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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Lights, Camera, Action…IFFI at 53!


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Lights, camera, action… the 53rd edition of the International Film Festival of India kicked off with glitz and glamour.

It was the first time I was attending the IFFI inaugural function. I have been an ardent movie aficionado but never found the time to attend IFFI on account of my frequent travels.

Indian movies have evolved over the years and today Indian movies are not about Bollywood it is more than that. More importantly, movies are no longer regional but global with the advent of technology and OTT platforms.

For the first time in the history of the festival, the celebration of films opened with precisely that – the screening of the opening film, which preceded the opening ceremony, which to has been scintillating and colorful as usual. The theme of the resplendent opening ceremony was “Evolution of Indian Cinema in the last 100 years”, in keeping with the spirit of the Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav celebrations.

Spanish film director Carlos Saura has been honored with the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award for his immense contribution to international cinema. I have seen some of his work and he is a wonderful storyteller. His movies Carmen and Tango which earned him a nomination for the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film were intriguing movies with brilliant performances by actors and it was beautifully directed.

Conveying his acceptance through a video message, Carlos Saura regretted his inability to join in person in Goa, as he is recovering from a bout of bronchitis. He has expressed his deepest gratitude and love towards the festival organizers for bestowing him with the honor.

Carlos Saura is also the recipient of the Golden Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival (for Deprisa Deprisa); along with two Silver Bears for La caza and Peppermint Frappe; a BAFTA for Carmen; and three awards at Cannes, among several others.

His daughter Anna Saura accepted the Award on behalf of the eminent filmmaker at the opening ceremony.

The IFFI Indian Film Personality of the Year Award for 2022 was presented to megastar and actor-producer Chiranjeevi Konidela. The announcement was made by the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur, at the grand opening of IFFI.

I grew up watching Chiranjeevi movies because I am a huge South Indian movie fan. Chiranjeevi, Mohanlal, and Mammooty were movie icons I admired in my teenage years and even now I do not miss a movie of theirs.

Chiranjeevi to me was unique because besides acting he was also a good dancer. At a time when Michael Jackson was captivating the world with his dance movies, Indian movies had our very own stylish dancer with his unique moves.

Recently, a video of Golimaar, a song from the 1985 Telugu language film Donga, is raking up views on Twitter as the netizens notice how its beats and campy horror aesthetic is a replication of Michael Jackson’s 1982 hit song Thriller.

In an illustrious film career spanning more than four decades, Chiranjeevi starred in more than 150 feature films in Telugu, as well as some films in Hindi, Tamil, and Kannada. He is regarded as one of the most successful and influential actors in Telugu cinema.

Congratulating the veteran actor, the Union I&B Minister Anurag Singh Thakur has said that Chiranjeevi has had an illustrious career spanning almost four decades, with more than 150 films as an actor, dancer & producer. “He is immensely popular in Telegu Cinema, with incredible performances touching hearts”, expressed Thakur.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Governor of Goa P.S. Sreedharan Pillai took us down memory lane back to the maiden edition of IFFI in 1952. “In 1952, the first edition of IFFI, the first President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad said that the film festival is a golden opportunity for us to interact with artists and filmmakers. A philosopher once said that India is known for its knowledge and devotion, and this should be promoted through this concept.”

The Governor said that artists have always received high recognition in our country. “At a Carnatic music Sangam in Delhi, our 1st Prime Minister was not properly invited, yet he was the first person in the audience. The audience was embarrassed, and when the press asked the 1st PM of India about this, he said, who am I but a mere PM in front of this queen of the song? That is the tradition of the country.”

The Governor said he is extremely happy to participate in the festival opening and recalls that both the Prime Minister and the I&B Minister have stated the objectives of the film festival.

The Governor said that the field of sports and arts is where Prime Minister Narendra Modi also lays a high degree of focus. “Two important objectives of IFFI which were stated in 1952 are national integration and solidarity. In this, a most important role can be played by artists.”

Chief Minister of Goa Pramod Sawant extended a heartfelt welcome to all film enthusiasts to the beach state. “Goa is extending a beautiful welcome to filmmakers and enthusiasts from all over the world. For those who are here for the first time, let me reiterate that in Goa, you can experience pristine seashore, peaceful hinterland, divine pilgrim sites, mesmerizing backwaters, mouthwatering cuisine, and most importantly, very warm and hospitable people. Let us remember our Late CM Manohar Parrikar who translated his vision into reality and allowed Goa to be the permanent host for this extravaganza.”

The Chief Minister also said that this year, the state government has curated special masterclasses for the Goan film fraternity. “Renowned film personalities from Hindi and Marathi film sections will be addressing masterclasses. We have been able to draw the attention of tourists and the Goan public, and various peripheral activities such as the festival mile, the entertainment zone, and the heritage parade have been arranged to attract the attention of the public. Caravans will be deployed through Goa and popular movies will be screened for the masses. Open Air Screenings will be held. A special movie section for Divyang has been curated, We have strived to strike a balance between the film and entertainment industry and the general public.”

The CM informed the audience that the setting up of a world-class multiplex and convention centre is at its final stage and that hopefully, we would be able to celebrate IFFI at the new venue by 2025.

Union Information & Broadcasting Minister Anurag Singh Thakur has said that his vision is to make India the most sought-after destination for film shoots and post-production, backed by the talent of our people and the innovation of our industry leaders.

The Minister elaborated that his vision for IFFI is not limited to one event, but what IFFI should be when India celebrates its 100th year of Independence once we transition from Amrit Mahotsav to Amrit Kaal. “We aim to make India a powerhouse of content creation, especially regional cinema by scaling up regional festivals. India can be the post-production hub of the world by leveraging the immense tech talent amongst our skilled youth.”

