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Making a Song and Dance of it

admin   September 7, 2021

By Praveen Das

To prevent this argument from going soft it’s perhaps best to start with a story, even if it’s an anecdote about an anecdote. Despite having never met the man in question, an acquaintance of mine from Mumbai once recalled how Amitabh Bachchan may have saved his life in the dusty valleys of Afghanistan. The storyteller, an Indian diplomat, who shall we say functions as part of the spear tip of Indian statecraft, was in the Central Asian nation soon after the Taliban’s ouster in 2002 and looking to make contact with a few leaders of the putative Northern Alliance. Suddenly besieged and presented to a different set of warlords he found himself unable to break the ice with them, and was soon gravely informed that they suspected him of being a Pakistani spook, the “enemy” they loathed. That is until he spied a tattered poster of Bachchan’s 1992 hit Khuda Gawah (‘God is the Witness’, a film shot extensively in Afghanistan) in the next room and decided to talk Bollywood — to immediate excitement among the Afghan warriors. Unable to recall any song from that film, however, he found himself back in the doghouse, until he started belting out ‘Mehbooba, Mehbooba’ from Sholay, the 1975 blockbuster that launched Bachchan to superstardom, and is perhaps the most famous Hindi film west of Amritsar. An agreement was soon concluded and the diplomat found himself warmly escorted back to his base with much fierce debate about the new “Khan ishtars” in Mumbai.

Aishwarya Rai at Cannes Film Festival

The tale might have perhaps grown longer in the telling but there’s no disputing how popular Indian films now are in many parts of the world. Clearly, going soft need not be inopportune. For well over two decades now foreign policy wonks have waxed eloquent about the merits of ‘soft power’ for nations looking to find their places at the global high table. India, with its old civilisation and spiritual customs based on universalist traditions, has always had several cards to play in this game. Indian commercial cinema, with its distinct rhythms, is the latest addition to the pack. As a noted strategic affairs guru puts it: “Bollywood has done more for Indian influence abroad than all the bureaucratic efforts of the government”. But there’s still some way to go, for both industry and creative artists cynically churning out assembly-line movies in the country, and for the state making more concerted efforts to better push what is arguably India’s most exciting export goodie.

Masala Stardust

Much water has flown down the Ganges since earlier generations of Indians were often told of how much Russians loved Raj Kapoor’s cloyingly Chaplinesque tramp from Awara, or of how Dilip Kumar was as much a heartthrob in Lahore and Dhaka as he was in Mumbai. Beyond old ties of cultural kinship in the subcontinent and bilateral arrangements between governments (which saw a handful of Indian films being regularly exported to ‘friendly’ countries like the Soviet Union or Mongolia), Indian cinema has struck out and conquered bold newer frontiers now. Indian superstars like Aishwarya Rai and Aamir Khan regularly walk the red carpet at big film festivals like Cannes, Toronto and Venice and are recognised globally. Southern superstar Rajinikanth was a cultural phenomenon in Japan for a while, where local fans dubbed him ‘Dancing Maharajah” and landed up in exotic Indian costumes for his movie premieres. Bolly superstar Shah Rukh Khan was conferred a high Malaysian state honour which even stirred controversy there with many protesting that local actors were ignored. Several actors also increasingly pop up in the tabloid press when holidaying abroad in the West — a surer sign of cross-cultural traction than any box-office grosses — and are now slowly experimenting with taking up meaty roles in films in a more globalised Hollywood.

A Poster of Sivaji

There’s no denying Indian movie stars’ graphs have seen increasingly steep rises from the last decade into this one. If pirated videotapes in the 1980s kickstarted the revolution, the internet and its endlessly cyclical streams of video content — appears to have solidified this reach, taking Indian film to places as far afield as North Africa, Western Europe, Japan and South Korea. In fact there’s a reason Indian film distributors now delay releasing Hindi or Tamil films in many foreign markets, despite the lucrative business many films do there. Most pirated DVDs that land up almost immediately after film premieres on Indian shores come from these places.

Home is where the heart is

In briefly analysing this trans-cultural appeal of Indian cinema two major factors must be noted. One, the size, breadth and rising cultural assertiveness of the Indian diaspora across the world has been a factor so huge it’s changed Bollywood in several noteworthy ways. The expatriate Indian’s outsize longing for identity and roots has helped reshape the country’s film trade. The foreign box office (BO) contributes so significantly to big movies in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu that several duds at the local BO actually go on to make profits from the diaspora dollar. Many films now have exclusive premieres in London and New York, unthinkable even a decade and a half ago. Pioneered by filmmakers like Subash Ghai — who was actually lampooned in the mid 1990s for ‘pandering’ to Non Resident Indian (NRI) audiences — the size of this market has even led to the content changing in Bollywood. Indian films have got slicker, costlier and are now set in locales across the globe with many actors often playing NRI characters, echoing vaguely NRI concerns.

Film markets at festivals worldwide now see sizeable Indian delegations hawking new productions for distributors to pick up or producers to take up. Outside of Bollywood, Tamil film producers now tie-up ‘FMS’ (Foreign, Malaysia, Singapore) rights before they get down to haggling with local distributors about territories and sales, while Telugu producers line up small European and sizeable North American releases for their new films.

Songs and dance are essence of Indian Cinema

NRIs, it seems, just can’t get enough of the filmy glamour from their old country in any way possible. Many film stars now earn big bucks from performing at ‘Bollywood Nights’ abroad. These arena shows, staged almost exclusively in countries with large NRI populations, have also proven so lucrative that several stars either long in the tooth back home or relegated to the background now make their money purely from ‘touring’.

Business is booming overseas, yet as any big producer, distributor or cultural commentator will tell you, much remains to be done to increase penetration beyond the diaspora. The odd viral video of Europeans doing ‘Bollywood dancing’ for small audiences or weddings with a Bollywood theme are still too few and far between for Indian cinema to be labelled a widespread crossover phenomenon. Unlike, say, with the martial arts films that crossed over from Hong Kong and China to the West over three decades ago; or Japanese creature features, manga or ‘J-Horror’ genres. They influence Hollywood, still the gold standard for big feature film production. To change that requires tinkering with the old formula for Indian cinema. It would mean going more ‘arty’ (a despised phrase in Indian film production circles) and looking to imbibe and reconstruct in singular fashion genres, themes and narrative experiments from elsewhere. And not just in form.

Which is, of course, easier said than done. A strong recidivist streak resides deep inside Indian filmdom. The formula may not be periodically dumped or retired for a new genre to rise to the top of the heap à la Hollywood. This in turn has a lot to do with why the formula is the way it is. Why fix what ain’t broke? And besides, this formula is the second reason Indian films have such a large global reach. It’s why they speak in unmatched dulcet tones to several other developing societies that have much more in common with Indian audiences than they suspect.

Rajinikanth fans in Japan

Think Local, Act Global

There’s a reason India is referred to as a subcontinent. The sum of its many ethnic, cultural and linguistic parts is perhaps greater than the whole. With over 25 major languages spoken and over 700 hundred dialects, not to mention large ethnic, cultural and religious divisions, nation building and unity was a challenge the founders and early builders of modern India took very seriously indeed. Cinema was soon harnessed to the task in the 1950s. Filmmakers and writers took on matters of great national and social import and until the mid 1960s (when romances got mushier and a new generation of glamorous lovers and sex symbols appeared onscreen) and early 70s (when public anger against a dysfunctional state and crony capitalism exploded on screens across India) sought to craft a cohesive cinema that provided ‘wholesome’ family entertainment while dwelling on traditional Indian values and customs. These films had to crossover from one region of India to another that had about as much in common with each other as two European countries do. They had to transcend barriers of language, class, creed and ethnicity. They began doing that for almost every big Bollywood release in roughly the late 60s to early 70s. The seeds of a global formula were sown right there. In fact, in addition to India’s remarkable (even if slightly flawed) tryst with liberal democracy, several theorists and historians have championed Bollywood in particular as a great force for national integration in what ought to have been a rather fractious country of infinite diversity. To put it a little simplistically, a template was slowly evolved and continues to form the basis of cinema to this day with very little variations on the theme, even if the forms have changed over time.

Also powered by audiences changing with a new liberalising India, new films from the mid 1990s began to be increasingly located abroad (and not just for the songs) while the melodrama remained firmly rooted in varying interpretations of ‘Indianness’. Over the year the characters got glitzier, the stars got shinier, the songs got dreamier, the love stories got mushier, the gangsters and vigilantes got nastier and the Hollywood-inspired action sequences got edgier, but the melodramatic tensions remained pretty much the same. It made — and still makes — for a heady mix. Yet at its core Indian cinema is still mostly all about family, culture, traditions and, of course, romance. And the increasing demands that modernity makes on each of those.

A Poster of Sholay

This is largely what appeals to audiences in countries that are grappling with the rapid changes wrought by the modern world and increasingly breakneck Westernization of societies. So from much of the Arab world to Central Asia and parts of South East Asia, from Africa and to many parts of Latin America, Indian films deal with societal tensions that people deal with on a daily basis. Despite the candyfloss glamour on top, which merely provides for the perfect escapism for such audiences. And an alternate ‘warm’ escapism, one that comes straight from the heart; as opposed to what Hollywood provides, which for these audiences tends to be either too cerebral, too Western or merely a visceral rush. The neo-Shakespearean tragicomic genre that Bollywood has made its own is a different fl avour to be savoured with everyone. No wonder it’s a hit.

