the hall where the seminar were being held and they had held a parallel seminar on the lawns of the venue. I recall reading a paper on parallel cinema which was greatly appreciated.
The film critic of the “The Sunday Times” took the article from the paper and published it in “The Sunday Times.” It was a great honour for me to have my article on parallel cinema published in “The Sunday Times.”
IFFI has recreated a culture for producing and directing films in Goa. Since the first film festival in Goa, more than two dozen Konkani feature films have been seen by a wider audience. This year we hear there are seven to 14 Konkani films feature and short films. Konkani films are making a mark in international film festivals too. Goan film viewers appreciate good cinema and because of the increase in demand for delegate passes, IFFI delegate pricing has shot up to Rs1,200 this year and are available till mid-festival which is around November 27-28. The film festival has become the major cultural event with parties every night (or at least that’s how it used to be in the Manohar Parrikar years). Most of the parties are given by the Information & Broadcasting Ministry on the opening day, and then follow the parties of the Director of Film Festivals and PIB. The finale day’s grand party is thrown by the chief minister and this year it will be Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant who will be the host of this party. We are told that this year’s IFFI Vice-President Delilah Lobo is also throwing a grand party at Anjuna for film delegates for she has taken to viewing films like a duck to water or so to speak.

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