Hang out on the steps of the Kairali theatre complex and watch the IFFK action unfold

If the Gregory Peck-Audrey Hepburn starrer Roman Holiday made an icon out of Rome’s Spanish steps, the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) has more or less done the same for the steps at the Kairali-Sree-Nila theatre complex. These steps leading up from the main car porch of the complex, is the where all the action unfolds at the fete. Never mind the fact that they tend to be over-crowded, pretty uncomfortable to sit and it’s often too hot for words there. It is on the steps, in full view of the entire gamut of the local media, that people come to see and be seen, where IFFK really happens for delegates, officials, film industry insiders and the media. In fact, as many IFFK regulars will tell you, no visit to the reel world is complete without watching the real life drama unfold on the steps.

“Sitting on the steps is really like watching a movie; a weird movie within a movie that’s being made all around you,” says techie-turned-film student Geetha K. Vincent, from Thrissur, who we find sitting on the top step, with her cousin Alvin and a bunch of their friends. This is her maiden experience of IFFK.

“The scene’s crazy here. Lots of art types, of all ages, with their jute IFFK kit bags slung over their shoulders, mill about the place talking cinema, with the media right there to capture their every move. It’s been very interesting to just sit back and watch it all,” adds Geetha.

Arjun S. from Cherthala, Alappuzha, who is also attending his maiden fete, says: “Ever since I heard about the fete from my friends, I’ve wanted to sit on the Kairali steps. Now that I am here, I’m simply awestruck. The vibe is fantastic mainly because all these people are serious about cinema. I can’t imagine anything like this happening back home or in any other city in Kerala.” His friend Girish Deth, who works for the Food Corporation of India, on his fourth IFFK, says: “If you want to take part in a discussion on cinema with random people, come sit on the steps. If you want to hear people talk about cinema, come sit here. If you want to raise a protest or show solidarity with one, come sit here. If you want to make yourself heard, come sit here... I myself must have given bytes to about three different television channels on my thoughts on world cinema and my love for Korean movies.” So, he’s one of the fete’s many Kim Ki Duk fans… “Actually I think there are better Korean directors, Park Chan-wook, for example. His Vengence Trilogy is spectacular so is his Joint Security Area.”

As we understand, people/celebrity watching is another main activity on the steps. “We’re a couple of hours early for the afternoon screening at Kairali and we’ve been having a ball hanging out with friends and watching people and celebrities trooping in and out of the complex,” say Shilpa Raj P.J and Lubna Hamsa, second year students of the College of Fine Arts. Bunking class? “There are no classes because all our classmates, juniors and seniors have come for the fete!” say the duo with a laugh.

Then there are others who’ve come to entertain such as musicians Nevin Alex and his buddy Vishnu Mohan of Kochi-based band Pepper.

The duo had the crowd singing along with them to popular English, Malayalam and Tamil numbers, with Nevin strumming the guitar. The steps are also abuzz with gossip that quickly gets passed from one end to the other. “Did you know that Kim Ki Duk has asked for personal security guards for fear that he will be mobbed? Did you hear that Rocket got a standing ovation after the screening?”

The drama continues.

Fashion focus

The steps, it seems, are also the place to catch up on the latest in fashion. Overheard: “Check out Deedi Damodaran’s fabulous lizard pendant. Did you see the black sari that dubbing artiste Bhagyalaskhmi was wearing or the designer bag that television host Soumya Balan was carrying?” Most of the younger delegates, boys and girls, appear to have the casual look down to a T, favouring jeans, worn with elbow length kurtas and teamed with funky accessories. The older delegates, particularly the women, seem to go for ethnic clothes. Leading the way is the fete’s artistic director, Bina Paul, who is always seen in exquisite saris and salwars. “Honestly, I don’t have a style as such; I just throw things together for matching colours and for comfort. In fact, I was looking at a photo of mine that appeared in a paper the other day and I realised that I had worn the same kurta for the fete three years ago,” says Bina, with a laugh.

Warning! If you’re even remotely well-dressed, be prepared to be snapped!

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