The International Film Festival of India (IFFI) got off to a glittering start here Thursday evening amid fanfare surrounding two of Indian cinema’s biggest superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Rajinikanth.
The 45th edition of the festival, being held for the first time at the newly-built Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium instead of the usual venue here, was opened by Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley.
Bachchan, 72, the chief guest of the event, gave an extensive speech on the evolution of Indian cinema, saying it always played an important role in national integration.
“If popular perception is any indicator, then the major part of social transformation in India can be attributed to cinema’s potentially reformist character,” he said.
The actor termed it a great honour to be a part of IFFI as its chief guest and congratulated the government for making Goa the permanent venue of the festival.
“If the world is a village, we are the custodians of its stories,” Bachchan said, adding, “if we don’t know the stories of our forefathers, we cannot write the story of today.”
Rajinikanth, 63, was conferred with the special centenary award for Indian film personality.
An audio-visual presentation of the Tamil superstar’s more than three decades work was shown at the ceremony.
Amitji’s excellent speech: Rajinikanth
An emotional Rajinikanth touched Bachchan’s feet, addressing him as ‘big brother’.
“I actually came to receive this award but not to make a speech and that too after Amitji’s excellent speech. I have no words to speak,” he said.
“I am honoured to receive this award from the government of India and my heartful thanks to the nation. I dedicate this award to all my film producers, directors and fans,” he said.
In his speech, Jaitley said, “Occasionally, it is said that cricket is a religion in India, that’s true, but cinema has always been the alternative religion in India.
“It entertains us, it educates us, it gives us various social perspectives. Young growing minds learn from it more than from formal methods of education. Cinema industry in India has matured.”
Pointing out that the country produces more than 1,000 films annually, Jaitley said that last decade has seen corporatisation of films, which is going make it more professional.
“Information and Broadcasting Ministry is playing its own small role in it,” he added.
“Goa is one of the fastest growing states in India. It is internationally known as the hub of hospitality,” he said, adding if its natural beauty and the pleasure of attending the festival are combined with the state’s hospitality, there probably cannot be a better combination.
“And I am sure if this infrastructure is created within 10 months as the festival is held year after year, the infrastructure for the film festival would certainly reach new heights,” the minister said.
Anupam Kher, Raveena play hosts
The opening ceremony gala, hosted by veteran actor Anupam Kher and actress Raveena Tandon, commenced with half-an-hour-long dance tribute to Indian cinema’s greatest dancing legends Vyjayanthimala, Waheeda Rehman and Kamal Haasan by the troupe of national award winning dancer Shobhana Pillai.
Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said his government has accepted the challenge to develop required infrastructure for the festival.
“We accept the challenge and the infrastructure required for hosting the film festival would be ready by IFFI 2015,” he said.
The other guests who made it to the event were Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, Swedish director Jan Troell and filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi from Poland.
Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s ‘The President’, which has been inspired by his travels to Darul Aman Palace in Kabul, was screened this evening as the opening film.
With China being the focus country, nine films from that country will be screened at the festival along with other 170 movies across the world. Apart from China, 74 other countries are participating in the festival this time.
Wong Kar-wai’s latest film much-acclaimed ‘The Grandmaster’ will bring the curtains down to the 11-day-long film festival. Kar-wai is being honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award at the festival.
Seven Malayalam films will be exhibited in the fest – ‘North 24 Kaatham’, ‘1983’, ‘Drishyam’, ‘Njan’, ‘Munnariyippu’, ‘Njan Steve Lopez’ and ‘Swapaanam’.
The festival will also pay homage to departed talents Robin Williams, Richard Attenborough, Zohra Sehgal, Suchitra Sen and Farooq Shaikh by screening some of their films.