The 43rd edition of the much-celebrated International Film Festival of India (IFFI) could not have come at a better time, as the country celebrates 100 year of Indian cinema. Over three dozen regional Indian cinema have been lined up for domestic and international film lovers, with many featuring mainline and well-known Bollywood and regional faces. While it is a celebration of Indian cinema over popular Bollywood films, IFFI is also marred with the visible signs of a struggle for control between the BJP-led state government (host of IFFI) and the central government (controls planning and budget for IFFI).
Overall, 27 Indian films are being screened at the festival. These include Baandhon (Waves of Silence) in Assamese from celebrated film maker from Assam Jahnu Barua. Chitrangada (The Crowning Wish) in Bengali is directed by Rituparno Ghosh, another well-known name from West Bengal, while Deool (The Temple) in Marathi features Bollywood actor and director Nana Patekar and Mahesh Manjrekar. Similarly, Elar Char Adhyay (Four Chapters) has Paoli Dam, a known Bollywood and Bengali cinema actress. Raima Sen, another well-known face of both Bengali and Hindi cinema, features in a couple of movies, as does model-turned actor Milind Soman.
Talking at the event, veteran film actor and a well-known face of Indian cinema around the world, Om Puri said: "Indian cinema is not only about Bollywood as there are meaningful films made in different languages and regions." Puri added that Indian cinema triumphs over popular Hindi films any day for its depth and richness. Then why are Bollywood films more popular "It's because regional cinema does not get distributors and thus no one knows about them. I want the I&B ministry to help regional cinema by showcasing them on Doordarshan," he said.
Echoed nine-time national award winner Assamese filmmaker Jahnu Barua. "My movie is exceptional because it is based on the topic of violence and destruction, but doesn't use any violent visuals. The challenge is to get it to the masses. Thanks to multiplexes, more regional cinema is now available to viewers outside the home base of the film. But more needs to be done," Barua said. His Assamese film Baandhon (Waves of Silence) was the opening film in the Indian panorama section. "I made this movie for the common people, who trust our leaders to run the world, take responsibility for it. But our leaders have failed us and at the end of the day, in such destruction, it is the common man who suffers," Barua said.
However, mainline Bollywood, including top stars, directors and producers, gave IFFI a miss for commercial reasons. "There aren't many Bollywood film makers for interaction. The diversity of India is reflected in Goa too where Indian cinema is being celebrated without the dominant presence of Bollywood, the torch-bearer of our cinema abroad," said a veteran film maker from Maharashtra.
Film maker Anurag Basu, who has recently given a box office hit in Barfi, refused to be drawn into the Bollywood versus Indian cinema debate. "The Indian film industry has grown tremendously and stands tall and all should celebrate it in a befitting manner," Basu said.
On his part, Manish Tewari, the new minister of information and broadcasting, said as part of the centenary celebrations of Indian cinema, the ministry has taken three initiativesformation of a film promotion board to give single-window clearances to film makers wanting to shoot in India, setting up of a museum of Indian cinema at Gulshan Mahal in Mumbai and formation of National Film Heritage Mission to safeguard the films for posterity.
According to festival director Shankar Mohan, the international competition section of the 43rd IFFI will have 15 films screened, including two Indian films.
Mohan said there will be 55 films in the Cinema of the World category. South Korean film maker Kim Ki-Duk will be featured in the retrospective section. Overall, 70 films will be premiered at IFFI 2012.
The opening film, The Life of Pi, opened to a packed hall on November 20. The cast of the film, including Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Suraj Sharma, were present to watch the film and attracted applause from all quarters. Mira Nairs film The Reluctant Fundamentalist is the closing film of the fest.
Mohan said this year the festival will centre on the theme of centenary of Indian cinema and there will be a separate category of 27 feature films that will be a reflection of Indian cinema's journey from silent films to films with sound and black and white to colour films. There will also be a documentary section centered on outstanding foreign documentaries, Mohan said. Fifty documentary films will be screened in the section, he added.
IFFI's RIPPLE EFFECT ON GOAN ECONOMY
Hosting of IFFI annually has had a ripple effect on Goa's economy, besides helping it grow as a brand, chief minister Manohar Parrikar said at the picturesque venues of IFFI. The annual film festival provides direct employment to over 2,000 people during the 10-day fest, besides helping tourism get a boost in December and January by increase in tourist footfalls by 20%. Whatever we spend for IFFI, almost 20% of it comes back directly in the form of value added tax (VAT) and luxury tax. The money is reverted to the state coffers, Parrikar said. "There is a ripple effect on the entire economy of the state. You can call it a cascading effect, which is also felt in rural areas of Goa where the festival does not travel," he said at IFFI.
One of the reasons for such projections is the hosting of the festival. The state gets publicity for 10 days. We would have to spend at least R2-3 crore to get such publicity if we had to do it through advertisements, said Parrikar, who was instrumental in bringing IFFI from Delhi to Goa in 2004.
According to officials, hotel rooms in Goa, especially across Panajim and neighbouring areas, are fully booked from November 10 to December 10, which is also due to the festival.