Besides, there’s also one special secret sauce added into the mix. The one genre that India perhaps took and refashioned in singular fashion more than any other to make it its own more than any other: the old Hollywood musical format. Which was quickly fused with classical Indian traditions of devotional and theatrical musical performance. The spectacular results are there for the world to see. Indeed, whatever your cinematic inclinations you would have to admit, where would Indian cinema be without all that song and dance? The world agrees. Come, sing along. Or better yet, dance.

(This story is reproduced from the archives of Pickle Magazine)


Featured Post

Dada Saheb Award Gets Rajinikanth

admin   April 2, 2021

Yes, you read it right. That was how many of his fans reacted when Rajinikanth, sorry, ‘thalaivar’ (leader), was named for Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest honour in Indian film industry, by the Governnment of India.

And, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred Rajinikanth as ‘thalaiva’, when he greeted the superstar by tweeting: “Popular across generations, a body of work few can boast of, diverse roles and an endearing personality…that’s Shri @rajinikanth Ji for you. It is a matter of immense joy that Thalaiva has been conferred with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. Congratulations to him.”

From the country’s Vice President to Prime Minister to Union Ministers to Chief Ministers to Opposition leaders to film personalities to fans, people across India competed with each other to greet Rajinikanth for the most coveted honour. That’s Rajinikanth and his star power.

In fact, the superstar was all set to enter politics before ‘Covid-19’ and his ‘health issues’ stopped him from doing so. Currently busy with ‘Annaaththe’, one of the much awaited films of the year, the 70-year-old continues to dominate the box-office for almost four decades.

Though Rajinikanth has not received a National Film Award so far, he is winner of Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan, the country’s second and third higest civilian honours, respectively.

When he was honoured with a special Icon of Golden Jubilee award at the 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa in 2019, Rajinikanth dedicated the award to all the producers, directors and technicians he had worked with in his films, and “most importantly, above all, my fans and the Tamil people who have given me my life.”

In a same vein, he released a statement. The superstar thanked the Government of India and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting for the Dadasaheb Phalke Award and said he dedicated it to all those who made him the Rajini that is now. He said, “I dedicate this award to my friend and bus driver Raj Bahadur, who discovered my acting talent and encouraged me, my elder brother Sathyanarayana Rao Gaekwad, who sacrificed a lot to make me an actor while struggling with poverty, my guru K Balachander, who created this Rajinikanth.”

He also dedicated the award to producers, directors, technicians, distributors, theatre owners, media, the Tamil people, “who have given me my life, and my fans across the world.”

Rajinikanth said he thanked the Indian government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for conferring him the “Indian cinema’s highest honour.”

The amazing Rajinikanth story is no less fascinating than a movie script. There are multiple strands to the narrative, and each one of them can yield enough by way of drama to sustain a full-length feature.

What sets Rajinikanth apart is the fact that he is more than just another movie star idolized in a populous nation that loves its filmed entertainment. He is a true-blue phenomenon whose clout transcends boundaries of both land and language like a few things can in contemporary Indian pop culture.

One of the strands of the Rajinikanth saga pertains to the rags-to-riches tale of a Bangalore bus conductor who went on to become one of the greatest luminaries that Indian cinema has ever produced, a transformation that borders on the fantastical.

The other thread of the story relates to the emergence of the larger-than-life myth of a towering showbiz personality who commands unquestioning loyalty from a fan base that keeps growing steadily and spawning ever-new crops of Rajini-isms on the social media and elsewhere.

Rajini does not have Greek God good looks, nor does he have the height or physique to tower over everything else in a movie frame. Yet his screen presence is extraordinary. His flashy mannerisms, his flamboyant swagger, and his punchy one-liners add up to a totality that is beyond analysis.

It is next to impossible to put a finger on the exact reasons that make him such a peerless icon. Part of the difficulty stems from the fact that Rajini himself has never made calculated career moves. He has merely gone along with the flow and ended up in a place where a few ever have.

For a man who has achieved the kind of sustained success that he has, he has his feet firmly planted to the ground – an attribute that immeasurably enhances his stature.

Unlike other Indian movie stars, Rajinikanth keeps his on-screen persona well removed from his real-life identity as a husband, father and grandfather. He rarely appears at public events, but exercises great influence on Dravidian culture and politics.

But his appeal is certainly not limited to the confines of Tamil Nadu and its cinema. His is a recognizable face across the country and in parts of the world where Tamil cinema has made inroads in recent years.

Who else but Rajinikanth could be at the receiving end of a musical tribute of the kind that Bollywood megastar Shahrukh Khan paid him in Chennai Express. The song, Lungi Dance, aimed at “all the Rajini fans”, became a chart-topper and continues to be a favourite with DJs around the country?

So confident is he of his fan following that when Rajinikanth appears in public, he does nothing at all to hide the tell-tale signs of age that a 69-year-old grandfather must necessarily live with.

At an event organized to launch the music of the science fiction epic Enthiran/Robot, he got up on the podium and narrated how he was mistaken for just another man in the crowd by onlookers in a Rajasthan village, where the film was being shot. He was hard pressed, he admitted in public, to convince fans who were milling around lead actress Aishwarya Rai that he was the hero of the film.

Nothing says more about Rajinikanth the man and the movie star than the kind of unassuming candour that he resorts to when talking about himself and his achievements. At times it is difficult to believe that a superstar who, with the fee that he got for Sivaji (2007), became the highest paid Asian movie actor after Jackie Chan has no starry airs whatever. Is he for real?

Awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2000, Rajinikanth was named the recipient of the ‘Centenary Award’ for the ‘Indian Film Personality of the Year’ at the 45th International Film Festival of India in Goa. The well-deserved honour was bestowed on the megastar at the opening ceremony of the film festival on November 20. Five years on, at the 50th edition of IFFI, he received another award to add to the trophies in his collection.

And on May 3, he will receive the Dada Saheb Phalke Award. Or, read the heading again.


IFFI: The Stage is Getting Ready

admin   June 22, 2020

The preparations for 51st edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) have begun in full swing. IFFI’s Golden Jubilee edition will be remembered for a long time for a string of things from honouring film industry legends Rajinikanth and Amitabh Bachchan to high profile International Jury for Competition Films.

IFFI 2020 is being planned as exciting as that of the golden jubilee edition, despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is expected to be as wide-ranging and bigger as its last year edition. IFFI 2020 will celebrate 100 years of India’s legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray. The 9-day cinematic feast will embrace the works of a wide variety of filmmakers across the world with masterclasses, knowledge series and Film Bazaar.

IFFI is thrilled that South Korean film Parasite which had its India Premiere at IFFI Goa 2019 won Oscars for Best Picture. The film is running successfully in theatres now. IFFI is on the lookout for International Jury members for IFFI 2020 and some big names are expected to be part of it.

At the virtual Cannes Film Market, IFFI is meeting up with film executives, sales agents, festival heads to collaborate and looking at curating another edition of fabulous films from across the globe. IFFI will also have knowledge sessions, master classes and open forum besides festival films.

Asia’s oldest event of its kind, IFFI still holds on to its pre-eminent position as a showcase of cinematic excellence. It has over the years witnessed numerous alterations in character, nomenclature, location, dates and duration. Through it all, it has remained steadfast in its emphasis on showcasing the diversity of Indian cinema as well as in its commitment to the celebration of excellence across moviemaking genres.

Over the past two and a half decades, several other international film festivals have sprung up across India, notably in Kolkata, Kerala and Mumbai, and they all contribute meaningfully to the collective task of taking quality cinema to people weaned principally on a staple diet of star driven, song and dance extravaganzas. But IFFI continues to retain its pre-eminent position owing to its size, scope and vintage.

Not just in the Indian context but also in relation to the other major Asian film festivals, IFFI matters. And this is despite all the inevitable ups and downs that it has seen over the years.

All the other major Asian festivals – Tokyo, Busan and Shanghai – are of far more recent origin and therefore lack the history that is associated with IFFI. IFFI hands out prize money to the tune of US$ 200,000. The winner of the Golden Peacock for the best film takes home $80,000. That apart, the best director and the Special Jury Prize winner bag $30,000 each, while the two acting prizes come with a cash component of $20,000 each.

IFFI also confers two Lifetime 375 India’s Only Film BIZ magazine for the world http://www.pickle.co.in Achievement Awards – one to an international film personality, the other to an Indian great. The moves to push IFFI up a few notches have unfolded since the coastal state of Goa became its permanent venue in 2004. IFFI now has a far more settled feel than ever before, with each improvement in terms of infrastructure and programming initiatives adding value to both the event and the location.

On the programming side, IFFI not only unveils the best films from around the multilingual country with the aim of providing a glimpse of the sheer range and dynamism of Indian cinema, it also puts together a remarkable slate of brand new world cinema titles.

