IFFI Panaji: where lines between art and commerce blur

Sudhish Kamath

PANAJI: "What's a festival film," asks filmmaker Rahul Dholakia, when asked if his `Parzania,' set in the backdrop of the Gujarat riots, premiering here at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) on November 26, was a synthesis of art and commerce cinema. "Today, even `Deewane Hue Paagal' is a festival film," he smiles.

That off-hand observation about the Akshay Kumar action-adventure about "many men chasing the same woman," as a festival representative described the film earlier in the press conference, sums up the essence of IFFI this year.

When actor Dev Anand inaugurates the festival on the evening of November 24 on the courtyard outside the INOX multiplex, accompanied by guest of honour Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi, Goa Chief Minister Pratapsinh Rane, former Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Jaipal Reddy, and actresses Bipasha Basu and Tara playing the `thali' girls, the curtains will go up to unveil an intriguing mix of Indian and international cinema, starting with the Brazilian film `Olga' directed by Jayme Monjardim.

As Afzal Amanullah, Director of IFFI and Joint Secretary (Films), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, explains the simple purpose of the festival: "It shows Indian cinema to outsiders. And lets Indians see world cinema."

Film Bazaar

Excited at finding prospective buyers for Indian films from Europe, Latin America, China, Africa and other non-traditional markets, Amanullah believes that the Film Bazaar, to be held during the festival, will get local producers contacts and potential investors in the future.

"Indian films have come of age," he says, optimistic of recent co-production agreements being finalised with the United Kingdom, Canada and China during the festival. "We also have delegates visiting from France, Italy and Germany. China is a big market for us. And, Rajnikant films sell like hot cakes and more than Japanese films in Japan. So there is a big market for Indian films around the world."

"Our filmmakers have been mixing the art and the commercial very well," the festival director justifies the mix of Indian films premiering at the festival: Prakash Jha's `Apharan,' Vishal Bhardwaj's `Blue Umbrella,' Aditya Bhattacharya's `Dubai Return,' Rahul Dholakia's `Parzania' and Mrunalini Patil Dayal's Marathi film `Manthan - Ek Amrut Pyala.'

While Mrunalini's film will be released all over Maharashtra on December 2, Rahul is yet to begin looking for distributors. "There is a need to identify the right kind of distributor for your film. There was a South Indian distributor who was offering a neat sum but he wanted to sensationalise the film by calling it `Godhra Express: When Gujarat Burns,' says the enraged filmmaker. "If I wanted to make money, I would have opened a dance bar. I make a film because I want to say something."

World cinema

Apart from 72 Indian films, including a seven-film retrospective on Hrishikesh Mukherjee to be inaugurated by Rajesh Khanna, tributes to Sunil Dutt and Gemini Ganesan, President's Gold Medal award winners from the past, P.K. Atre's `Shaamchi Aai' (Marathi, 1953) and Sohrab Modi's `Mirza Ghalib' (Hindi, 1954), a Panorama section of 21 features and 16 non-features and 12 mainstream films including `Black,' the festival will screen 116 other films from 32 countries.

Tributes and retrospectives on French actress Isabelle Huppert, filmmaker Ismail Merchant, Italian screenwriter, filmmaker and actress Lena Wertmuller too will be featured.

The competitive section of 14 films from 13 countries will be judged by a jury comprising Chilean filmmaker Miguel Littin, Austrian director Sabine Derflinger, filmmaker Saeed Mirza, Italian actor Faramarz Gharibian and French director Alain Corneau.