The 54th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) commenced with a grand opening ceremony at the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium in Panaji, Goa, on Monday evening.
Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting (I&B), Youth Affairs and Sports Anurag Singh Thakur inaugurated the nine-day festival along with Goa Chief Minister Dr. Pramod Sawant, Minister of State (MoS) for I&B Dr. L. Murugan, MoS for Tourism Shripad Naik, actor and MP Sunny Deol, and other dignitaries.
Several prominent Indian and international film personalities also graced the event.
Mr. Thakur said that in a world “increasingly distressed with division”, cinema can be a driving force for “peace, progress and prosperity”. He said that akin to India’s Presidency of the G-20 Summit earlier this year, the main concept and theme of IFFI is rooted in the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The World Is One Family).
“The 54th IFFI is set to be a melting pot of varied voices, vibrant cultures, diversities, and sheer cinematic excellence,” Mr. Thakur said, adding that the festival received an unprecedented 2,926 entries from 105 countries this year, a three-fold increase in its international submissions from the previous edition.
In his inaugural address, Mr. Thakur announced an increased incentive for foreign film productions in India. The country will now offer a reimbursement of up to 40% of the expenses incurred with a raised limit of ₹30 crore (nearly ₹3.6 million). Previously, the cap for incentives per production was ₹2.5 crore. The Union Minister also announced an additional 5% bonus for Significant Indian Content (SIC).
The incentive scheme for foreign productions was announced by India last year at the Cannes Film Festival.
“The paradigm shift in incentivising film production serves as a testament to India’s commitment and support for artistic expression and reinforces our position as a preferred destination for cinematic endeavors,” Mr. Thakur said.
The gala opening, which witnessed a packed turnout at the 4,000-seater venue, was hosted by Bollywood actors Karishma Tanna and Aparshakti Khurana. Indian screen icon Madhuri Dixit Nene was felicitated with the first-ever ‘Special Recognition for Contribution to Bharatiya Cinema’ award at the festival. Mrs. Nene also performed to some of her all-time hits at the event, to joyous applause.
The entertainment quotient of the evening was further boosted by high-energy performances by actors Nushrratt Bharuccha, Shahid Kapoor, and Shriya Saran as well as singers Sukhwinder Singh and Shreya Ghoshal.
Additionally, Vijay Sethupathi, Karan Johar, Sara Ali Khan, Pankaj Tripathi, Shantanu Moitra, Jissu Sengupta, and others marked their presence at the opening ceremony and were felicitated by Mr. Sawant and Mr. Thakur.
Vijay Sethupathi introduced his upcoming film, Gandhi Talks, at the IFFI stage. The dialogue-less drama co-starring Arvind Swami and Aditi Rao Hydari and featuring music by AR Rahman will be premiered at the festival on Tuesday.
“Gandhi Talks is a silent film and I am excited to watch it with the audience at IFFI,” Mr. Sethupathi said. “For this film, I wanted to make sure the audience doesn’t lose interest and start wanting the characters to speak. It was too much pressure. Most of the time, we can manage a film with dialogues and the delivery but silence is very difficult.”
The festival, now in its seventh decade, showcases a diverse array of films from India and across the globe. In its 54th edition, IFFI is screening over 270 films from 105 countries. The festival is being across four venues from November 20 to 28.
Legendary Hollywood actor-producer and two-time Oscar winner Michael Douglas will be honoured with the IFFI Lifetime Achievement Award at the closing ceremony of IFFI on November 28. Mr. Douglas, known for landmark American films such as Fatal Attraction (1987), Wall Street (1988), and Basic Instinct (1992), will also conduct a masterclass at IFFI on the same day.
This year, a total of 15 feature films, including three Indian titles, are competing for the festival’s top prize, the Golden Peacock Award. Veteran filmmaker Shekhar Kapur is the chairperson of the International Jury that also includes Spanish cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine and international producers Jerome Paillard, Catherine Dussart and Helen Leake.
IFFI has also introduced the Best Web Series (OTT) award in its latest edition to acknowledge and encourage India’s thriving streaming sector. Panchayat Season 2, Human, Nirmal Pathak Ki Ghar Wapsi and Rocket Boys Season 2 are the four shows competing in this category. Popular Indian filmmaker Rajkumari Hirani is the head of jury for the OTT Award.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Thakur also inaugurated the 17th edition of NFDC Film Bazaar, the film market component of IFFI.