Going down the memory lane of Asia’s oldest film festival, the Minister said that the concept of IFFI is rooted in the theme of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, i.e., the world as one family. “India’s rising global role and Presidency of the G20, under the able leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, revolves around the theme of One Earth, One Family, One Future”.

On the key role played by cinema in propagating the ethos of our nation, the Minister said that cinema captures and chisels the conflux of a country’s rich culture, legacy, heritage, hopes, dreams, aspirations, ambitions, and most importantly the collective conscience of its people at any given time in history. The Union Minister exuded confidence that “the 53rd IFFI is all set to be a melting pot of myriad vibrant cultures and a spectacle of cinematic excellence“.

Extending best wishes to the winners of the second edition of ’75 Creative Minds of Tomorrow’, the Union Minister said that out of nearly 1,000 entries across 10 categories of filmmaking, a group of 75 young filmmakers has been selected after a rigorous process by an eminent jury comprising a Lifetime Awardee and winners of National Film Awards, Grammy and Oscar. “They represent 19 states, coming from places such as Jaintia Hills (Meghalaya), Lakhimpur (Assam), Khorda (Odissa) and the youngest amongst them is 18 years old!“ “75 Creative Minds of Tomorrow” is a novel initiative to give the youth a platform to showcase their talent and be mentored by experts in the film industry.

The I&B Minister also said that for the first time, IFFI will host gala premieres of Indian films, foreign films, and original series from OTT platforms, with the featured stars coming down to Goa to especially support their films. “One of Israel’s biggest stars will be present this time.”

France is the ‘Country of Focus’ this year, with eight films from France being screened under the package. The I&B Minister said that following India’s ‘Country of Honour’ at Marche De Films at the 75th Cannes Film Festival, he is delighted to welcome France as the ’Country of Focus’ at IFFI 53.

Extending an invitation to film enthusiasts to explore the country pavilions of Film Bazaar, the Union Minister said that more than 40 Pavilions will be showcased at the 15th edition of Film Bazaar. “For the first time, IFFI will have a Technology Hub to showcase the latest innovations from the cinema world!”

The Minister informed that an effort has been made to make the festival more inclusive and accessible for everyone. ”Special provisions for Divyangjan Screenings have been arranged. Keeping in mind the accessibility needs of Divyangjan, the films in this section will be audio-visual-equipped, with embedded audio descriptions and subtitles. The Film & Television Institute of India will be conducting two special courses for the differently abled – one basic course on ‘Smartphone Film Making’ curated for autistic individuals and a basic course on ‘Screen Acting’ curated for wheelchair users.“

Union Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting Dr. L Murugan said that film lovers from all across the world will get the best chance to enjoy the finest of cinema from India and the world. The Union Minister extended his wishes to Carlos Saura, the renowned Spanish director who has been conferred the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Award today. He also paid respects to the stalwarts of the Indian art arena, including Lata Mangeshkar, Pandit Birju Maharaj, Tabassum, and all artists India lost in the last year.

The Minister recalled the journey of Indian cinema over more than a century. “1913 was the year when India started its journey in the world of cinema, our movies picked threads from our rich history and language, whose influence today transcends beyond boundaries, beyond language barriers, and beyond cultures. Dadasaheb Phalke, MGR, Shivaji Ganesan, Raj Kapoor, Satyajit Ray, M T Ramarao, and many others have carried the film world over their shoulders. The journey started with Raja Harishchandra and traveled through various gems which became milestones and gave our cinema global recognition.”

The Minister spoke of the power of IFFI in dissolving boundaries among cultures and peoples. “IFFI has been erasing boundaries in the world of art and film and allowing different film cultures to engage with each other and explore possibilities to collaborate. Our Prime Minister has described IFFI as the film festival which promotes synergy between delegates from different nations and societies, united by cinema. IFFI 53 has everything a true film lover wants, including the best of world cinema and various other events such as masterclasses.”

The Minister said that the Union I&B Minister is leading the front to establish India as the content production hub of the world, through various initiatives such as incentives for coproduction agreements, streamlining single window film facilitation, incentives for film shooting, and tapping huge AVGC potential.

Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting Apurva Chandra read out the message by Prime Minister Narendra Modi wishing all success for IFFI 53, for the gathering.

The Secretary exuded confidence that IFFI will facilitate deeper understanding and new learnings. He said IFFI is a platform for the Indian film industry to showcase its best before the world and also to imbibe the best practices in cinema from the rest of the world.

Goa Chief Secretary Puneet Kumar Goel; IFFI Steering committee members Bobby Bedi, Hrishita Bhatt, Aishwarya Rajnikanth, Nikhil Mahajan, Prasoon Joshi, Ravi Kottarakara, Shoojit Sircar & Vani Tripathi and Technical Committee Chairman A K Bir were present at the opening ceremony.

The Opening Ceremony was jointly hosted by noted actors Aparakshit Khurana and Mrunal Thakur.  Celebrated film personalities including Pankaj Tripathi, Manoj Bajpayee, Prabhu Deva, Suneil Shetty, Ajay Devgan Paresh Rawal, and V. Vijayendraprasad were felicitated during the function.

The future of movies and the only reason for the attraction of young minds to the movie business is best described in the words of the popular screenwriter of the movie ‘RRR’ V. Vijayendra Prasad. He said when asked by the anchor Aparakshit Khuranna about his advice to young people in the movie business, “Gandhi should be your only motivation and inspiration.” He then took out a Rs 100 note from his pocket and pointed to the ‘Gandhi’ image on the note.

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