Is IFFI becoming naughty at 40?

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
11 December 2009 17:00 IST

At 40, you are still young, enthusiastic but also matured. Normally married and settled with a house for the family, either rented or your own. But it's an age where you work hard to prosper, with a definite ambition. You are neither kiddish nor overenthusiastic. Working towards achieving the goal, no matter how big or small it is.

IFFI however does not seem to be 40, but a naughty boy at 25.-30. It's married. The DFF (Directorate of Film Festival) is married to ESG (Entertainment Society of Goa). It's settled with a permanent house, called Goa. But the definite goal appears to be still undecided.

Perhaps this is the reason union minister for information and broadcasting Ambika Soni has now constituted an experts' committee, to review and plan out a well-defined definite roadmap to prosper. Besides our own Toronto-winner Laxmikant Shetgaonkar, it has quite a few film legends like Govind Nihlani, Kamal Hassan, Shabana Azmi, Kishwar Desai and Nandita Das. If this committee works, next year's 41st IFFI would perhaps be seen with a new vigour, hopefully.

I remember interviewing veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal in 2005, at IFFI. That was the year when Goa was finally announced the permanent IFFI venue. I still remember Benegal's comment: "Good, IFFI now has a permanent venue. But what about a permanent director? Without that, IFFI can't come to life."

You talk to any filmmaker and they share the same concern. IFFI was pulled out from Delhi, hoping that it would be out of the clutches of babus. It was. But, sadly, it is now encircled by politicians, who love Bollywood films and the tamasha around it. The Delhi babus still dominate the most prestigious event of the country. The filmmakers are simply missing.

Laxmikant Shetgaonkar seems to be very clear about it. "We require an autonomous body of film professionals to run the IFFI. The DFF should work as the facilitator, and the ESG looking after its logistics in Goa. The professionals would take decisions and the DFF-ESG would merely implement them." 

Perhaps this is the only way IFFI's Bollywoodisation can stop, of course, if the autonomous body is once again not filled with the stars of commercial cinema. IFFI is the festival of reality cinema. And also a good cinema.  But, unfortunately, IFFI is still caught up between the reality cinema and the glamorous cinema, as far as Indian Panorama section is concerned. The South Indian filmmakers have been consistently complaining that they are still being neglected.

This year's inaugural ceremony of the Indian Panorama should be an eye opener in this regard. This was the first time after IFFI came to Goa that the inauguration was held in Inox II. The auditorium matters since Inox I has double the capacity, it has a small stage and enough lights for a function. In addition, this year's inaugural film was ‘Poltodcho Manis', which brought glories by winning the most prestigious critics' Discovery Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. In addition, it was a Konkani film of a Goan filmmaker. The inaugural ceremony however was a real mockery. Only the DFF officials present while the ESG organisers, including their anchor, were conspicuously missing. The director himself had to call down his crew. No flowers, no mementos. DFF Director S M Khan was literally furious at ESG.  But nobody could notice his furious face, thanks to the dim lights...

But the organisers were not satisfied enough with this humiliation. ‘Poltodcho' crew was not even informed about the Red Carpet in the evening. It was rescheduled two days later due to media-shouting. He received a written letter to come with only five of his crew members (remember other filmmakers walking the red carpet with 10-15 members?). By afternoon, the organisers ‘instructed' him that he should come; but alone. Shetgaonkar rightly refused to accept the delayed honour (or further humiliation?)

We initially thought he was a victim of the usual petty politics of the ‘small' Goan filmmakers. But no different treatment received the Oscar-nominated marvellous Marathi film ‘Harishchandrachi Factory'. (Perhaps the Goan organisers maintained the ‘balance' of Goa's controversial Konkani-Marathi issue!) Its director Paresh Mokashy and main actor Nandumadhav (who plays Dadasaheb Falke) were informed about the red carpet, but with no arrangements made to bring them to the venue, unlike all arrangements made and repeated confirmations taken for Bollywood stars like Suneil Shettys and Aftab Shivdasanis. It clearly displayed the ‘attitude' of IFFI organisers towards good Indian cinema vis-a-vis the commercial glamorous cinema. Remember with what fanfare Amol Palekar's Oscar-nominated ‘Paheli' was screened at Indian Panorama in 2005?

On the last day of IFFI, I had an opportunity of having a debate with two young talented award-winner filmmakers - Laxmikant Shetgaonkar and Supriyo Sen, whose documentary ‘Wagah' (border) won altogether 24 awards, including the prestigious award at Berlin International Film Festival. Ironically, Shetgaonkar's film ‘Poltodcho Manis' is moving at all the international film festivals all over the world, but was not even included in the world competition at IFFI. Supriyo's ‘Wagah' will not even be screened at the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) for Documentaries, Short and Animation Films. Incidentally, both the film fests are organised by the I & B Ministry!

Both of them were however not pained at this, but poor selection of world cinema at IFFI. Both of them have been moving world over at the international film fests. According to both of them, the selection procedure itself is faulty. That's the reason IFFI gets bad world cinema. Obviously, many films showed ‘houseful' on the paper but were seen half-empty and half-sleeping within half an hour. Both these youngsters were telling me again and again that only a body of professionals, who will personally visit other festivals worldwide and watch the films, could bring good world cinema. Shetgaonkar has even taken a step ahead, circulating a form among his cine friends, filmmakers and critics, inviting suggestions to bring IFFI to the world standard. He plans to compile it and present it at the experts'committee.

Another disappointing fact at this year's IFFI was over 1500 registered delegates not lifting their passes. They simply didn't turn up once the schedules were announced. Unlike past two-three years, the student community was also missing. The reason was simple and obvious. These students were mostly seen at Inox IV one year, attending Masters' Classes and Technical Sessions. The halls were going overfull. Why would they come if no such classes are organised at IFFI? Forget classes, this year's IFFI did not even bother to have post-screening discussions with the filmmakers. "In fact, the organisers need to convert the Inox courtyard into a free-for-all venue for informal discussions", suggests Shetgaonkar. In contrast, what do we do? Half of the courtyard was converted into a car showroom while the rest of the half was playing loud music every evening, warning you - beware, dare you discuss!

Well, I am neither a filmmaker nor a film critic to write more in-depth about IFFI. Secondly, my association with IFFI is only five-year old. But the interaction I had with many veterans and young filmmakers, as a journalist, could make me realise only one thing - IFFI needs to be revamped drastically if it needs to be made the premier international film festival of India, Asia and the World. Being naughty will not serve any purpose. Getting matured and focussed is the only solution.

Blogger's Profile

Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of goanews.com, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of HCN and Prudent, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities.

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