To mark 100 years of Indian cinema, the Centenary Film Festival is being organised in the Capital

On May 3, it is going to be exactly 100 years since the release of Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra. To commemorate the centenary, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is organising a six-day film festival in the Capital starting this Thursday.

The Siri Fort Auditorium Complex is the venue for the screenings, which include a selection of classic and contemporary Indian films by directors such as Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt, Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Girish Kasaravalli, Nandita Das and Jahnu Barua among others. “This is the centenary film festival and therefore we thought it should have the flavour of the best of the best,” says Raghavendra Singh, Joint Secretary (Films), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Apart from the screenings, many of which will be attended by the film directors, the festival also comprises several events which elaborate on the theme of antiquity. The festival opens with an exhibition — “Indian Cinema 100 (Celebrating a Century: An Audio Visual Voyage)” — to be inaugurated by Manish Tewari, Minister for Information and Broadcasting.

It will be followed by the screening of Throw of the Dice, a 1929 silent film. In keeping with the silent era convention, the screening will be accompanied by a live musical performance by an orchestra led by sitar player Nishat Khan.

The musician, who is also a film lover, says, “I watched this film a long time ago and I loved it… I had done something like this in Los Angeles a few years back and I always wanted to do this programme in India…”

It’s a “stylish interpretation” of 100 years of music in Indian cinema, incorporating genres like classical, folk and electronica, says Khan, who has earlier composed music for the 2009 film Yeh Saali Zindagi. “When you give music for a movie you are always playing to the scene and to the emotion of the film…But I wanted to do this as not just a background score but also a performance.”

Tributes will also be paid to Satyajit Ray, arguably the best-known exponent of “Indian cinema” globally, with a retrospective of his films, a screening of a documentary on him by Shyam Benegal, the launch of Deep Focus — Reflections on Cinema featuring a selection of his writings, and an exhibition of his art — ad-artworks, book jacket designs, set and costume designs and sketches from film scripts.

In addition to the celebrations, there is also space for critical reflection. A three-day workshop titled “Cut-Uncut”, organised by the CBFC, will look at the pressure points of Indian cinema. This will be done through individual presentations on the use of violence and cuss words, on sex, nudity and the kiss, and on sensitivity around questions of identity, to be followed by panel discussions on the same. These will also be accompanied by screenings for illustrative purposes.

“It was decided that we should have a conference-cum-festival on the issue of certification and censorship. It is a part of a larger orientation that the CBFC has recently been undergoing which is to really rethink the question of censorship — the move from censorship to certification and from certification to classification,” says Ira Bhaskar, board member, CBFC, and professor of cinema studies, JNU.

The festival ends where it all began — Dadasaheb Phalke. He will be the subject of a play, The Forgotten Film, directed by Aamir Raza Hussain and Virat Hussain. The Centenary Film Festival will culminate in the National Award ceremony on May 3, where the Dada Saheb Phalke Award will be conferred on Pran.