A Hundred Miles to Go

It took him three years to get here,and film critic and film festival coordinator Ajit Rai couldn’t have picked a better place to hold the first of its kind Media International Film Festival.

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor | Published: April 10, 2012 1:44 am

It took him three years to get here,and film critic and film festival coordinator Ajit Rai couldn’t have picked a better place to hold the first of its kind Media International Film Festival (MIFF). Situated in the heartland of Haryana,it’s a place that witnessed the beginning of all conversations,a land that stands testimony to the greatest story ever told,Mahabharata. With MIFF,Kurukshetra has kick-started yet another dialogue — one that celebrates a century of Indian cinema. A five-day festival held at Kurukshetra University,from April 3 to 7,MIFF was a battle that Rai won hands down. Showcasing some of the best works produced by Indian cinema that included films like Dhoop,Lahore,Woh Subah Kidhar Nikal Gayee,Das Capital,Old Man and the Sea,I am Kalam,Ek Ruka Hua Faisala and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron,the festival also included a short film competition and a film appreciation course. Rai invited an impressive panel of writers,directors and actors to conduct sessions on cinema and involved the staff and 600 students of the Institute of Mass Communication and Media Technology in the festival.

What made MIFF a success was its endeavour to trigger a thought process to change the mindset of a state haunted by female foeticide and honour killings. “It was a great feeling to see girl students of the department actively participating,’’ said Rai. The film critic is all set to empower the youth through good cinema and strives to start festivals at ten more places in the state. Haryana International Film Festival that was held at DAV College for Girls,Yamunagar,and organised by Rai,was also extremely successful. Now,all Rai needs are like-minded people and a budget of Rs 10 lakh to run any festival.

“Cinema is a confluence of all art forms and can truly impact an individual,” believes Rai,whose core group of advisors include filmmakers Gautam Ghosh,Feroze Abbas Khan,Seema Kapoor,actor Om Puri,writers Vinod Bhardwaj and Ranjeet Kapoor among others. It’s from these people that Rai sources his films. As Rai talked about starting a farmer film festival in Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh and creating a scenario beyond Bollywood,Professor Rajbir Singh,Chairman,MIFF,and assistant professors of the Mass Communication department worked tirelessly to make sure that everything was in order.

The students in turn surprised Rai when they sat through eight-hour long seminars on cinema and posed interesting questions. “Usually,in Haryana,when a girl walks up to the stage or when a film with bold content is screened,there are catcalls and hooting. We had pin drop silence,” said Rai,who feels that Punjab is in desperate need to run festivals like these. “People in Punjab are still stuck in the DDLJ romantic phase. They need to be shaken and stirred,” reflects Rai.

Conversations on cinema,active voices of concern on where we are now and why we are the way we are,the core of MIFF was an initiation of conversations. “A 100 years have upspooled before us,but have we moved on?” questioned BBC London’s Parvez Alam. British producer,Leslie Udwin,who has produced films like West is West agreed. International filmmaker Udayan Prasad and director general of Doordarshan,Tripurari Sharan,feel that storytelling lies at the heart of good cinema. If Prasad,whose films Brothers in Trouble and My Son the Fanatic were screened,looks for complex characters who go on insightful journeys,Sharan says that the first rule of storytelling is that it should be unusual,a substance for soul.

They all agree that film festivals train the eye for viewing cinema,appreciating it and learning its art and craft. “But it’s skill and script development is the need of the hour,” said filmmaker Atul Tiwari. According to NFDC’s MD,Nina Lath Gupta,it’s regional and rural cinema that we need to focus on. “We are still stuck in dramatology,in heavy-duty dialogues,” said Tiwari,who has written Kamal Hasan’s amibitious film,Viswaroopam,a spy thriller that is all set to go to Cannes next year. Other speakers included Seema Biswas,director Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan,Nila Madhab Panda,Yashpal Sharma,Leela Samson and Prof Heinz Wessler among others.

“In order to create awareness and educate audiences,good cinema has to go to small towns like Bokaro,Patna,Lucknow,Ranchi,Kanpur,Gorakhpur,Allahabad — away from plush cities,metros and exotic seaside destinations like Goa,” said Prashant Kashyap,the man behind Jagran film festivals.

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