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February - March 2006


Make IFFI a Global Event

by Nikhil Gajendragadkar

Now it is official. International Film Festival of India has at last found its ‘home’. Henceforth, Panaji, the capital city of Goa, will be the permanent venue of IFFI. Ex- I&B minister S. Jaipal Reddy made an announcement to that effect at the opening ceremony of 36th IFFI held at Panaji. One question is solved, now the organisers of the festival should strive to make this film festival truly ‘International’.

This edition of the IFFI, though concluded satisfactorily, was not away from troubles and political tribulations. When memories of IFFI-2004 were still fresh, once again this small state on the western coast of India was gripped with political uncertainties. There was a change in government. The person hailed as responsible for the successful organisation of 35th edition of IFFI, Mr. Manohar Parrikar lost power and was no more the chief minister of the state.

New government headed by Mr. Pratap Singh Rane of Congress party refused to accept responsibility of playing host to a film festival. He went on to say that a film festival cannot be a priority of a state government. The centre must bear the burden, he added. Of course it was the decision of the Government of India, or the Central Government, to make Goa a permanent place to hold its International Film Festivals; naturally a state cannot refuse. The Centre must have ‘persuaded’ Mr. Rane to accept it.

Finally the 36th edition of IFFI was held at Panaji, Goa between 24th November and 4th December 2005. Screening theaters, administrative blocks, media centre were in place due to the 2004 festival. Inaugural ceremony was held at the premises of a multiplex. It contained enough quantity of official addresses and glitter and glamour. Veteran filmmaker, actor Dev Anand and superstar from south India, Chiranjeevi graced the occasion as chief guest and guest of honour. Leading beautiful actresses of Indian film world like Amisha Patel, Urmila Matondkar, Mira (from Pakistan), Shreya - a leading actress from down south - danced to the tunes of popular Hindi and southern film songs, and were applauded duly. A new song specially written and composed for the festival was performed, and more dances and songs.

An audio-visual programme, which traced the history of Indian Cinema, was too amateurish. The idea was good but they floundered in execution.

Organisers must remember that when you are performing or presenting something in front of an international audience the quality has to be good.

Look at the Oscars ceremony, the way they present programmes. Indian Cinema is a major film industry in the world and you must not present its history in a haphazard manner.

This was a major drawback one witnessed in this as well as last IFFI. Directorate of Film Festivals is a part of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry of Government of India. This department is the chief organiser of the festival. The state government and Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG) - a body launched by the state government - are hosts of the event. Their area of function, responsibilities must be well defined, thereby overlapping of duties and consequent confusion can be averted. Lack of proper communication and co-ordination between DFF and ESG led to many embarrassing situations. Hopefully this will not be repeated in future.

Goa is certainly a very popular tourist spot, but ‘film culture’ has yet to find its roots there. Many people watching films does not mean having film culture. Film societies, interest in different or serious cinema, discussions on such cinema is important. Number of people participating in these activities may be small, but such things taking place in a region is far more important, because they develop ‘film culture’. As there is no film culture, infrastructure is not in place in Goa, even in Panaji, its capital city.

Last government did create a multiplex and renovated an art academy (Kala Akadamy) more screens and more seats are essential to hold an international film festival. True, even in Cannes theatres get crowded beyond capacity. But that is an old and world famous festival. IFFI has yet to reach that distinction. Till then the state government must pay attention to improving infrastructure. That includes creating new cinema houses, renovating existing theatres, providing better facilities to media persons and much more. Arranging some shows at existing old (single screen) theatres will divert delegates and media persons and many more can enjoy films in a peaceful environ. ESG and state government should think of involving old cinema theatres - of course after proper renovation and improvement - in the festival.

Indian film festivals always rope in major star from Hindi film world. Why?

There are many cinemas in ‘Indian Cinema’ and there are many more Super Stars in regional cinema. Choice of Dev Anand as chief guest is not to be contested, he has contributed to Indian cinema immensely. But there are others also. For instance, this year we are celebrating golden jubilee of ‘Pather Panchali’ Satyajit Ray’s first masterpiece, DFF could have invited Soumitra Chatterji, Ray’s favourite actor and hero of Apur Sansar (Apu’s World), or Mrinal Sen, last year’s Dadasaheb Falke awardee and a great filmmaker; the list can go on. DFF did compensate by inviting Chianjivee, a megastar from the south as guest of honour.

The ‘cultural’ programme that followed the inauguration ceremony was colourful, can be called a song and dance extravaganza. What is cinema without glamour? Stars like Urmila, Amisha, Mira, Shreya provided just that. But they all presented already popular songs. Organisers must think of creating original programmes, which will focus on variety of Indian culture, i.e. beyond successful films.

Apart from better co-ordination DFF should strive to get better and latest films from all the major film-producing countries including USA. Few years ago Indian film festival was competitive so it did attract good films. But policies about ‘competition’ kept changing and the IFFI lost lustre and attraction, and subsequently, importance. Now efforts must be renewed to bring in major filmmakers - old and new alike. This year, absence of American films was striking. Apart from big studios there are ‘independent’ filmmakers in USA, who try to make meaningful films. DFF must try and get such films from America as well as from other regions. That will give IFFI its credibility back and will make it an important event in the world of ‘world’ cinema.

Indian film festival also needs a permanent director, as is the practice all over. Otherwise a person (a senior bureaucrat from the government) who is in charge for a year or so looks at that festival just as a part of his official duty. A person who loves cinema must be at the helm of affairs. Now the festival has got a permanent venue, a home of its own; so now efforts are to be made to make this film festival an ‘international’ event with true global scope.

IFFI like other film festivals organises ‘Film Bazaar’. Main aim of this activity is to increase interaction among filmmakers, distributors, other companies who provide post-production facilities etc. But this venture, arranged with the initiative of CII, a body of Indian Industries, turned out a failure. Very few participated in it. Last year’s participants were absent. Reason is simple: this bazaar fails in generating business.

Same happened with ‘Master Class’. This is a widely used concept in various film festivals around the world. Top filmmakers, actors come and share their views and experiences with cinema lovers. In some festivals a fee is charged to participate in this class. But here in Goa, it attracted hardly any attention and delegates or critics. That speakers were not known was one reason, and schedules clashing with the screenings was another which kept audiences from this activity. Such programmes should be arranged with more detailed planning.

Nikhil Gajendragadkar is a senior journalist in Maharashtra and also teaches Journalism & Communications at the University of Pune. He writes extensively on entertainment media and socio-political subjects for English periodicals and International magazines

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