Those who could take their minds off Helen’s unmatched dance moves, which blazed across the big screen for decades, and shift their focus to her eyes, would have noticed an unmistakable glint in them. That was visible on Tuesday evening too. She received the Lifetime Achievement award at the opening ceremony of the 16th Mumbai Film Festival (MFF), presented by actor Akshay Kumar. “I am tongue-tied,” said the legendary actor-dancer when asked to say a few words. Then she read out from the teleprompter: “Akshay speaks. Helen speaks. Helen leaves.” Before the laughter died down, she said, “I was four years old when I came to India from Rangoon. It has been a long journey.” She also admitted to being reluctant to receive the honour before MFF’s creative director Anupama Chopra prevailed in convincing her. The other Lifetime Achievement award winner was legendary French actor Catherine Deneuve.
Like Helen, several film personalities, invited by Chopra, walked the MFF red carpet on Tuesday evening to express solidarity with this major film event of the city. When the very existence of the event was threatened by fund constraints earlier this year, a clutch of film personalities, such as Chopra, Kiran Rao and Anurag Kashyap, stepped forward to help it tide over the crisis. Thanks to their efforts, Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Deepika Padukone among others, were at Juhu’s Chandan theatre to make it a star-studded affair. Others have taken up different roles — Kalki Koechlin as the opening ceremony’s anchor showed her funny bone; Huma Qureshi, Gauri Shinde and Homi Adajania are the jurors for Dimensions Mumbai; and Ritesh Batra is part of International Competition jury.
With Rs 3.5 crore raised so far, the festival organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) is still dealing with a massive shortfall. Yet, for the organisers, rolling out the event on Tuesday was nothing short of a “miracle”. And that was made possible by crowd-funding. Shyam Benegal, chairman, MAMI, said, “It is a festival run by Mumbai’s film professionals. Now, it is financed by them. Even television channels and industrialists have come forward to make this happen. Such efforts should continue.”