The crew who watched the movie with the audience

A few first-person takes by Joanne Pinto Pereira

AS grand finales go IFFI 2023 bid the usual befitting farewell till next year in Goa on November 28, 2023. It was a farewell once again to great films and film program with the use of use of varied elements – the best of everything be it screenings, locations, discussions – all to connect with cinema lovers from home and abroad.
What better way than to bring the curtains down after bestowing upon the iconic Hollywood film actor-producer and famous son of yet another famous Hollywood film actor Kirk Dougles, namely Michael Douglas (of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest fame as also other films) the IFFI Lifetime Achievement Award at the closing ceremony which took place at the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium in Panaji, it’s the usual opening and closing IFFI venue.

The Feather Weight. Protagonist Willy Pep enacted by James Madison

Earlier the dame day the 1944-born Michael Douglas was in conversation with Sailendra Singh, producer of Bigg Boss, over the myriad dimensions of his personal and professional life winding off with the topic at hand: One World Cinema. Douglas opines that this will be the reality of the world of cinema, illustrating with “Slumdog Millionaire,” an Indian narrative film produced by a British filmmaker. One would call that global filmmaking and that’s where the future of cinema is.
The sporting almost all of 80 years cheerful Michael Dougles was a breath of air at the film festival with his tongue-in-cheek repartee, as in the rapid fire question round inflicted on him by presenter Sailendara Singh (of Sunburn fame), he had no problems fielding even questions about his equally famous spouse Catherine Zeta-Jones who along with their son Dylan and family were on an extended holiday in India. India is not new to Douglas, this being his fourth time here.
Anyway, it tickled the audience pink to hear that he got his wife’s shoe size at number 7, correct! It was one of the questions thrown at him. Career-wise he fudged up here and there though. He confessed that he’s in semi-retirement with his son Dylan (23) and daughter Cary thinking of him as a “pancake making father” while their mother was the actor in the family. This in the light of the fact that there is a 25 years gap in the marriage between Michael and his second wife Catherine Zita-Jones. It makes for hilarious stories to recount for the couple.
As an ardent admirer of the movie made on the book of the same name by Ken K “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” this IFFI with the Douglas’ presence offered a lifetime of nostalgia for me. It is of the stuff legends are made of as Michael spoke about the filming on location at the mental facility at Oregon. Thanks to the dimming natural light and holding the crew spellbound it was Jack Nicholson who asked if the inmates were actors playing their roles naturally?
Michael Dougles spoke about how his film career commenced with his father’s theatre production and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was handed over to him to turn into a runaway successful film. From then onwards Michael was carving his own way into the future of cinema history.
It was not easy. It was a struggle in the beginning when he thought he was not cut out to be an actor. He put himself through the rigours of Method acting as someone told him that the camera always catches lies. So he wanted no lies to be told. He shared, “Till ‘Fatal Attraction’ I was conscious about the camera, then learnt that you lie to narrate the story. Acting is my preference over film production as you immerse yourself in it.”
He spoke about his relationship with his father and his own deep tryst with parenting (heart-touchingly candid about his biggest challenge being his son jailed seven-and-a-half years for drug peddling). The stress wound up with Michael being diagnosed with 4th stage cancer which he is mercifully over with now. When queried further the much-admired dwelt a little on his reverence for his parents, his mother and legendary actor father Kirk Dougles. His father’s advice to him stayed with him, “The hardest thing to do is to be yourself, simple. Always acting. Know that you are doing the best and scoop it.”

Michael Douglas earning his Indian floral punishment from Sailendra Singh.

Michael’s candour and disarming wit had the audience on his side with the unrelenting Shailendra Kumar asking for more trouble when in reversing roles he asked questions three questions with one of them being in how many colours he had the coat he was wearing?

MY personal obsession with the film festival is courtesy being an avid follower of the art world and in started in 2023 when I absorbed the nuances of Kaavi art – as so artfully detailed in the final issue of the IFFI daily super glossy tabloid “The Peacock” which features Govit Morajkar’s stunning Kaavi-style plea for peace – illustrated on the cover, here’s an extraordinary range of original illustrations by Siddhesh Gautam, Trisha Dias Sabir, Nishant Saldanha and Chloe Cordeiro, and Short Takes in 20 different languages. The inspiration in this instance was art while the penultimate issue had Siddhesh Gautam’s visual column drawing literary inspiration by the poems of Vishnu Surya Wagh.
I wonder why IFFI registrations closed early at the quoted capacity peaked at 1,200 delegates. But I managed to glean some of the latter day events of the festival. In terms of sustainable recycling, what happens to the many wooden stencils of “The Peacock” last year in 2022 and the equally many pinwheel tails and cloth-wrapped torsos of the peacocks that were aglow throughout smart city Panaji through the duration of the festival?
THE buzz in conversation these days even at the Mumbai art festival is the relevance of Artificial Intelligence fast taking over our social media-ridden lives. In this respect IFFI’s In Conversation sessions had also featured filmmaker extraordinary Shekhar Kapur’s perspective on “Human Creativity V/S Artificial Intelligence” with Sudhir Mishra, it was in a Lata Mangeshkar memorial series.
Shekhar Kapur was full of quotes, take this, “Time needs a narrative, narrative needs a context of time.” To sum up the impact of AI at the memorial conversation, whatever chaos results in the wake of AI is welcome. Even if it is going to be disruptive. This is what change is all about and it is inevitable.

Vidya Balan in conversation

ANOTHER discussion that stays relevant and brought forth candour was, “Women & the Glass Ceiling.” It aptly had schoolmate Vidya Balan of “Jalsa,” “Parineeta” and “Dirty Picture” and many other films fame, she endeared herself to the audience recounting her journey to fame in the filmi duniya, this was a long overdue conversation moderated by Vani Tripathi Tikoo.
Vidya is an actor who turned Bollywood’s male protagonist around in her lead role in “Dirty Picture.” She says what drives her is performing different significant roles irrespective of the size of it. “If the sex draws the crowd to get meaningful insight, I’m fine with it.” She said, “I defied the norm of not getting slotted as one playing mother despite doing so to someone as senior as the Big B. Without casting negative aspersions I did not become a Nirupa Roy. To me each one is a challenging role as I am not trained in acting.”
Cop, detective roles, whatever break away roles assigned to women, were picked up by Balan. She feels, “Women are intuitive in knowing what is happening down the street. I deeply love the camera and lose myself in front of it. At these times issues of body weight or shaming do not bog me down.”
The actress who wants to do a comedy elucidates that, “I grew into awareness of what I was doing was hating and abusing your body which keeps you alive. I countered it by sending myself positive messages. I was feeling small in my biggest moments but never was affected by it when facing the camera.
My take is to forget how you are being judged including by myself. What is important is how you view yourself. Celebrating ourselves is key.”
Time is what it will take for change is underway, so believes Balan. About the challenges as a woman in the industry she offered, “I didn’t believe that there was a glass ceiling. I wanted to do different roles and the universe responded. I reached for the sky that fed the fire in my belly.” The clincher for her to connect to the audience in her words, “My medium to connect with the audience is the camera.”
Having charged up with this vivacious Vidya Balan, it was time to catch the closing film “The Featherweight,” an American bio of boxer Willy Pep, directed by Robert Kolodny The film ran simultaneously in all IFFI INOX auditoriums and many unable to appreciate the creative documentary format of the film walked out! The opening film of “Catching Dust” was far more appreciated.

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