IFFI also hosts many retrospectives, tributes, master classes and special sections, which enhance the variety and depth of the event. The master classes have emerged as a highlight of the festival, especially for film school students who converge in Goa during the ten-day event.

India’s first international film festival was organized within five years of the nation attaining Independence. It was a non-competitive event held in 1952 in Bombay (Now Mumbai). A special feature of the inaugural function was the screening of the first film screened in India in 1896 by the Lumiere brothers. Frank Capra was part of the American delegation that attended the festival.

After a fortnight-long run in Bombay, the festival travelled to Calcutta (now Kolkata), Madras (now Chennai) and Delhi. The first international film festival of India is rightfully credited with triggering a burst of creativity in Indian cinema by exposing young Indian filmmakers to the best from around the world, especially to Italian neo-realism.

Six decades on, IFFI continues to provide a useful platform to young Indian filmmakers who work outside the mainstream distribution and exhibition system and in languages that do not have access to the pan-Indian market that Hindi cinema has.

The Indian Panorama, a section that is made up of both features and non-features, opens global avenues for films made by veterans and newcomers alike.

IFFI now has a permanent home in Goa. The coastal state has benefited appreciably from the shift. Its cinema has received a huge fillip in the decade and a half that Panaji has hosted IFFI. Filmmakers in the coastal state have been increasingly making their mark on the national and international stage.


GLIMPSES OF IFFI 2019

admin   February 21, 2020

IFFI- 2019 AWARDS WINNERS

Best Film: Golden Peacock Award:

‘Particles’ by Blaise Harrison won the best Film Award

The Best Director Award:

Lijo Jose Pellissery won the Best Director award for his film ‘Jallikattu’

Best Debut Film of a Director (Shared):

Amin Sidi Boumediene for Abou Leila and Marius Olteanu for Monsters

IFFI Best Actor Award (Male):

Seu Jorge for the film Marighella

IFFI Best Actor Award (Female):

Usha Jadhav for the film Mai Ghat: Crime No 103/2015.

ICFT UNESCO Gandhi Medal:

Riccardo Salvetti for Rwanda

Special Jury Award:

Pema Tseden for Balloon

Special Mention Jury Award:

Hellaro directed by Abhishek Shah

Special mention under ICFT-UNESCO Gandhi medal:

Bahattar Hoorain directed by Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan

ICON OF GOLDEN JUBILEE OF IFFI:

Rajinikanth

IFFI-2019 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:

Isabelle Hupper

The Best Director Award:

Lijo Jose Pellissery won the Best Director award for his film ‘Jallikattu’

“I want to dedicate this (the award) to my directors, producers, technicians and my fans.” – Mr Rajinikanth

“There is always this bickering between us… There are times when I give him some advice and then there are days, when he suggests something to me. Though, we never follow each other’s advice…. I feel that relationships are about all of this.”- Mr Amitabh Bachchan


IFFI Spectacle Enthrals @50

admin   December 2, 2019

The Golden Jubilee edition of IFFI witnessed over 200 acclaimed films from 76 countries , with Russia as the country of focus. It also included 26 feature
films and 15 non-feature films in Indian panorama section. More than 10,000 film lovers participated over its nine days of star-studded gala ceremonies and knowledge sessions

Delivering on its promise to keep thousands of film fans, critics, theatre artists, aspiring actors and industry professionals captivated during the nine days of cinematic revelry in Goa, the Golden Jubilee celebrations of International Film Festival of India (IFFI) managed to bring the best of world cinema and talent under one roof.

One of Asia’s oldest festivals, IFFI saw a grand opening on 20th November at Dr Shyama Prasad Stadium, Bambolim. It was graced by stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Rajnikanth, besides various senior dignitaries from the Government of India including Minister of Information & Broadcasting Shri Prakash Javadekar, Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting Shri Amit Khare and Chief Minister of Goa Dr. Pramod Sawant. With more than 7,000 delegates, 200 landmark films from 76 countries, knowledge sessions, masterclasses, awards ceremony, cultural programmes, World Panorama and Kaleidoscope, and IFFI Film Bazaar, the cinematic extravaganza got bigger and better this time. Besides the festivities associated with the Festival, IFFI @50 also served as a prominent platform
to network, learn and enhance knowledge about the nuances of film making.

Opening Ceremony

Hosted by master of entertainment Shri Karan Johar, the opening ceremony was flagged off by the great doyen of Indian cinema Shri Amitabh Bachchan and the ‘Thalaiva’ of Indian film industry Shri Rajinikanth, in the presence of Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting Shri Prakash Javadekar and other official dignitaries. Shri Rajinikanth was conferred the ‘Icon Of Golden Jubilee Award’ for his outstanding contribution to Indian cinema, a first time award beginning with the 50th edition. One of French cinema’s defining faces actress Ms. Isabelle Anne Madeleine Huppert was conferred with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The inaugural ceremony also witnessed some enthralling audio visual performances which kept the audience spellbound through the evening. Noted music singer and composer Shankar Mahadevan and his band won the hearts with a spectacular performance.

Opening Film

The 50th edition of IFFI began with the screening of the Italian film Despite the Fog. The film journeys into the plight of refugees who are abandoned on the streets. In the film, Paolo, a manager at a restaurant finds an eight-year-old child on the cold streets and decides to take him home. The director delves into how society reacts to the presence of the child.

Speaking about the film, Director Goran Paskaljevic said, “It’s an intimate story. There are many films already done on the subject. But this is a story about whether people accept or don’t accept refugees in Europe and most cases they don’t. It serves a metaphor to explore the xenophobic fog prevalent in the region.”

Mariella Li Sacchi, one of the producers, stated that “the film isn’t a mainstream film, but a political statement”.

Legends of Indian cinema Ilaiyaraja, Prem Chopra, Manju Borah, Aravind Swamy and Haubam Paban Kumar were felicitated on the closing ceremony

Multimedia Exhibition

Adding yet another dimension to the IFFI experience this year was a one of its kind hi-tech digital, interactive and multimedia exhibition put up by the Bureau of Outreach and Communication and National Film Archives of India (NFAI) at Darya Sangam, near Kala academy. Named IFFI@50 the exhibition traced the journey of IFFI over the last five decades as it showcases Indian cinema to the world while also providing a platform in India for showcasing world cinema.

The exhibition leveraged novelhi- tech features like Zoetrope (moving picture creative installation), 360 bullet shot, 360 degree immersive experience area, augmented reality experience, vertical digital display panels, virtual reality tools, hologram technology, etc to create a self-learning historical experience for the viewers.

Panoramic view of the venue at the 50th International
Film Festival of India (IFFI-2019)

Amitabh Bachchan Retrospective

Shri Amitabh Bachchan inaugurated the Dadasaheb Phalke Award retrospective organised at Kala Academy during IFFI. Speaking at the launch, the veteran actor said, “I feel deeply humbled and would thank the Government of India for this prestigious award. I’ve always felt that I’m not deserving of such recognition but I humbly accept this with a lot of grace
and affection”.

Calling cinema a universal medium Shri Bachchan added that films are beyond the borders of language. The actor expressed hope that we continue to make films that will bring people together.

Indian Panorama

The Indian Panorama section of the 50th edition of IFFI opened with the screening of National Award winning Gujarati film ‘Hellaro’ directed by Shri Abhishek Shah in the feature film category at INOX in Panjim, Goa. A Kashmiri film ‘Nooreh’, directed by Shri Ashish Pandey, opened the non-feature film category at Indian Panorama. The other selections in the feature film category included five Marathi films — ‘Tujhya Aaila’,
‘Anandi Gopal’, ‘Bhonga’, ‘Mai Ghat’ and ‘Photo-Prem’. This category also included three films each in Malayalam and Bengali, two in Tamil and one Kannada film.

The feature film category also had a sub-section on mainstream cinema, under which popular films like ‘Gully Boy’, ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’, ‘Super 30’ and ‘Badhaai Ho’ were screened. Telugu film ‘F2’ was also screened under this category.

IFFI Steering Committee Member and Director, Rahul Rawail felicitating Director
and Producer, Farah Khan at the 50th International Film Festival of India

NFAI Calendar

The NFAI Calendar 2020 was launched by I&B Secretary Shri Amit Khare. The calendar focuses on the musical instruments in Indian Cinema featuring 24 rare images from the collection of the archive. A rich compilation of the treasure of Indian musical instruments in Indian Cinema, the calendar features rare images of Raj Kapoor playing Tamboora (Valmiki, 1946); Jayashree Gadkar playing Veena (Seeta Maiya, 1964); Vishnupant Pagnis playing Ektara (Narsi Bhagat, 1940); P L Deshpande
playing Tenor Banjo (Gulacha Ganapati, 1953); Sivaji Ganesan playing Nadaswaram (Thillana Mohanambal, 1968); Neralattu Rama Poduval playing Idakka (Thampu, 1978); Raj Kumar playing Shehnai (Sanadhi Appanna, 1977), Kalpana playing Violin (GejjePooje, 1970), Kishore Kumar playing Harmonium (Shabash Daddy, 1978), etc.

