So much to reminisce about IFFI

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With the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), usually held in November, pushed to January 2021,
NT NETWORK gets nostalgic about the festival through the years

Danuska Da Gama | NT NETWORK

Sixteen years ago, in 2004, the buzz word in Goa was ‘IFFI’. The International Film Festival of India hosted in Goa for the first time, or better put- brought to Goa by the then chief minister of Goa late Manohar Parrikar was something big and beyond imagined.

It was an event that caught the fancy of Goans, and Panaji was lit up and how. It attracted people from various parts of Goa to the capital, who enjoyed the peripheral activities and events outside the venue.

From being part of the Kala Academy Choir that had a performance for the first edition in Goa at the Open Air Auditorium in Kala Academy to having covered over 10 editions of the film extravaganza in Goa for both television and now the newspaper, it still remains my most favourite time of the year for news coverage.

As a young journalist without much experience back then, it was all about running around trying to get as many celebrities in a day on camera, competing with my other companions. Initially, at least for the first four years that I covered the festival, I had not watched a single movie at the fest.

But then it was a film buff I spoke to who urged me to also watch movies in between the work that I do, to get a better understanding of films. The IFFI days were crazy. From running to official hotels, press briefings, open forums, standing in queue to enter the hall for a movie, to filing stories and sitting exhausted on the floor at the end of the day, the gusto kept us busy, happy,
and motivated.

During my initial years, I had the privilege of meeting some film stalwarts, many who I had read about. Take for instance Dev Anand, he being from another era, I didn’t know much about him so I hurriedly asked a few oldies about him and rushed to speak to him. Needless to say, just like millions have over the decades, I was bowled over
by his persona.

This festival might have its shades of grey, but on many counts it has done a lot of good too. More of an event, it’s brought about development in the city. Truly, the festival’s motto has somewhat attained the pinnacle of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ where the whole world is a family.

Every year until early November it seems like nothing much is happening with regards to setting the stage for the festival, but we in Goa are so good at last minute prostrations, that by 20th afternoon, the stage is set, the decor is in place, and delegates move about the city.

The festival has seen the who’s who from Indian cinema – from the glamour of Bollywood celebrities like Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar to the new generation of Rajkummar Rao, Radhika Apte, Bhumi Pednekar, Siddharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt, and national icons like Rajnikanth, A R Rahman, Ilayaraja Kamal Hassan, and many more.

For Goa and Goans, the festival has given us a great insight into the film world that’s eventually resulted in the nurturing of artists and skilled persons within the state, and those who’ve moved beyond Goan shores.

Who says there’s less film culture in Goa? With IFFI having seen a surge in Goan delegates registering, the subsequent festivals hosted by Entertainment Society of Goa are all hosted to bring the buffs together.

All for the benefit of people, the festival that had alot of money at stake in prizes has several sessions like masterclass, open forum, technical sessions and interaction post screening, that can give you a heavy filmy chakkar by the end of the festival.

It’s that time of the year, now in 2020 when I look back and feel that November 2020 is so not normal because for us journalists it was a heady rush at work, because I guess when we love the work we do there’s never a dull moment.

And though things and events are coming back to normalcy, this time of the year, I would never be home for dinner and have a delayed breakfast.

Meeting unknown people, capturing controversies, chilling with a beer or taking a rickshaw ride from one venue to another, the IFFI vibe was real.

And no matter the hiccups and glitches that happen on those days, these are only part of the festival that’s supposed to get bigger and better with a permanent venue, that will see the light of day, kabhi na kabhi.

And so when some around believe or breathe with a deep sigh and say: “Thank goodness there’s no IFFI happening,” it hurts, for all said and done, even though there are rats in the bag like in every festival organised by the government, it still brought people together, gave us pictures that connected, touched, made us cringe, cry, and feel empowered.

Toh ab jab IFFI has moved to January (fingers crossed that all will go well), I will be waiting in eager anticipation because it’s been a long time since I’ve watched movies in the cinema hall and am dying to be on field with team NT BUZZ to bring out IFFI coverage of films, stars, and the works.

That Time of Year

Sachin Chatte

The annual ritual of celebrating the magic in cinema in Goa has come to a halt in 2020, with the International Film Festival of India not being held in this eventful year. For the last consecutive 16 years, ever since the festival moved permanently to Goa, November was the best month for film lovers and not just for the weather. During IFFI, which was initially for 10 days but was then curtailed to eight, cinema took precedence over everything – including getting a healthy dose of sleep.

If Bond has no time to die, at IFFI, there is no time to breathe, figuratively speaking that is. With shows starting as early as 8:30 a.m. and during the odd year, there were even midnight screenings held – I fondly remember watching Jafar Panahi’s Golden Bear winner, ‘Taxi’ (2015) at midnight, having already seen it once earlier in the day. Panahi has been banned by the Iranian government from making films but yet he continues to make them, surreptitiously and ‘Taxi’ is a film that is shot entirely in a, well, taxi – every single shot is from within the taxi, and not once does the camera leave the taxi. What can be so great about a film like this? Well, if cinema is looked beyond just a form of entertainment it can be a richly rewarding experience.

There was also a midnight screening of Gasper Noe’s ‘Love’ (2015) that same year. Never ever have we seen such a serpentine queue at IFFI, but rather than the artistic quality of it, it was the fact that the film had more flesh on display than you’ll see at a meat processing plant – and all that was in 3D.

