The thirteenth edition of Pune International Film Festival (PIFF) kicked off in the city on Thursday. This year the theme of the festival is ‘War Against War’ to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I. The organisers, the participating union and the state government representatives vowed to make the festival — which is the official film festival of Maharashtra — bigger and better in the years to come.
The festival opening ceremony was attended by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Union Minister for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar, Maharashtra Minister for Cultural Affairs Vinod Tawde, Pune Guardian Minister Girish Bapat, PIFF Director Jabbar Patel and PIFF Chairman Jury Krzystoff Zanussi. Actors Shatrughan Sinha, Tanuja and poet-lyricist N D Mahanor were honoured for their ‘outstanding contribution to the Indian Cinema’.
The week-long festival will present over 200 movies from 75 countries to the city audience. A total of 14 films, selected from 600 entries, will compete for the Prabhat Best International Film, while 7 films will compete in the Sant Tukaram Best International Marathi Film category.
In his speech, CM Fadnavis praised the organisers for choosing an apt theme for the festival. “Given the present situation, there can’t be any better theme than ‘War Against War’. We read and hear news about human beings being killed at this or that part of the world. We have to fight the injustice and violence with dialogue, peaceful deliberations and cultural exchanges. There’s no other cultural ambassador as good as cinema,” said Fadnavis.
Javadekar stressed on the importance of branding the festival which would help it grow over the years. “Film is a big business and it has proved to be a big revenue generation source for international currency. We will help PIFF in any way possible from the centre,” said Javadekar.
Cultural Minister Tawde opined that film festivals were the best device for cultural exchange. “There’s no doubt that the film festival needs more funds. We are bound to help the festival. However, I would suggest the city-based industrialists to come forward and help the festival grow,” said Tawde.
Festival Director Jabbar Patel said that the festival would become bigger in the years to come. “Next year onwards, we are planning to institute a new competition section ‘Indian Competition’ for short films and documentaries,” said Patel.
Reminiscent of the response in single screen theatres whenever one of his hit films played on screen, veteran actor Shatrugan Sinha was greeted with a wholly of whistles and cheers from the audience as an audio-visual presentation of the actor’s film journey played on the screen before he was awarded the Distinguished Award.
As the senior actor came on stage and started off with his signature ‘Khamosh’, he proved to the audience that the entertainer in him was still going strong. Calling Pune a city of culture and intellectuals, he said, he loved Pune the most after his birth-place Patna. A pass-out from the Film and Television Institute of India, it was to this institute that he dedicated his award.
Keeping it short and simple, actress Tanuja, who was conferred the Distinguished Award, thanked her family, friends and fans without whom her journey wouldn’t have been possible, before acknowledging the support of her colleagues, make-up artistes, junior artistes, hair dressers and spot boys. Asked to speak in Marathi, she said (in Marathi), “I cannot think fast in Marathi. I think in English and have to translate it.”
‘Why invite so many politicians?’
In his speech, Cultural Minister Tawde took a dig at the organisers for inviting so many politicians and ministers in a cultural event like the inauguration of a film festival. “We ministers are the trustees of the government exchequer and if we fund such events, it’s not like we are doing any favour. Why advertise the government support this way by inviting us? Ideally, only artistes should be invited for such events and if we want to attend such festivals, we will come and sit in the front row,” he added. Meanwhile, Krzysztof Zanussi, the chairman of the international jury, did not get an opportunity to speak.
One-window system for film shoots
Reacting to demands by the organisers, Fadnavis promised a one-window system to give speedy clearance to film shoots in the state. “I understand that it’s important to set up such a system and promise you that the next time I come here, the one-window system will be in place,” he said.
Mismanagement mars ceremony
There was mismanagement at the venue from the beginning as the audience grumbled over lack of seats. Invited guests, dignitaries and media representatives had to struggle to find a place. Veteran journalist and former member of the jury of PIFF, Dileep Padgaonkar, too, was seen searching for a seat. The biggest lapse was, however, in the lax security as many people entered, especially towards the end, without being frisked. The biggest embarrassment to the managers of the festival came during the performance of ace percussionist Taufiq Qureshi who was stopped mid-way by an irate audience member.
Qureshi creates magic on stage
Born in the house of legendary tabla player Ustad Alla Rakha and younger brother of ace tabla player Ustad Zakir Hussain, Taufiq Qureshi, percussionist and composer, presented a high-tempo fusion performance in a unique style creating rhythmic motifs spanning across cultures. He was appreciated with whistles amidst choruses of ‘once more’.