Oscar Retrospective

A session on Oscar Retrospective was held on Day 1 at IFFI Goa. Moderated by Journalist and film critic Naman Ramachandran, the session had the Festival Director, ADG, Diretorate of Film Festivals (DFF), Chaitanya Prasad along with the editor of American Film Editor who also worked on the restored version of Casablanca, Ms. Carol Littleton. “We have grown up watching these films and admiring them. To be able to see these films on big screen is an experience in itself,” said Mr Prasad.

Ms Littleton spoke about how huge amount of efforts involved behind Oscars. “We work throughout the year. There are outreach programmes, workshops, seminars to make technicians technically sound. We also look at science of making films. Artistic and scientific sides both are important for making a film,” she said.

The specially curated “Homage Section” paid tribute to 13 eminent individuals who have contributed to Indian cinema during their lifetime

Country Focus-Russia

This year, Russia was the focus country at IFFI. Speaking on the joint production of films and cultural exchange through films, Russian Ambassador to India Mr. Nikolay Kudashev said that such efforts will bring the spirit of India and Russia together. Head of Russian delegation
at IFFI and Editor in Chief of Kinoreporter Ms. Maria Lameshev said that there was a great interest for Russian films among Indian people. She added that according to the co-production agreement, 40 percent of budget of the film would be given back by the Ministry of Culture. She extended her support in facilitating meetings for possible co-productions in future.

Eight Russian films–Abigail, Acid, Andrei Tarkovsky: A Cinema Prayer, Beanpole, Great poetry , Once in trubchevsk , Why don’t you just die!, and The Hero- -were screened in the Country Focus section of IFFI this year.

Accessible India – Accessible Films

A joint collaboration between IFFI, Saksham Bharat and UNESCO, the 50th IFFI edition screened three films for those with special needs with an aim to promote the creation of inclusive spaces for the differently-abled through audio description. The section opened with ‘Munna Bhai MBBS’ directed by Rajkumar Hirani. Attending the festival for the first time, actress Taapsee Pannu said that she was surprised to know such films were made. “I’ve not seen films that use audio to explain the scenes; so I wanted to surely see how it’s done,” she said. The other films screened were ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’, ‘M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story’ and the Konkani film ‘Questao De Confusao’ with additional narration for the visually impaired.

Singer and Music Composer, Hariharan, Lesle Lewis and Tanushree Shankar being felicitated, at the closing ceremony of the 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI-2019)

Open Forum

The 2019 edition of the Open Forum organised by the Federation of the Film Societies of India opened with the pertinent topic: Focus on IFFI @50: Flash Back and Moving Forward. The session was inaugurated by Chaitanya Prasad, Festival Director, ADG, Directorate of Film Festival (DFF), Kiran Shantaram, President, Federation of Film Societies of India, AK Bir, Filmmaker and Chairman of Technical Committee, IFFI 2019, Alexey Govorukhin, Executive Producer, Kinoreporter Magazine, Russia and Marianne Borgo, actress from France.

I congratulate the entire IFFI team for a grand Golden celebrations of IFFI 2019 with impeccable choice of films. It was a great learning experience for filmmaker’s like us to network and understand the wide range of language of cinema Chandrakant Singh, Film Maker

Celebrating Constitution Day

Films Division, Government of India, Mumbai celebrated ‘Constitution Day’ on 26th November. Three documentaries: ‘Our Constitution’, ‘India’s Struggle for Freedom: We the People of India’ and ‘Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’, were screened to mark the occasion. The widely publicized screening of these films was open to all and free.

Film Education

An open forum held at IFFI brought to fore the urgent need for monitoring the quality of education being imparted by various film institutes in the country. Present at the session were panelists – Filmmaker, Cinematographer and Script writer A K Bir, Filmmaker M K Shankar, Filmmaker Ajay Bedi and Head of department, SRM School of Film Technology, R D Balaji. The panellists also raised concern about the mushrooming of film institutes and the affect that it has in reality on students. The session was moderated by Shashwat Gupta Ray, Resident Editor of Gomantak Times who opined that there are more than 100 film institutes, almost 1400 mass communication institutes that claim to teach the art of filmmaking.

Memorable IFFI

The golden jubilee edition brought to the shores of Goa the best of recent International cinema, along with special sections such as Golden Peacock Retrospective, Debut Film Competition, Soul of Asia retrospective, Master Film makers collection, Festival Kaleidoscope section, Accessible Films for Differently Abled, World Panorama 2019, Filmmaker in Focus, Restored Indian Classics, ICFT-UNESCO Gandhi Medal competition, Retrospective of Indian New Wave Cinema , Konkani Film Package and Dadasaheb Phalke Award. The 50th edition of IFFI also showcased fifty films of fifty women directors which reflect the contribution of women in cinema.


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ETERNAL SUPERSTAR: RAJINIKANTH

admin   November 21, 2019

Rajinikanth, thalaiva (leader) to millions of fans, is an enigma that can’t be decoded. With the 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) getting ready to honour the superstar with a special ‘Icon of Golden Jubilee’ award, Pickle explains what makes Rajini the icon that he is

The amazing Rajinikanth story is no less fascinating than a movie script. There are multiple strands to the narrative, and each one of them can yield enough by way of drama to sustain a full-length feature.

What sets Rajinikanth apart is the fact that he is more than just another movie star idolized in a populous nation that loves its filmed entertainment. He is a true-blue phenomenon whose clout transcends boundaries of both land and language like a few things can in contemporary Indian pop culture.

One of the strands of the Rajinikanth saga pertains to the rags-to-riches tale of a Bangalore bus conductor who went on to become one of the greatest luminaries that Indian cinema has ever produced, a transformation that borders on the fantastical.

The other thread of the story relates to the emergence of the larger-than-life myth of a towering showbiz personality who commands unquestioning loyalty from a fan base that keeps growing steadily and spawning ever-new crops of Rajini-isms on the social media and elsewhere.

Rajini does not have Greek God good looks, nor does he have the height or physique to tower over everything else in a movie frame. Yet his screen presence is extraordinary. His flashy mannerisms, his flamboyant swagger, and his punchy one-liners add up to a totality that is beyond analysis.

It is next to impossible to put a finger on the exact reasons that make him such a peerless icon. Part of the difficulty stems from the fact that Rajini himself has never made calculated career moves. He has merely gone along with the flow and ended up in a place where a few ever have.

For a man who has achieved the kind of sustained success that he has, he has his feet firmly planted to the ground – an attribute that immeasurably enhances his stature.

Unlike other Indian movie stars, Rajinikanth keeps his on-screen persona well removed from his real-life identity as a husband, father and grandfather. He rarely appears at public events, but exercises great influence on Dravidian culture and politics.

But his appeal is certainly not limited to the confines of Tamil Nadu and its cinema. His is a recognizable face across the country and in parts of the world where Tamil cinema has made inroads in recent years.

Who else but Rajinikanth could be at the receiving end of a musical tribute of the kind that Bollywood megastar Shahrukh Khan paid him in Chennai Express. The song, Lungi Dance, aimed at “all the Rajini fans”, became a chart-topper and continues to be a favourite with DJs around the country?

So confident is he of his fan following that when Rajinikanth appears in public, he does nothing at all to hide the tell-tale signs of age that a 69-year-old grandfather must necessarily live with.

At an event organized to launch the music of the science fiction epic Enthiran/Robot, he got up on the podium and narrated how he was mistaken for just another man in the crowd by onlookers in a Rajasthan village, where the film was being shot. He was hard pressed, he admitted in public, to convince fans who were milling around lead actress Aishwarya Rai that he was the hero of the film.

Nothing says more about Rajinikanth the man and the movie star than the kind of unassuming candour that he resorts to when talking about himself and his achievements. At times it is difficult to believe that a superstar who, with the fee that he got for Sivaji (2007), became the highest paid Asian movie actor after Jackie Chan has no starry airs whatever. Is he for real?

Awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2000, Rajinikanth was named the recipient of the ‘Centenary Award’ for the ‘Indian Film Personality of the Year’ at the 45th International Film Festival of India in Goa. The well-deserved honour was bestowed on the megastar at the opening ceremony of the film festival on November 20. Five years on, at the 50th edition of IFFI, he receives another award to add to the trophies in his collection.

Rajinikanth’s acting career began nearly 40 years ago, with K Balachander’s
National Award-winning but controversial film Apoorva Raagangal (1975), in which the budding star played a small role as the abusive and long-lost husband of the film’s heroine. Kamal Haasan was the lead actor of Apoorva Raagangal.

Rajini’s next film was the Kannada-language Katha Sangama (1976), an offbeat omnibus film directed by Puttanna Kanagal. It was not until his mentor Balachander made Anthuleni Katha in Telugu that Rajini landed a pivotal role in a film. An even more prominent character came his way in Balachander’s Moondru Mudichu (1976).

In the early years of his career, Rajini played largely negative roles, especially as a womanizer or a perfidious friend, in several Tamil and Telugu films. He graduated to essaying lead roles and appearing in a large number of films in the late 1970s, but his screen image as a dashing leading man began to crystallize only in the 1980s.

Who could have ever imagined that an actor who early in his career played, among other things, a village ruffian who rapes a blind girl, a man who nonchalantly lets his friend drowns so that he can marry the former’s girlfriend, and a pornographer who secretly films his wife in the act without her knowledge would turn into a screen superhero endowed with bionic powers?