The power of cinema was also amply reflected when Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Palm d’Or winner ‘Winters Sleep’ (2014) was screened. Sensible and convenient scheduling has never been one of the strong points at IFFI – mostly, it is convenient to the organisers rather than the delegates. The Turkish film, which runs well over three hours, had a show scheduled around 10:30 p.m. which is not exactly prime time, and it finished around 2 a.m. in the morning. Half the audience had left before the film could end and the half of those left behind had to be woken up from deep slumber after it ended. But for those who were wide awake, it was a richly rewarding experience with a film that was largely based on conversations – even the midnight hour couldn’t send some for a rendezvous with Morpheus.

There is more to IFFI than just watching films – unwinding at the end of the day (when you are not watching another late-night show) and dissecting films with friends.

As a lover of cinema, you also get to see some of the famous personalities from the world of international cinema, in the premises of the old GMC building which hosts the festival. Wong Kar Wai, Catherine Deneuve, Ben Kingsley, John Landis, Andrey Zvyagintsev, Jane Campion, Lav Diaz, Kim Ki Duk, Isabelle Huppert, Lav Diaz – some highly respected names have graced IFFI and one even got a chance to interview many of them. I remember asking the Korean auteur, what inspired him to make films – he said something that stayed in my head: “The images in my dreams and the 9 O’clock news on television.” But I wonder what Kim Ki Duk would say of the 9 O’clock “news” on television in India today.

Although IFFI is one of the oldest festivals in the world and certainly the oldest in Asia, it hasn’t really made a mark among the crème de la crème of film festivals in the world. Several journalists from India go to cover festivals outside the country but hardly any foreign journalist comes to attend IFFI. Also, IFFI is facing stiff competition from homegrown festivals like Mumbai, Kerala, and Kolkata and it is not far ahead in the race, in spite of having gargantuan budgets, almost four to five times than the other festivals, and all of it is borne by the taxpayer.

But be that as it may, there is no time like IFFI time in Goa.

IFFI, tomorrow is another day…

RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR | NT NETWORK

If the Corona pandemic had come under control by now, film buffs would be in theatres watching films being screened at the 51st edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI). Nonetheless, ifs and buts have no relevance in the world of reality, and the world of reality is very far from the make-believe world of films projected on the silver screen.

It is however not the first time that a particular year has missed the IFFI. History informs that the opening edition of this film festival was organised by the Films Division, Government of India with the patronage of the first Prime Minister of India, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, and was held in the then Bombay state, from January 24 to February 1, 1952. It then took almost a decade for the organisers to hold the second edition of the IFFI, which was organised from October 27 to November 2, 1961, in New Delhi. The third and the fourth editions of this mega film event also took place in the national capital in 1965 and 1969, respectively. The next edition of the IFFI was held in 1974 in New Delhi and then until 1989, it was organised every other year, alternating with the Filmotsav, in film producing cities, on circulation basis. Since 1990, Filmotsav was discontinued and the IFFI was regularly held as a film event, with the exception of 2001, when this film festival supposed to be held in Bengaluru was cancelled following inability of the Karnataka government to co-host the event owing to the then prevailing drought conditions in parts of that state. In 2004, the 35th edition of the IFFI was held in Goa, and from then onwards the coastal state has been hosting it regularly for last 16 consecutive years.

A lot of water has flown down the Mandovi bridges since the inaugural International Film Festival of India was held on the banks of Mandovi River in the winter of 2004, with a lot of fanfare. The countless ancillary activities including cultural as well as entertainment extravaganzas, which were held by the state government on the sidelines of the inaugural IFFI in Goa took the film festival on a different path altogether, shifting aside the focus of this event on films. After some years, this biggest film festival in the Asian subcontinent lost its sheen as well as failed to retain favour from the global film communities. During recent years, the deserted film festival venues bereft of film personalities by the time the event reached its halfway mark, has been testimony to this sad state of affairs.

The ‘film culture’ which the IFFI was supposed to usher in Goa either failed to arrive or arrived in an unintended fashion. It was clear right from the beginning that the state government placed films somewhere down below on its priority list, with neither a film city not the IFFI convention centre taking shape in Goa since the arrival of the film festival here. In fact, the much-touted film finance scheme of the state government is still languishing in the bureaucratic files. If during all these years, a film like ‘Nachom-ia Kumpasar’ (2014) has managed to reap box-office rewards, or local productions such as ‘Paltadacho Munis’ (2009) and ‘Juze’ (2017) presented high quality content, then the government had none whatsoever role in
these achievements.

Over the years, the expenditure by the state government on the organisation of the International Film Festival in India increased manifold, and it is generally perceived that not all money released was utilised for what it was intended. In fact, the strictures passed by the Controller and Auditor General of India in its reports, on a number of occasions support these perceptions.

Today, the IFFI in Goa definitely stands at the crossroads. Manohar Parrikar, the architect as well as the custodian of this film festival is no more. As things stand now, one can easily observe that there is no love lost between the state government and the IFFI, especially as the administration is cash-strapped and facing financial crunch. The mega film event has in fact, just become an annual formality for the state as well as the central government.

The 51st edition of IFFI is now scheduled to be inaugurated in mid-January, that is, if things fall into place. But then, “After all, tomorrow is another day” as Scarlett O’Hara played by Vivien Leigh said just before the epic movie, ‘Gone with the Wind’ came to a close.