Delegates from Haryana at the IFFK are taking home a mixed bag of memories from the city

"It is unbelievable…crazy,” say a bunch of students who still can’t get over their experience of watching people pushing and jostling to watch movies being screened for the 18th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK).

“I don’t know how people manage to see a full film, standing or seated on the floor. Itni zyaada bheed… bahut mushkil hain film dekhna… (such a heavy rush that it is very difficult to watch a film)…,” Surender’s opinion was seconded by a group of youngsters sitting around him, all of whom had come down from Haryana to be a part of the IFFK. These delegates are first and second year students of the State Institute of Film and Television (SIF&TV) at Rohtak in Haryana.

When we meet them at Vyapara Bhavan on Manjalikulam Road, they are getting ready for a city tour. Sixty-six students from the government-run institute have come down with five members of the faculty – Ujjwal Utkarsh, Debasis Roy, Indranil Ghosh, Dushyant and Ajay.

“Last year we took the students to the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa. But I prefer IFFK because while at IFFI you get classic works, here you see contemporary movies,” says Ujjwal, who teaches direction at SIF&TV, launched in 2011 by the Haryana government.

Food and language have been the most difficult part for the bunch. “Before we came here, I was looking forward to having tender coconut water, but had to hunt a lot to get one. Otherwise the city is so much like Rohtak,” says Abhimanyu, who is learning acting.

There are just six girls in the group. “You know, it is very difficult for girls to come out and study what they want,” says Anjali Dangi, who is learning cinematography. Kavita Nawal, a student of direction, is candid when she says: “I am married and my in-laws are not that very happy with what I am doing. Thankfully, my husband, a teacher, is supportive. Though I wanted to take up acting, I dropped the plan, because that would have caused quite an uproar,” she says.

The cross section of films being screened at IFFK has been an enriching outing for these students who hail from different parts of Haryana which doesn’t have a film industry to speak of. “SIF & TV opened our eyes to world cinema. Otherwise, Hindi and Punjabi films are very popular in Haryana,” says Arvind Sainik, a member of the group.

And what has really been overwhelming for the students is the local participation at the fete. “If you go to any other film festival, you come across only a particular stream of audience. But here people from different walks of life enjoy cinema. Amazing!” say a few in the group. And for Debasis Roy, who teaches sound recording and designing, the ambience and excitement at the theatres remind him of Kolkata, his home town. “Many things could have been organised better than what it was, but that is part of an event which is held on such a large scale,” he adds.

Shuttling between theatres, last-minute changes in the screening schedule, long queues, humid weather, people with no delegate passes coming inside the theatres, unruly scenes… IFFK has its share of problems, they all say. But then, the (dis)comfort in wearing lungis, serpentine queues in front of beverages shops, temple architecture, the way chai (tea) is stirred in local tea shops… they have a lot of interesting frames to take back home.

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