The 49th International Film Festival of India began with a rather lacklustre start, leaving audience with dampened spirits, while latecomers Karan Johar and Akshay Kumar saved the day
Christine Machado & Danuska Da Gama |NT BUZZ
The much hyped opening ceremony of the 49th International Film Festival of India got off to a delayed start sans the glitterati at Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium. After much anticipation, it began with a Bollywood dance sequence, beating of the dhols, some aerial stunts on numbers from Bajirao Mastani, Bahubali, etc.
The hosts for the evening, Mandira Bedi and Amit Sadh set the mood for the evening. While the absence of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was felt, there were others including Governor Mridula Sinha; Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore; leader of MGP and Minister for PWD & Transport, Sudin Dhavalikar; Minister for Sports and Tourism, Babu Ajgaonkar; speaker, Pramod Sawant; and MP, Rajya Sabha, Vinay Tendulkar. Also present were chief secretary, Dharmendra Sharma; director of the festival, Chaitanya Prasad; CEO, ESG, Ameya Abhyankar; vice chairman, ESG, Rajendra Talak; chairperson of Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, Prasoon Joshi among others.
A few stars were also spotted including Randhir Kapoor, Poonam Dhillion, Hrishita Bhatt, Arijit Singh, Subash Ghai, Ramesh Sippy and the cast and crew of the opening film, ‘The Aspern Papers’.
Before the traditional lighting of the lamp, secretary of I&B, Amit Khare welcomed the dignitaries and cine enthusiasts present for the 49th edition of the film festival that first began in 1952. He also congratulated the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Dan Wolman. Praising Indian cinema’s progress, with films like Padman and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, he said: “films are becoming strong messages of social change. The entertainment industry is providing revenue and growth and generating employment.”
Dhavalikar extending his welcome to delegates for the festival said that IFFI is not just one of the prestigious film festivals of Asia but also marks the beginning of the tourist season in Goa. “Besides contributing to the film culture of different nations, it also encourages friendship and solidarity among people of the world,” he said.
He clearly missed Manohar Parrikar, as he referred to him as the man behind IFFI being held in Goa. “Keeping with the promise made by then I&B minister in 2003, Parrikar left no stone unturned and made sure infrastructure was ready, including setting up of the multiplex in Goa and giving Panaji the facelift, before the festival,” he stated.
On the occasion, members of the international jury Tom Fitzpatrick Adrian Sitaru, Robert Glinski and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra were presented with floral tributes by Rathore. Chairman of the jury Robert greeted with a Namaste. He didn’t speak much but recalled being in Goa as a hippy tourist in the past, having spent a great time here.
It was at least half an hour into the ceremony at this point, when superstar, Akshay Kumar and producer and director Karan Johar walked in to some cheering from the audience.
The cast and crew of the opening film, ‘The Aspern Papers’ were called up onto the stage after a trailer of the film – it will have its world premiere here. Playback singer, Shilpa Rao with her troupe enthralled the audience with some romantic hits.
With Israel being the country focus this year, consul general of Israel in Mumbai, Yaakov Finkelstein shared that the country has a fondness for India and Goa and it was an honour for Israel to be chosen as ‘Country Focus’ this year. He used the platform to extend cooperation to Indian filmmakers to shoot for films in Israel. He also said that cinema will fortify the relation between India and Israel.
Finklstein’s address was followed by a splendid aerial silk acrobatics and dance show by the Mumbai-based Fly High Aerial Art and the release of the book ‘Women in Indian Cinema’.
With Jharkhand being the ‘State Focus’ at this edition of IFFI, the Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das announced subsidies for the shooting of films in Jharkhand – for the first film shot, a subsidy of `2 crores will be given, for the second it will be `2.25 crores and for the third it will be `2.50 crores. If 5 actors from the film are from Jharkhand then an additional grant of `25 lakh will be given. If all the actors are from Jharkhand then an additional grant of `50 lakh will be given. Following the shooting, if the processing of the film is also done in the state then an additional `50 lakh grant will be given. The approval and sanctioning for the same will be through a single window system. FFO, the web portal of the Film Facilitation Office was also launched by Karan Johar and Rathore. This was followed by Johar having a chat with Rathore and chief guest Akshay Kumar in ‘Koffee with Karan’ style, with K JO quipping that this time he was the hamper to be won.
During the quick chat, Akshay spoke about how much he enjoyed doing his recent film Gold and about doing social relevant films. “I am not doing these films just for the sake of it, the films have meaning for me,” he said, adding that post the release of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, he has learnt that many women are not choosing not to be with and marry a man if the home does not have a lavatory.
Rathore meanwhile told Karan that he enjoyed both his portfolios – Information and Broadcasting as well as Sports and Youth Affairs – equally. “While in Information and Broadcasting I get to meet interesting and creative people, in sports there is a whole lot of energy and I get to interact with young people,” he said. When Karan put forth the question of which actor would be best suited to play Rathore’s role if a biopic was made on his life, he was quick to reply that while he didn’t know who would play him, but he was sure that he would like Karan to direct it. Karan promptly replied that he would name the film Khiladi. Akshay on the other hand revealed that he would like Ranveer Singh to essay him if a biopic was made on him. The chat show ended with Karan and Akshay making plans to do a film together, something which they have not yet done.
This year, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to veteran Israeli filmmaker Dan Wolman, who stated that this was the highest award that he had ever received. “It is sweeter and more meaningful because this award is given in India, a country which I have become very much a part of. A country where its people, culture, and vibrant cinema, I admire,” he said.
He also expressed happiness about Israel being the ‘country focus’ at this year’s edition. “I am glad to see that the films that the festival has curated are diverse and reflect the many voices of the country, some mainstream, some fringe, some voices are suffering, demanding, loyal,” he said. The filmmaker also added that he hoped that the countries – Israel and India will collaborate more. “There is chemistry between people. Similarly there is chemistry between the two countries and I hope that this friendship will manifest into collaborations in the field of cinema,” he said.
Indian actor Sonu Sood brought the event to a close as he shook a leg to a few popular Bollywood hits.