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February - March 2008


A Good Festival sans Glamour

by Nikhil Gajendragadkar

How would one describe 38th International Film Festival of India?

It lacked glamour and glitz accompanying it, but still it was a good one. From this edition of the festival, the authorities have decided to scrap the ‘Main stream’ section. This section for many years included big, commercial(mainly Hindi) films. In the past, some held their premiers also at the festival. Naturally, it attracted big stars, directors, producers, in short people who are described as Film Moghuls, to the festival. That certainly added “Glamour” to it. But it also attracted a lot of criticism too. Why give a platform, ( and free publicity)meant to celebrate different, artistic films, to films which are about to be(or already) released commercially; was one main objection. Selection of films for this category also gave birth to various questions, allegations and controversies.

A small dose of glamour certainly boosts entertainment value of the festival but it was going a bit too far recently at IFFI. So this year if the glamour quotient was not there, nobody seemed to care (good riddance, many thought, actually) and nobody missed this section much. Any way, Shahrukh Khan, the reigning king of Hindi cinema was there to inaugurate the 38th IFFI. That was enough to go people head over heels.

Few remembered the main function and ‘Shahrukh Praise show’ took place. Famous, young and beautiful actress from Tamil cinema, Priyamani was also on the stage as (perhaps) the Lamp girl, who was supposed to bring the lamp for the ceremony of Lighting the traditional lamp on the stage. But dignitaries, overwhelmed by persona and presence of Shahrukh, forgot and neglected this important guest of the evening. Such occasions widen rift between Hindi and South cinema. We can (only) hope that such incidents will be averted in future.

A retrospective of veteran director Tapan Sinha was held during the festival. His films ‘Kabuliwala’, ‘Sagina Mahaato’, ‘Adalat O Ekti Meye’ wre shown. The festival also remembered prolific director Vijay Anand with a retro of his popular films like ‘Jewel Thief’ ,’Nau Do Gyarah’. His elder brother, actor, director, producer Dev Anand was present to open it. Retrospective of great filmmaker Ingmar Bergman was most interesting one. Seven choicest films of the master were shown. Interestingly many filmmakers coming from Europe and other parts of the world were unaware of this name. It intrigued me.

Quality of majority of films selected was quite satisfactory. Independent films from USA were refreshing. Some European films were very good but some of the films from Argentina and Romania were excellent. The competition section is for Asia, Africa, Latin America, but some Asian films were not exclusive, they were part of at least one festival before coming to Goa. This should not happen, as it robs the festival of its importance.

‘Indian Panorama’ is generally dominated by South Indian films, so it was this year too. Adoor Gopalkrishnan presented his new film ‘Four Women.’ This section gives an idea about the vibrant yet fragile world of parallel cinema in India. It was heartening to see that many films attracted good crowds. Inclusion of ‘Last Lear’ in the panorama raised many eyebrows. The film is directed by Rituparno Ghosh and stars Amitabh Bachchan. These names, perhaps did the trick. According to many critics and delegates the film failed to deliver.

In the ‘Cinema of the World’ section the number of debutant directors was a little large. It is true that every great director was a newcomer once. But an ‘international’ festival should choose films with exceptional qualities, which may come from a first time director or an established one. ‘Olga,Victoria Olga’ (Argentina) was superb, ‘American East’(USA) was another good entry, but we can not say the same for a few other films. Good films can emerge from any corner of the world, but films from Malaysia, Thailand, and Georgia were not up to the mark to say the least. Of course a German and a Hungarian film also disappointed us.

Film Bazaar, like previous three years, was a flop show. There were no stalls this year, instead it was held at a hotel in the city. Media persons were either not invited or they ignored the event. Exactly what happened there, how many film were sold-bought, hardly anybody knows. The organizing body, National Film Development Corporation(NFDC) did not seem to be interested about the participation of any other than people who are in the film business.

This year again the Director of the festival was changed. Neelam Kapoor who headed 2004 IFFI, the first one in Goa, is back in the chair ,but for how long? This festival needs a person who will be at the helm of affairs for a longer duration, perhaps for decades, to establish this festival as a major international artistic and creative event. The festival needs to be free from the government control.

After 55 years and 38 editions of IFFI, this is still not being considered as a major festival of the world. Important filmmakers do not make a beeline to present their film here. To make it attractive the organisers (DFF in this case) need to ‘pick’ quality films from various festivals around the world. So you need good selectors to do the job, and a permanent director . Is there any body listening to us?

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