A movie extravaganza encompassing world and Indian cinema was unleashed here this week as the much awaited ninth edition of Pune International film festival (PIFF), which is to showcase over 200 films including those based on Rabindranath Tagore’s themes, got underway to the delight cinema lovers of all hues.

Jointly sponsored by Maharashtra government with Pune Film Foundation, PIFF was kickstarted with lifetime awards for the Hindi film heroines of yesteryears -- Saira Banu hypnotised the audience with her debut in ‘Junglee’ decades ago and Shashikala who portrayed the vamp on the silver screen -- and felicitation of eminent musician Khayyam who was conferred the Sachin Dev Burman international award for creative music.

Renowned film maker Subhash Ghai too was honoured with a “special award” for his contribution to Bollywood.

“The highlights of this year’s PIFF are celebration of ’50 years of the landmark film Mughal-e-Azam’ and movies based on literature of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore to commemorate his 150th birth anniversary. Tagore’s cinematic legacy continues to grow and acquire unique resonances in the 21st century,” said noted film personality Dr Jabbar Patel, Director of PIFF, in an interaction to focus the nuances of the weeklong fixture from January 6-13 in the presence of international jury.

He said, “About 70 award winning films from more than 40 countries will be screened under global cinema cateogry and the country specific focus this year will be on Japan.”

Among the films based on Tagore’s literature to be screened at the festival for which 8,000 delegates are expected, are ‘Kabuliwallah’, immortalised by the acting of Balraj Sahani,’Teen Kanya’ and ‘Chokher Bali’.

“We will be screening eleven films under the section Indian cinema in various languages including Bengali, Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil in addition to the same number of movie ‘gems’ from National Film Archives of India (NFAI) ”, Patel added.

There will also be retrospectives of Michael Cacoyannis, renowned Greek director, Rock Demers, producer from Canada and Indian celebrity actor Kamal Hassan.

PIFF will also offer a platform for film and media students with the ‘Whistling Woods’ international Students’ Film awards for which films made by students will be screened before the jury on January 8—9.

The awards category at PIFF will include Best film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, best Indian animation film and best international animation film.

Maharashtra government has announced cash awards to the tune of Rs 20 lakhs for the festival which is the brain child of Congress MP from the city Suresh Kalmadi.

Ironically, Kalmadi who is known to steal the limelight at every PIFF inaugural function along with a galaxy of Bollywood stars, was conspicuous by his absence this time.

“Kalmadi could not make it because of his busy schedule in the capital,” announced the organisers which evoked an embarrassing round of applause from a section of the audience.