Rajinikanth had 15 releases in 1977 and 20 in 1978. These films were made in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. He not only starred in many remakes of Mumbai hits of the 1970s and 1980s on the way to becoming the pivot of the Tamil cinema business, he also acted in several Hindi films without quite replicating his southern success.

This was a crazily frenetic period for the star. MGR had just bowed out of the movie industry to concentrate on politics. Rajini and his contemporary Kamal Haasan (he had 33 releases in 1978-79) moved into the breach. Rajinikanth, generous to a fault, has always praised Kamal Haasan for inspiring him with his professionalism.

His characteristic humility notwithstanding, there can be no denying that the box office clout that Rajini wields is unparalleled. While Kamal Haasan sought to experiment with his screen roles, taking on a wide array of characters in the 1980s and 1990s and earning the reputation of a thinking man’s movie star, Rajini focused on developing a screen persona with wide mass appeal.Both succeeded in their chosen endeavours.

In the 1990s, Rajini became such a commercial force that nobody in the Tamil movie industry could do without him. In 1991, Mani Ratnam cast him in Thalapathi, who co-starred Malayalam superstar Mammootty.

In the wake of the success of Thalapathi, films such as Annamalai, Mannan, Valli (for which the actor wrote his first screenplay), Muthu, Yejaman, Veera and Baasha, hit the screens in quick succession, catapulting Rajinikanth to a zone that nobody in Indian cinema history had ever penetrated.

His career experienced somewhat of a slump at the turn of the millennium when Baba, scripted by him, failed to deliver the goods at the box office. The distributors were left in the red as a result and, in an unprecedented
move, Rajini decided to make good the losses. After a brief hiatus, Rajini bounced back with Chandramukhi in 2005 and Sivaji in 2007.

The first time that Rajinikanth was labelled a ‘Superstar’ was in mid-1978, the year of Bairavi. Distributor S Dhanu put up a 40-foot cutout of Rajini at Plaza theatre in Madras.

The civic authorities ordered the cutout to be pulled down on the grounds it could pose a safety hazard on the road. Dhanu reinforced the cutout and so it stood right there, staring down on one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares.

The man in the cutout quickly seared himself into the collective consciousness of Tamil movie fans. And that is where he continues
to be to this day.

At the fag-end of 2014, on December 12, his 64 th birthday, the Rajini starrer Lingaa, co-starring Sonakshi Sinha and Anushka Shetty, went head to head with Aamir Khan’s PK.

Rajinikanth, a year shy of 70, continues to be a box-office gale force. Between 2016 and 2019, the megastar delivered a string of hits – Pa. Ranjith’s Kabali and Kaala, S. Shankar’s 2.0 and Kartik Subbaraj’s Petta, which, until Bigil came along, was the highest grossing Tamil film ever. The latest Rajinikanth starrer Darbar, directed by A.R. Murugadoss, is slated for release on January 10, 2020.


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IFFI 50 & Fantastic-Lifetime Achievement Award to Isabelle Huppert

admin   November 21, 2019

IFFI is back, this time in a much bigger and better way. For, this year marks its golden jubilee. A lot of interesting things are in store, from special screening for the visually impaired to screening films that have turned 50 and best of Oscar winning movies. Here’s a trailer of IFFI that kickstarts on November 20 in Goa.

The international film festival of India (IFFI) is one of the most-awaited
events for film fanatics, theatre artists, aspiring actors and industry professionals. The film extravaganza brings the best of craft and cinema from across the world, under one roof. Needless to say, besides a chance to witness great cinema, the event is a reservoir of knowledge.

Organised by the government of India, the event is planned and executed by a Steering Committee which consists of industry leaders and big wigs who can be credited with the event’s success. This year, the Steering Committee includes members like Union Minister Prakash Javadekar; Chief Minister of Goa Pramod Sawant; I&B Secretary Amit Khare; Chief Secretary, Goa, Parimal Rai; Vice Chairman, Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG), Subhash Phal Dessai; representatives of the film community including Shaji N Karun, Shri AK Bir, Rahul Rawail, Manju Borah, Ravi Kottarakara and Madhur Bhandarkar; senior officials of Directorate of Film Festivals, Entertainment Society of Goa, I&B Ministry and Goa Government. Besides, Bollywood leaders like Karan Johar, Siddharth Roy Kapoor, Feroze Abbas Khan and Subhash Ghai will also be part of the Steering Committee.

This year, IFFI, slated to happen In Goa from November 20 to 28, 2019, is marking its golden jubilee. The event has got bigger and better this year as it enters its 50th edition.

Internationally acclaimed French actor Isabelle Huppert would be conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award. Huppert, who has worked in films like The Lacemaker, Violette Nozière, La Cérémonie, among others, has appeared in more than 120 films since making her debut in 1971. She is the most nominated actress for the César Award, the national film award of France, with 16 nominations, and has won it twice. She was a regular with some of the most acclaimed filmmakers of the French New Wave, including Claude Chabrol and Bertrand Tavernier.

Like stated earlier, IFFI not just gives you a chance to experience unforgettable cinematic treat, but also provides you a platform to network, learn and enhance your knowledge about the nuances of film making. This year, the event will have multiple masterclasses, In-Conversation sessions and workshops from the industry people from all across the globe. For instance, ace Indian filmmakers Madhur Bhandarkar and Priyadarshan will share their experiences and teach nitty-gritties of film direction, actors like Rishi Kapoor, Anil Kapoor TaapseePannu, Rakulpreet Singh will talk about their career highlights and industry experiences, along with Meghna Gulzar, Imtiaz Ali, Rahul Rawail and others talking about the art of filmmaking. Besides, there’s lots more into these masterclasses.

Besides showcasing 200 landmark films that have been lauded all across the world, the event also has an impressive line-up of previous movies, including the ones that have bagged the Golden Peacock Award.

There is also a section that will showcase incredible Oscar winning movies like the Godfather, Forest Gump, Gone with the Wind, among others.

That apart, special arrangements will be made for the visually impaired to let them also enjoy cinema, along with sections like World Panorama and Kaleidoscope, that will leave cine buffs asking for more.

So, while you have been waiting for the event to begin, with a bated breath, here’s a sneak peek of what this year’s edition has in store for you.

Indian Panorama is a flagship section of IFFI, which showcases the best of contemporary Indian Feature and Non-Feature Films of the years . This year, the Feature Film Jury is headed by acclaimed filmmaker and screenwriter  Priyadarshan . The Jury has chosen the film HELLARO (Gujarati ) directed by Abhishek Shah as the Opening Feature Film of Indian Panorama 2019

Best fiction films from around the globe

Under the section ‘World Panorama’, the event will showcase 64 award-winning feature-length fiction films, that are produced between 1st September 2018 to 31st August 2019, from around the globe. Adam, A First Farewell, far From Us, Give Me Liberty, among others, are some of the films under the section.

The Best of Indian Cinema

IFFI 2019 will be a golden chance for you if you want to witness the best of contemporary Indian Feature and Non-Feature Films of the years. The jury, including industry bigwigs like ace filmmaker Priyadarshan and well-known documentary filmmaker Shri Rajendra Janglay, have chosen films like Hellaro (Gujarati), Pareeksha (Hindi), Ek Je Chhilo Raja (Bengali), Uri : The Surgical Strike (Hindi), Gully Boy (Hindi), Super 30 (Hindi), to name a few, which will be displayed under the section.

Impressive lineup for the ‘Golden Peacock’

The section consists of line-up of extra ordinary work from all across the world, in the run up for the much coveted ‘Golden Peacock’ award. The trophy, that will come along with a cash prize of Rs 40 lakh this time, will be given to one out of 15 movies have been produced and coproduced by 22 countries. Movies that will fight against each other include names like Balloon (China), Antigone (Canada), Jallikattu (India), among others.

Missed Mumbai International Film Festival? IFFI is here to help!

IFFI works hard to showcase the best of cinema to its audience. This year, it will showcase 17 award-winning films, from Mumbai International Film Festival, made in the last 10 years which includes documentaries, short fiction and animation films across the globe including Germany, Russia, Romania, United Kingdom and South Korea apart from India.

Treat for the visually impaired

IFFI aims to reach out as many as people as it can to let them explore and experience the kind of cinema that it offers. And considering movie watching is not easy for the visually impaired, the event has done its bit so that this section of audience doesn’t feel left out. It will organise special screenings of 3 brilliant films; Lage RahoMunna Bhai (Hindi), M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story (Hindi), and Questao De Confusa (Konkani); along with audio description that translates images, visual information or non-dialogue portions of film into spoken words so that visually impaired people can access, and enjoy the films.

Honouring living legend Amitabh Bachchan

The 50th edition will honour megastar Amitabh Bachchan with the prestigious DadasahebPhalke Award, for his stupendous work and immense contribution to the Indian cinema. Highlighting his work, the event will showcase 6 of his films; Deewaar, Badla, Paa, Piku, Sholey
and Black; that made a mark in the world.

Films that have turned 50!

