By Radhika Bhirani
Panaji, Nov 21 (IANS) A slight pitter-patter of raindrops here on Tuesday evening made way for a vibrant red carpet roll-out for the 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) opening ceremony, which saw a melange of action, romance and music, to bring alive different flavours of cinema, but it failed to touch upon the #MeToo storm.
Government dignitaries, Bollywood celebrities like Akshay Kumar, Karan Johar, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Prasoon Joshi, apart from international guests and delegates and an audience full of movie buffs came together at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium for the gala.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said IFFI was a platform for the younger generation to showcase their talent and for international filmmakers to see India and explore its talent pool.
The festival, he said, delves on the past, present and future, as they are screening not just an evergreen Hindi drama like “Sholay” but also discussing the burgeoning world of OTT platforms and its scope.
Karan, who hosted a tete-a-tete with Rathore and Akshay “Koffee With Karan” style — sans the ‘coffee’ — also spoke about the “digital revolution” in India.
“There’s a lot of content on digital space. Now what we have to do is to empower our writers,” he said, citing how “other stars” should emulate Akshay in doing “socially relevant films”.
Other guests from the Indian film world included Rahul Rawail, Mrinal Kulkarni, Hrishitaa Bhatt, Shaji N. Karun, Prasoon Joshi, Randhir Kapoor, Arijit Singh, Poonam Dhillon and Ramesh Sippy among others.
Filmmaker Subhash Ghai, whoA has been accused of drugging and sexually violating a woman — a claim he has flatly denied — took a prominent seat at the ceremony even as other film festivals this year took a strong stand against sexual perpetrators in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
IFFI has a string of panel discussions this year, but #MeToo seems nowhere in the picture. It was not even spoken about in the opener even as a book titled “Women in Indian Cinema” was unveiled by Governor of Goa Mridula Sinha, Rathore and Sadhna Raut.
Instead, there was a segment on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision behind planning the ‘Statue of Unity’ in Gujarat.
From the foreign world, Polish writer-director Robert Glnski, “The Aspern Papers” director Julian Landais — who showcased the trailer of his opening film — and actors Chin Han, Barbara Meier, Nicholas Hau, Lois Robbins and Tom Fitzpatrick were present at the opening ceremony.
Glinski, head of the international jury at the 49th IFFI, won the audience’s heart with his ‘namaste’, and said Goa is where he had come years ago to find his “hippie roots and had a great time”.
With Israel as its focus country this year, IFFI felicitated veteran Israeli filmmaker Dan Wolman with a Lifetime Achievement honour.
“This is the highest award I have ever received. For me, it is sweeter and meaningful because this award is given in India, a country which I have become very much a part of — a country whose people, culture and vibrant and phenomenal cinema I admire.
“There is chemistry between nations, and I believe there’s chemistry between Israel and India. I hope this friendship will manifest in collaborating, in co-productions in the field of cinema,” Wolman said.
He added that a well-curated package of Israeli films for IFFI reflect mini voices of his nation.
Meanwhile, reflecting various genres of cinema, the ceremony had a dance-based performance which moved from classical style to more popular numbers. A touch of romance was added by playback singer Shilpa Rao, who effortlessly sang melodious tracks in different languages.
The action was brought on stage first by a group of aerial act artistes, and then by Bollywood actor Sonu Sood, who paid a unique tribute to the industry’s action heroes by dancing on songs and performing iconic dialogues of actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra.
Anchored by Mandira Bedi and Amit Sadh, the show also saw the launch of the web portal of Film Facilitation Office, which will ease out film shootings for Indian as well as international filmmakers in the country.
Over its nine-day duration, IFFI 2018 will showcase 212 films from 68 countries, which consist of 2 World Premieres, 16 Academy Award nominated films, 6 Indian rare language films, 3 Indian films competing with 15 international films for the Golden and Silver Peacock awards and more.
(Radhika Bhirani is in Goa on an invitation by IFFI organisers. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)