He is no actor or director. But Brij Bhushan Chaturvedi nicknamed BBC is a legend in his own right. Having covered the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) for 48 years, the 83-year-old journalist, film critic and columnist from Indore is in Goa to attend the Golden Jubilee edition. He catches up with NT BUZZ
Danuska Da Gama | NT BUZZ
Brij Bhushan Chaturvedi is an avid film lover, and it is this love for cinema, the chance to be among the stars and the opportunity to get work that prompted him to attend the first edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in 1952 when it was held in Mumbai.
Recalling vividly he says: “I went with a film team and it was great as I was travelling by train to Bombay for the first time. Also, I was a young teenager and got a chance to see film personalities.”
He goes on to say that unlike today there was no media frenzy at that festival and people were simply enthusiastic about watching films and catching a glimpse of their artistes. “I watched about 12 films and wrote articles on them,” he says, before adding that now film festivals are more about films than finding artistes or big celebrities.
Having covered 48 editions of IFFI and several other film festivals held in India, he believes that there is hardly any contribution from the film industry to make the festival better. “The celebrities today don’t add as much value to the festival. Hardly any artistes are seen, because today commercial cinema is the main focus. But it is the press who contributes immensely to IFFI and other film festivals, which provide a platform for independent filmmakers and young filmmakers who come to showcase their masterpieces,” he says, before adding that the contribution could be balanced and making the film industry a stakeholder while organising this festival can work well for IFFI in the years to come. He was honoured with the Dada Saheb Phalke Sanman in 2007 for his contribution to cinema as a critic/journalist.
He recalls how the second edition, which was held in New Delhi, was inaugurated by then prime minister, late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. “That time it was all black and white, and films were showcased from about 22 countries. Today that number has surged to about 90 countries and several sections,” he says talking about how the festival has evolved. “There were hardly any movies that time and now there are over 2000 films being represented this clearly shows the magnanimity of this festival and the power of cinema. “
Chaturvedi who has been writing film related articles for the last 68 years is dejected that stalwarts of Indian cinema like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani and Naseeruddin Shah, who are stars created at film festivals, do not come for film festivals unlike before. “I think they don’t come because they are occupied professionally and they don’t see these festivals as worthy like before, and have conveniently abandoned them,” he states. “Even Smita Patel, Om Puri and Amresh Puri gained fame because of film festivals,” he says before saying that their contribution to cinema
cannot be forgotten.
However, BBC is happy to see promising films being screened at IFFI. These have a strong take away and are being made with a lot of effort. “There are films which can win Oscars, but unfortunately, even to get entry at the Oscars a film needs a lot of promotion, which was done by Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kapoor but didn’t manage to win anything as it didn’t have the weight like other internationally made films,” he says.
BBC who has worked as a teacher, lecturer and principal, manages to travel at his own cost for film festivals around the country, being a government accredited media person (PIB and State). He once travelled for the Chicago Film Festival when he was healthier and younger. So far, he has been visiting Goa year after year during the same time for 16 long years.
As a proud writer of over 15,000 articles, he claims that none so far in the country can match his record of covering film festivals, which are mostly in Hindi.
Speaking about the golden edition of IFFI, BBC is quick to say that it is way too dull for the 50th year. “It’ about getting as many films screened now. Also, this online ticketing is a big problem and it is sad that the cinemas are going vacant, but thank God they have re-started the rush line,” he says.
Despite a limp in his left leg and moving about with the help of a walking stick, BBC says that as long as he can, he will travel for IFFI as he likes to explore – watch and read about films, listen to what directors have to say about their films, etc.
His favourite actors list includes the names of Amitabh Bachchan, Madhubala, Kishore Kumar, Meenakumari and Om Puri. However, he believes that he sees tremendous power and potential in Sushant Singh Rajput as an actor. Among directors, his favourite remains Priyadarshan.