As IFFI marks its Golden jubilee, it has crafted a special section ‘The Golden Lining’ as part of which it will screen best films that have completed 50 years, from across the world. The package includes Films in Odiya, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Assamese and Malayalam. Some of the iconic movies to be shown are Aradhana by Shakti Samanta, Satyakam by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Stree by Siddharth and Nanak Nam Jahaz Hai by Ram Maheshwary, among others.

IFFI also hosts many retrospectives, tributes, master classes and special sections, which enhance the variety and depth of the event. The master classes have emerged as a highlight of the festival, especially for film school students who converge in Goa during the eight-day event

Iconic work by 18 National awards winner Mrinal Sen

This year, a new section‘Indian New Wave Cinema’ is dedicated to 12 films produced in India from the late 1950s to the late 1970s that were distinct in the narrative, style and budget, compared to those being produced in the mainstream cinema. This includes work of filmmaker Mrinal Sen, who has won 18 National Film Awards 18 times, the Padma Bhushan (2008) and the DadasahebPhalke Award.

Indian New wave Cinema Screenings in IFFI 2019

  • Ajantrik (1957)
  • Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960)
  • Bhuvan Shome (1969)
  • Swayamvaram (1972)
  • Ankur (1973)
  • Uttarayanam (1974)
  • Bhumika (1976)
  • Agraharathil Kazhuthai (1977)
  • Thampu (1978)
  • Uski Roti (1969)
  • Duvidha (1973)
  • Tarang (1972)

Date with master filmmakers

Like every year, this year too, the event will bring to you work by master filmmakers, under its section Master frames. The section has the section has 17 films, like By The Grace Of God, Adults in the Room, The Golden Glove, to name a few it by filmmakers of international repute like Pedro Almodovar, Lav Diaz, Xavier Dolan, Dardenne Brothers, Costa Gavras, Wernor Herzog, HirokazuKoreeda, Fatih Akin and more.

Finest work by Ken Loach

The event will showcase some of the finest works by two-time Palme d’Or winner Ken Loach is widely acclaimed across international cinema as an independent filmmaker and documentarian. Some of the landmarks films that will be shows as part of Ken Loach: Retrospective section are Kes, sweet Sixteen, Fatherland, Sorry We Missed You, and more.

Celebration time at IFFI

You missed Oscarwinning movies? IFFI is here for you!

This year, it is Oscar raining at the IFFI. The event has shortlisted the best of Oscar-winning movies to be showcased at the do. These include names like Monos (Columbia), Stupid Young Heart (Finland), Adam (Morocco), Beanpole (Russia), System Crasher (Germany), and many more. Get set to witness the best of world cinema and some of the stellar performances.

Golden Peacock Films of last 49 years!

Golden Peacock award has been a coveted title conferred by IFFI, to the world class cinema. In an effort to let cine aficionados enjoy and witness the stupendous award moving movies, in case they missed any one, the event will showcase all the Golden Peacock movies of the last 49 years under the section Golden Peacock retrospective.

Restoring Indian Classics

IFFI aims to cherish rich cinematic heritage and sharing it with new set of audience and introducing to them the glories of the past. The “Restored Indian Classics’ sections aims the same with showcasing two of the finest Indian films, Kalpana by Uday Shankar and TitasEkti Nadir Naam.

The Best from Asia

This year, IFFI has curated films that have made their mark from across various Asian countries and filmmakers. Titled as ‘Soul of Asia’, the section includes movies like Chinese films Feelings to Tell by Wen LI, Taiwanese film Ten Years Taiwan, Japanese film Ten Years Japan, Wet Season directed by Anthony Chen coproduced by Singapore and Taiwan, and more.

The ‘Gandhian’ film

IFFI, in association, with the International Council for Film, and Television and Audio-Visual Communication Paris (ICFT) will present a UNESCO Medal to a selected film which upholds the values exhibited by Mahatma Gandhi for his immense contribution to the society for preserving peace & non-violence. Indian film BahattarHoorain, along with other movies like Oray, Rwanda and Sanctorum, among others, are in the running for the title.

The power of silence!

Before movies were made with dialogues, films at their nascent stage were released without any dialogues. They still left an impact, solely because of superb acting and emoting skills of the actors, background skills and excellent direction. This year, IFFI will bring back the lost era and mark the stupendous art of filmmaking by showcasing classic silent movies, played with live music. The charismatic experience with be a part of the section ‘Silent Film with Live Music’.

The Syria massacre

Immigration is one of the major problems that we face today. The Syrian immigrant crisis has found cinematic voice through master filmmakers over the last few years as an acknowledgement to this ongoing crisis. IFFI, in its own way, is working to solve the menace. This edition will see the special screening of the film ‘I’m Gonna Tell God Everything’ that narrates the heart wrenching story of Syria between 2011 and 2018.

French Homages

IFFI will pay homage to filmmakers Bernardo Bertolucci and Agnes Varda, who passed away in November 2018 and march 2019. The Dreams and Varda are the two French films that will be screened under this section.

Focus on Takashi Miike

With IFFI going bigger and better the event will this time focus on Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike by dedicating an entire section ‘filmmaker In Focus’ to him. This will include showcasing five of his finest films like First Love, Ichi the Killer, Audition, Dead or Alive, 13 Assassins. Miike is often considered as one of the most outstanding filmmakers from Asia and around the world with a cult status due to his films often mixing distinctly different genres and creating movies which stand out due to their mind-bending nature.

Debutants like never before

IFFI has always been a platform for budding filmmakers. This year too, it will see the best of debutants showcasing their work and fighting it out to be on the top under the Debutant Competition Section.

20 handpicked world-renowned films

Festival Kaleidoscope, one of the most loved and important sections of the festival, brings hand picked films that have already made a mark in the world. This year 20 such films have been curated from all across the world. So, in case you have missed the ‘not be missed’ cinematic experience, you have a reason to cheer.

Homage

  • APAROOPA (Biju Phukan)
  • BHUVAN SHOME (Mrinal Sen)
  • EK ANEK AUR EKTA (Vijaya Mulay)
  • GANASHATRU (Rama Guha Thakurta)
  • HUM (kadar Khan)
  • HUM APKE HAIN KAUN (Raj Kumar Barjatya)
  • KANOORU HEGGADITHI (Girish Karnad)
  • KRISH TRISH AND BALTIBOY: FACE YOUR FEARS (Ram Mohan)
  • PHOOL AUR KAANTE (Veeru Devegan)
  • RAJNIGANDHA (Vidya Sinha)
  • THE TIDAL (Vijaya Mulay)
  • UMRAO JAAN ( Khayyam)
  • VEYILMARANGAL (MJ Radhakrishnan)

The best from Russia

Every year IFFI features ‘Country of Focus’ by picking up the best cinematic work and contribution of a particular country. This year, the country in focus is Russia. You will get to witness some of the best Russian films like Abigail by Aleksandr Boguslavskiy, Acid by Alexander Gorchilin, Great poetry by AleksandrLungin, to name a few.

The Goan story!

Held in Goa, IFFI, every year, dedicates a section that displays the best work from the Konkan film industry, that has been growing fast in the past few years. This year too, the festival has picked the best Konkani films that have made a mark across the globe. the list includes names like A rainy day, Amori, Digant, and more.

The awards that the competitive festival offers are significant in money terms. IFFI hands out prize money to the tune of US$ 200,000. The winner of the Golden Peacock for the best film takes home $80,000. That apart, the best director and the Special Jury Prize winner bag $30,000 each, while the two acting prizes come with a cash component of $20,000 each

The Best IFFI Jury of this Century

The jury is an integral part of any film festival. And IFFI takes care that it ropes in the best from the industry to judge and select the movies it wants to show. This year John Bailey, Cinematographer and Ex. President of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences will chair the International Jury of 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI). French filmmaker Robin Campillo who was also a member of the Cannes International Jury 2019, renowned Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yang and Lynne Ramsay, who is one of the leading lights of young British cinema will be the co-jurors. Eminent Filmmaker, Ramesh Sippy is the Indian member in the International Jury.




Countdown Starts For Commercial Carnival

admin   August 31, 2019

Here are some of the Indian commercial and mainstream films getting ready for release in the next three months

Dream Girl directed by Raaj Shaandilyaa

DREAM GIRL

Dream Girl is a Hindi romantic comedy drama film starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Nushrat Bharucha. The film is directed by Raaj Shaandilyaa and is co-produced by Ekta Kapoor and Shobha Kapoor under their banner Balaji Motion Pictures

War directed by Siddharth Anand

WAR

War is a Hindi action thriller film directed by Siddharth Anand and starring Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff in lead roles, with Vaani Kapoor portraying the female lead and Ashutosh Rana, Anupriya Goenka, and Dipannita Sharma appearing in supporting roles. Produced by Aditya Chopra under his banner Yash Raj Films, the film follows a man who and his guru have a face-off when they get pitted against each other.

