Amidst the uproar over the exclusion of S Durga and Nude from the Indian Panorama and the storm over the release of Padmavati, the 48th International Film Festival of India opened in Panaji Monday with a star parade and the Indian premiere of Iranian master Majid Majidi’s Beyond the Clouds.
Majidi, who watched his fellow countrymen create the best of world cinema despite the adverse situation they often found themselves in, called for support to independent filmmakers. Walking down the red carpet, Majidi said, “Artists face these kind of situations because of the talent and desire they have. That extends to filmmakers too. They should not stop innovation in their work because of adverse conditions.”
Famous for movies like Children of Heaven and The Color of Paradise, Majidi said the priority should be to give what ordinary people think. “Even if the government tries to boycott their work, artists will find a way to express themselves,” he said. The festival, which will continue till November 28, will screen around 200 films.
While many visiting film personalities chose not to comment on the controversies, one of the lead actors of Padmavati, Shahid Kapoor, spoke up: “It’s not the first time that I have had a film which has faced such issues. Udta Punjab’s release was preceded by a lot of drama. But eventually, it was released and loved by people. So, I am very optimistic,” he said.
“This is not the time to be angry. There are enough people losing their cool. Padmavati is a film that we are proud of. Once it releases, I am sure people will love it and all these will be forgotten,” Shahid Kapoor said, adding that the production team of Padmavati had already issued a statement regarding the delay over its release. “We want to go through the process and hope CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) will clear the film very soon,” he said.
On the delay over the release of Padmavati, CBFC chairperson Prasoon Joshi said, “The CBFC has to take a decision with a cool mind. This mess is not created by CBFC but by Padmavati’s team.” He was ref referring to the film being screened for select members of the media.
“There could be one or two committees formed to take this decision. I am from the film fraternity. The issue is not about (director Sanjay Leela) Bhansali, about the subject. CBFC needs space, time and mindspace to go over the issues related to it. I respect creativity and filmmakers. We need to take a very responsible decision with a cool mind,” Joshi said. He said the CBFC was following procedure. “Instead of squabbling, we should sit down and discuss the issue,” he said.
Veteran actor Nana Patekar, who had worked with Bhansali’s Khamoshi, said: “We take creative liberties while making historical dramas. But no one should be hurt by those depictions. Similar allegations were made against Bhansali during Bajirao Mastani. As per the law, action should be taken against those attacking the actors and the film.”
In his opening remarks, Shah Rukh Khan said: “You all should know, in our country, among all of you, there will be interests, albeit small stories hidden somewhere. We are truly a land of stories, fables, of cultural history, religious history, mythology and legends. Stories that have mesmerised us, stories that make us think, stories that make us believe, give us hope and inspire our future generations to their future and larger potential.”
“The essence of story telling is incomplete, if there is no story listener. And I believe that story tellers and story listeners are, or at least should be, like a family. There is a word in Sanskrit. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. It means bringing the world together like a family. I believe no matter what your language is, no matter what country your story comes from, and no matter what your ideology is, story telling and listening should be a familial experience which binds us together. Makes relationships stronger, even in the face of dissent and discussion as it usually happens in a family. Instead of tearing us apart,” Khan said.
In her address, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani said: “It is our endeavour, on behalf of the government of India and the government of Goa, that we invite filmmakers from across the world to this land of stories.”
Responding to a dig made by actor Rajkummar Rao who tried to make a connect between director Majidi’s chosen language in his movies, and Irani also being the second name of the Union Minister, she said: “Yeh baat desh bhar mein jaani chahiye, ki agar aaj tumne agar mazak kiya, toh sirf Irani ke naam pe ek mantri ka kiya, which shows what a tolerant government we are. Abhar isliye aapka vyakt kar rahi hoon ki kamse kam yeh toh koi na kahe ki BJP walon ne ek actor ki taang tod di (Let the country know that you joked only about a minister’s name, and it only shows what a tolerant government we are. I would like to thank you. At least it should not be said that the BJP broke an actor’s leg)” — Rao has been nursing an injury sustained while shooting.
The IFFI inaugural was marked by the presence of a number of film personalities. Sridevi was there with her husband-producer Boney Kapoor, and daughter Jhanvi Kapoor who will be making her debut in Karan Johar-produced Dhadak. On Tuesday, Sridevi will open the Indian Panorama which showcases 26 features and 19 non-features.