Chaos and confusion marked the first day of the twelfth edition of the Bengaluru International Film Festival (Biffes), which opened at Orion Mall on Thursday. For the first-half, attendees were not watching films, but trying to get their delegate passes.
Though fans had to book their passes online on the ticket booking platform BookMyShow.com, they still had to collect physical copies at the venues. The passes were to be issued from February 22 onwards, but that did not happen.
The anger was palpable as over 500 people had reportedly made a trip to Orion Mall on Wednesday to collect the passes, but returned empty-handed.
Muralidhar K., a Biffes regular and a film enthusiast, said, “The organisers should have at least informed us of the situation in advance. I travelled all the way across the city on Wednesday for no reason.”
As a result, there was chaos at the ticket counters on Thursday morning with thousands of people trying to collect their passes. As the crowd became increasingly irate over the mismanagement, organisers were compelled to acknowledge the problem and apologise to film enthusiasts.
Sunil Puranik, chairman of the Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy, told irate delegates that BookMyShow was supposed to open its counter on Wednesday to issue passes. “Unfortunately, they didn't, and that's why there’s such a crowd today.”
Everyone who came to collect passes early had to wait for a long time and missed some of the shows. Delegates taking objection and engaging in a war of words with Mr. Puranik played out all through the day.
Schedule and catalogue not available
To make matters worse, the schedule and catalogue for the festival were not available till late Thursday evening. Pradeep Kumar B.M., Managing Director, Adarsha Film Institute, who had come with a team of around 50 students, said that with neither schedule nor the catalogue readily available, it had become very difficult to decide what films to watch.
Mr. Puranik had a tough time placating him. Later in the day, he held a press conference and apologised for the chaos at the festival. “We have organised the festival in a short time of 48 days following my appointment as the chairperson. We have done our best in the available time. But we acknowledge the inconvenience caused and apologise,” said Mr. Puranik.
He attributed most of the confusion to online booking and issuing of passes by BookMyShow.com. “We tried something new only to ensure we become a plastic-free festival, but it backfired. The portal took an inordinately long time to print passes. They had assured us that they would issue passes a few days before the festival. However, they began doing so only on Thursday morning at the venue, which led to the chaos and confusion. We will seek an explanation from them,” he said.
Need for a permanent festival directorate
Regarding the delay in the availability of catalogue and schedule, Mr. Puranik said the cause of all the confusion at successive festivals is the lack of a permanent festival directorate.
N. Vidyashankar, Artistic Director, Biffes, who was at the press conference, said, “I am not part of the government and work on the organisation of the festival only for a few months. We need at least six months to prepare for the festival. But this year, we got less than two months.”
He reiterated that the quality of the films being screened has not been compromised despite the lack of time. “We have the best collection of international films. But these administration issues can be sorted out only if we start early and a festival directorate is put in place,” he added.
Mr. Puranik added that they have raised this concern with the chief minister. “We hope that we will be able to institute a permanent festival directorate in the next few months,” he added.
National anthem not played
This year, the national anthem was not played before the screening of every film. Sources said that PVR Cinemas, where the festival is being organised, has discontinued the practice.
In the past, BiFFEs had seen multiple incidents of people not standing up during the anthem being assaulted by other delegates.
Film enthusiasts from Kodungallur had moved the apex court, which had said that playing the national anthem before the screening of a movie in cinemas is not mandatory.