The Zoya Factor directed by Abhishek Sharma

THE ZOYA FACTOR

The Zoya Factor is a Hindi romantic drama film, starring Sonam Kapoor and Dulquer Salmaan. It is directed by Abhishek Sharma and produced by Pooja Shetty Deora. The film is a light adaptation of Anuja Chauhan’s 2008 novel The Zoya Factor, and follows the story of a girl, Zoya Solanki, who becomes a lucky charm for the Indian Cricket team during the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

RRR director S S Rajamouli

RRR

After the big success of Baahubali series, director S S Rajamouli is busy with RRR, which has Ramcharan and NTR Junior in lead roles. The film produced by DVV Entertainment is reportedly being made on an estimated budget of Rs 300 crore. Music is by M M Keeravani, cinematography by K K Senthil Kumar and editing by A Sreekar Prasad.

Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy directed by Surender Reddy

SYE RAA NARASIMHA REDDY

Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is a Telugu historical war film directed by Surender Reddy and produced by Ram Charan, starring the latter’s father and megastar Chiranjeevi in the lead. The story is based on the life of freedom fighter Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy. The film stars Amitabh Bachchan, Sudeep, Vijay Sethupathi, Jagapati Babu, Nayanthara, Tamannaah, and Brahmaji in key roles.

Dabangg 3 directed by Prabhu Deva

DABANGG 3

Dabangg 3 is a Hindi action film directed by Prabhu Deva, and produced by Salman Khan and Arbaaz Khan under their respective banners of Salman Khan Films and Arbaaz Khan Productions] The film is a sequel to the 2012 film Dabangg 2 and the third installment of Dabangg film series. The film features Salman Khan[3], Sonakshi Sinha, Arbaaz Khan and Mahie Gill reprising their roles from the previous film, while Sudeep plays the antagonist.

Darbar directed by A R Murugadoss

DARBAR

For the first time, superstar Rajinikanth and ace director A R Murugadoss have joined forces for Darbar, produced by Lyca. A police story set in Mumbai, the film has Nayanthara, Yogi Babu and Nivetha Thomas among others in key roles. Music for the flick is by Anirudh Ravichander.

Bigil directed by Atlee

BIGIL

After Theri and Mersal, Vijay and director Atlee have come together once again for Bigil. The sports-based Tamil thriller, as it is tipped to be, is being bankrolled by AGS Entertainment. Nayanthara is the leading lady of the flick, which will have musical score by Oscar-Grammy winner A R Rahman.

Laal Kaptaan directed by Navdeep Singh

LAAL KAPTAAN

Laal Kaptaan is a Hindi epic action drama film written and directed by Navdeep Singh. The film is produced by Eros International and Aanand L Rai’s Colour Yellow Productions. Starring Saif Ali Khan, it revolves around two warring brothers out for revenge.

Indian 2 directed by Shankar

INDIAN 2

Indian 2 is a sequel to the 1996 super hit Tamil film Indian from the same Kamal Haasan-Shankar combo. The second part boats of a huge star cast including, Kajal Aggarwal, Siddharth, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Rakul Preet, Aishwarya Rajesh etc. The film is being bankrolled by Lyca.


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Indie Resurgence

admin   August 29, 2019

Driven by a fresh burst of energy, a new breed of independent filmmakers are delivering films based on their own individualistic visions, erasing the gap between the socially meaningful and the commercially viable Indian cinema – By Saibal Chatterjee

Mediocrity is mainstream Indian cinema’s comfort zone. It has always been. But today, being middling is more than just an old habit for filmmakers seeking easy ways to achieve runaway commercial success. It has become a necessity. Low-grade, star-driven commercial cinema and its purveyors are being gleefully embraced by both the masses and the official agencies charged with the promotion of film culture in the country.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that an unabashedly misogynistic film like
Arjun Reddy hits the box-office bull’s eye. Its Hindi remake, Kabir Singh, made by the same director with a different actor, does even better.

Another easy-to-sell category of cinema has emerged, especially in Mumbai, over the past few years: adulatory biopics and puff jobs. These are films that are either aggressively jingoistic (Uri: The Surgical Strike, RAW: Romeo Akbar Walter) or are unabashed extended, fictionalized public service adverts (Toilet: Ek Prem Katha). Taking the line of least resistance pays instant dividends. These films not only make pots of money but also often go on to win national awards at the cost of essays that are leagues ahead in cinematic terms.

But for a new breed of independent filmmakers who are consciously pulling away from the crowd and following their own individualistic visions to deliver films aimed at erasing the gap between the socially meaningful and the commercially viable, Indian cinema today would have worn the looks of a hopeless wasteland.

Mercifully, even filmmakers working in the mainstream space – Pa. Ranjith and Vetrimaaran in Chennai and Anurag Kashyap and Anubhav Sinha in Mumbai – do not shy away from hitting political hot-buttons and questioning gender presumptions in stories couched in popular narrative formulations.

When Vetrimaaran makes Vada Chennai, he ensures that it isn’t any ordinary gangster flick. He infuses it with a social resonance that communicates truths about a city and society in ways that are beyond the reach of less clued-in filmmakers. Pretty much the same is true of Pa. Ranjith. His two Rajinikanth vehicles, Kabali and Kaala, have a strong caste struggle sub-text delivered in a style that never strays into the preachy and boring. Ranjith also recently produced Mari Selvaraj’s Pariyerum Perumal, the story of a boy from an oppressed caste struggling to ward of continuing discrimination.

Ranjith is now in the midst of directing his first Hindi-language film – a drama based on the life of tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda. The choice of hero is a natural progression for a filmmaker whose cinema has probed the place of the deprived and dispossessed in a society where power flows from religious identity and caste allegiance.

Important elements dovetailed into the plot of Anurag Kashyap’s boxing drama Mukkabaaz also reflects the political consciousness of the maker. The ills of the caste system have also been laid bare in stark detail in Anubhav Sinha’s Article 15. The film is a worthy follow-up to Sinha’s Mulk, which addressed the issue of Islamophobia head-on. We might argue that Indian films still haven’t gone far enough to call out patriarchy and the Brahmanical order. But the very fact that some films are making an attempt, no matter a feeble, is itself a sign of the changing times.

A fresh burst of energy is driving independent filmmakers not just in Tamil
Nadu and Kerala but also in Mumbai. The primary space in debutant Madhu C. Narayanan’s Malayalam film Kumbalangi Nights, scripted by Syam Puskaran, is the home of four brothers who have no woman in their lives. The siblings are all flawed, scalded individuals until women enter their lives and make them see life and love in a different light. The film is an examination of masculinity that turns the entire notion of patriarchy on its head.

Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s daringly innovative multi-plot drama Super Deluxe is a film that throws caution to the wind and yet comes with such astounding formal precision that one cannot but watch in awe and applaud. Kumararaja throws four sub-plots into a giant, constantly whirring grinder and emerges with a film so fascinating and so wondrously inventive that one is caught by surprise at every turn.

Super Deluxe subverts our expectations at every turn. A couple is thrown into turmoil following the death of the woman’s ex-boyfriend in her bed. A father of a boy returns to his family after a seven-year absence in the guise of a transwoman. A schoolboy who bunks school with his friends to watch a pornographic film flies into a rage on discovering that his mother is an adult movie actress. Four friends get into terrible tangle with the underworld in an attempt to wriggle out of a minor jam.

The fast-paced, almost breathless film delivers a dazzling kaleidoscope of an urban landscape where every single day is as strange and disconcerting as the previous one. Super Deluxe is testimony to what younger Tamil filmmakers are capable of as storytellers and craftsmen.

The new Malayalam cinema, too, is going through a wonderfully fecund phase. Three films made by Kerala directors are in two of world’s major festivals this year. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Chola (Shape of Water) premieres at the Venice Film Festival while Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu and Getu Mohandas’s Moothon are in the Toronto International Film Festival. Sasidharan’s S Durga won the Hivos Tiger Award at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam a couple of years ago, the first Indian film to bag the prize.

Lijo is, of course, also a name to reckon with. He is in the midst of a urple patch., Before Jallikattu, he delivered two absolutely stunning films – Angamaly Diaries and Ee. Ma. Yau – both of which prove his grasp over the medium and his phenomenal ability to handle a multiplicity of actors within single uninterrupted sequences.

The first world that spring to mind when watching a Lijo film is dynamism, the kind that can be extremely infectious. It would be no exaggeration if we were to suggest that he, along with Sasidharan, are the ones who are propelling the resurgence of Malayalam cinema on the global stage. We expect more surprises as filmmakers from Kerala reclaim the place they had in international festivals in the 1980s and a part of the 1990s.


Featured Post

Making a Song and Dance of it

admin   August 14, 2019

By Praveen Das

To prevent this argument from going soft it’s perhaps best to start with a story, even if it’s an anecdote about an anecdote. Despite having never met the man in question, an acquaintance of mine from Mumbai once recalled how Amitabh Bachchan may have saved his life in the dusty valleys of Afghanistan. The storyteller, an Indian diplomat, who shall we say functions as part of the spear tip of Indian statecraft, was in the Central Asian nation soon after the Taliban’s ouster in 2002 and looking to make contact with a few leaders of the putative Northern Alliance. Suddenly besieged and presented to a different set of warlords he found himself unable to break the ice with them, and was soon gravely informed that they suspected him of being a Pakistani spook, the “enemy” they loathed. That is until he spied a tattered poster of Bachchan’s 1992 hit Khuda Gawah (‘God is the Witness’, a fi lm shot extensively in Afghanistan) in the next room and decided to talk Bollywood — to immediate excitement among the Afghan warriors. Unable to recall any song from that fi lm, however, he found himself back in the doghouse, until he started belting out ‘Mehbooba, Mehbooba’ from Sholay, the 1975 blockbuster that launched Bachchan to superstardom, and is perhaps the most famous Hindi film west of Amritsar. An agreement was soon concluded and the diplomat found himself warmly escorted back to his base with much fierce debate about the new “Khan ishtars” in Mumbai.

Aishwarya Rai at Cannes Film Festival

The tale might have perhaps grown longer in the telling but there’s no disputing how popular Indian films now are in many parts of the world. Clearly, going soft need not be inopportune. For well over two decades now foreign policy wonks have waxed eloquent about the merits of ‘soft power’ for nations looking to find their places at the global high table. India, with its old civilisation and spiritual customs based on universalist traditions, has always had several cards to play in this game. Indian commercial cinema, with its distinct rhythms, is the latest addition to the pack. As a noted strategic affairs guru puts it: “Bollywood has done more for Indian influence abroad than all the bureaucratic efforts of the government”. But there’s still some way to go, for both industry and creative artists cynically churning out assembly-line movies in the country, and for the state making more concerted efforts to better push what is arguably India’s most exciting export goodie.

Masala Stardust

Much water has flown down the Ganges since earlier generations of Indians were often told of how much Russians loved Raj Kapoor’s cloyingly Chaplinesque tramp from Awara, or of how Dilip Kumar was as much a heartthrob in Lahore and Dhaka as he was in Mumbai. Beyond old ties of cultural kinship in the subcontinent and bilateral arrangements between governments (which saw a handful of Indian films being regularly exported to ‘friendly’ countries like the Soviet Union or Mongolia), Indian cinema has struck out and conquered bold newer frontiers now. Indian superstars like Aishwarya Rai and Aamir Khan regularly walk the red carpet at big film festivals like Cannes, Toronto and Venice and are recognised globally. Southern superstar Rajinikanth was a cultural phenomenon in Japan for a while, where local fans dubbed him ‘Dancing Maharajah” and landed up in exotic Indian costumes for his movie premieres. Bolly superstar Shah Rukh Khan was conferred a high Malaysian state honour which even stirred controversy there with many protesting that local actors were ignored. Several actors also increasingly pop up in the tabloid press when holidaying abroad in the West — a surer sign of cross-cultural traction than any box-office grosses — and are now slowly experimenting with taking up meaty roles in films in a more globalised Hollywood.

A Poster of Sivaji

There’s no denying Indian movie stars’ graphs have seen increasingly steep rises from the last decade into this one. If pirated videotapes in the 1980s kickstarted the revolution, the internet – and its endlessly cyclical streams of video content — appears to have solidified this reach, taking Indian film to places as far afield as North Africa, Western Europe, Japan and South Korea. In fact there’s a reason Indian film distributors now delay releasing Hindi or Tamil films in many foreign markets, despite the lucrative business many films do there. Most pirated DVDs that land up almost immediately after film premieres on Indian shores come from these places.

Home is where the heart is

In briefly analysing this trans-cultural appeal of Indian cinema two major factors must be noted. One, the size, breadth and rising cultural assertiveness of the Indian diaspora across the world has been a factor so huge it’s changed Bollywood in several noteworthy ways. The expatriate Indian’s outsize longing for identity and roots has helped reshape the country’s film trade. The foreign box office (BO) contributes so signifi – cantly to big movies in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu that several duds at the local BO actually go on to make profits from the diaspora dollar. Many films now have exclusive premieres in London and New York, unthinkable even a decade and a half ago. Pioneered by filmmakers like Subash Ghai — who was actually lampooned in the mid 1990s for ‘pandering’ to Non Resident Indian (NRI) audiences — the size of this market has even led to the content changing in Bollywood. Indian films have got slicker, costlier and are now set in locales across the globe with many actors often playing NRI characters, echoing vaguely NRI concerns.

Film markets at festivals worldwide now see sizeable Indian delegations hawking new productions for distributors to pick up or producers to take up. Outside of Bollywood, Tamil film producers now tie-up ‘FMS’ (Foreign, Malaysia, Singapore) rights before they get down to haggling with local distributors about territories and sales, while Telugu producers line up small European and sizeable North American releases for their new films.

Songs and dance are essence of Indian Cinema

NRIs, it seems, just can’t get enough of the filmy glamour from their old country in any way possible. Many film stars now earn big bucks from performing at ‘Bollywood Nights’ abroad. These arena shows, staged almost exclusively in countries with large NRI populations, have also proven so lucrative that several stars either long in the tooth back home or relegated to the background now make their money purely from ‘touring’.

Business is booming overseas, yet as any big producer, distributor or cultural commentator will tell you, much remains to be done to increase penetration beyond the diaspora. The odd viral video of Europeans doing ‘Bollywood dancing’ for small audiences or weddings with a Bollywood theme are still too few and far between for Indian cinema to be labelled a widespread crossover phenomenon. Unlike, say, with the martial arts films that crossed over from Hong Kong and China to the West over three decades ago; or Japanese creature features, manga or ‘J-Horror’ genres. They influence Hollywood, still the gold standard for big feature film production. To change that requires tinkering with the old formula for Indian cinema. It would mean going more ‘arty’ (a despised phrase in Indian film production circles) and looking to imbibe and reconstruct in singular fashion genres, themes and narrative experiments from elsewhere. And not just in form.

Which is, of course, easier said than done. A strong recidivist streak resides deep inside Indian filmdom. The formula may not be periodically dumped or retired for a new genre to rise to the top of the heap à la Hollywood. This in turn has a lot to do with why the formula is the way it is. Why fix what ain’t broke? And besides, this formula is the second reason Indian films have such a large global reach. It’s why they speak in unmatched dulcet tones to several other developing societies that have much more in common with Indian audiences than they suspect.

Rajinikanth fans in Japan

Think Local, Act Global

There’s a reason India is referred to as a subcontinent. The sum of its many ethnic, cultural and linguistic parts is perhaps greater than the whole. With over 25 major languages spoken and over 700 hundred dialects, not to mention large ethnic, cultural and religious divisions, nation building and unity was a challenge the founders and early builders of modern India took very seriously indeed. Cinema was soon harnessed to the task in the 1950s. Filmmakers and writers took on matters of great national and social import and until the mid 1960s (when romances got mushier and a new generation of glamorous lovers and sex symbols appeared onscreen) and early 70s (when public anger against a dysfunctional state and crony capitalism exploded on screens across India) sought to craft a cohesive cinema that provided ‘wholesome’ family entertainment while dwelling on traditional Indian values and customs. These films had to crossover from one region of India to another that had about as much in common with each other as two European countries do. They had to transcend barriers of language, class, creed and ethnicity. They began doing that for almost every big Bollywood release in roughly the late 60s to early 70s. The seeds of a global formula were sown right there. In fact, in addition to India’s remarkable (even if slightly flawed) tryst with liberal democracy, several theorists and historians have championed Bollywood in particular as a great force for national integration in what ought to have been a rather fractious country of infinite diversity. To put it a little simplistically, a template was slowly evolved and continues to form the basis of cinema to this day with very little variations on the theme, even if the forms have changed over time.

Also powered by audiences changing with a new liberalising India, new fi lms from the mid 1990s began to be increasingly located abroad (and not just for the songs) while the melodrama remained firmly rooted in varying interpretations of ‘Indianness’. Over the year the characters got glitzier, the stars got shinier, the songs got dreamier, the love stories got mushier, the gangsters and vigilantes got nastier and the Hollywood-inspired action sequences got edgier, but the melodramatic tensions remained pretty much the same. It made — and still makes — for a heady mix. Yet at its core Indian cinema is still mostly all about family, culture, traditions and, of course, romance. And the increasing demands that modernity makes on each of those.

A Poster of Sholay

This is largely what appeals to audiences in countries that are grappling with the rapid changes wrought by the modern world and increasingly breakneck Westernization of societies. So from much of the Arab world to Central Asia and parts of South East Asia, from Africa and to many parts of Latin America, Indian films deal with societal tensions that people deal with on a daily basis. Despite the candyfloss glamour on top, which merely provides for the perfect escapism for such audiences. And an alternate ‘warm’ escapism, one that comes straight from the heart; as opposed to what Hollywood provides, which for these audiences tends to be either too cerebral, too Western or merely a visceral rush. The neo-Shakespearean tragicomic genre that Bollywood has made its own is a different fl avour to be savoured with everyone. No wonder it’s a hit.

Besides, there’s also one special secret sauce added into the mix. The one genre that India perhaps took and refashioned in singular fashion more than any other to make it its own more than any other: the old Hollywood musical format. Which was quickly fused with classical Indian traditions of devotional and theatrical musical performance. The spectacular results are there for the world to see. Indeed, whatever your cinematic inclinations you would have to admit, where would Indian cinema be without all that song and dance? The world agrees. Come, sing along. Or better yet, dance.