The 42nd edition of the International Film Festival of India, now on, chose Bollywood stars to open its two most important sections, the Indian Panorama and earlier the Festival itself.
Shah Rukh Khan or Bollywood Badshah as he is now known, walked in 40 minutes late to open the Festival on November 23 in Goa’s Margao, keeping even Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni and Goa’s Chief Minister Digambar Kamat waiting, not to mention the international jury (chairman Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Israel’s Dan Wolman, Iran’s Tahmineh Milani and Busan’s Lee Yong Kwan among others).
That Bollywood will hijack the Festival was a fear that many had harboured even before the 11-day event pitched its permanent tent on the banks of the River Mandovi in 2004 after years of gypsy existence when it wandered around the country. The apprehension now seems more real than perceived.
Also, nowhere in the world does a film festival get bogged down by such elaborately inane speech-and-dance rituals on its opening night. It took a full two hours on the inaugural evening for the Festival in Goa to begin screening the opening movie, The Consul of Bordeaux. Audiences were clearly impatient by then, and many left in what could be seen as insulting to the Portuguese directors.
While Portugal’s The Consul of Bordeaux (by Francisco Manso and Joao Correa) was an apt work given the fact that Goa was celebrating the Golden Jubilee of its liberation from Lisbon, the movie, though, ended up being one of those ponderous looks at a World War II incident. The story of a man (in this case the French Consul) saving Jews from Hitler’s hatred is a theme that has been beaten out of shape. And this depressingly dark work was neither invigorating nor elevating – ingredients essential to add that zing to get a Festival sailing.
Santosh Sivan’s Urumi dealt (quite aptly again) with an essentially Portuguese theme: Vasco da Gama’s hunt for pepper and invasion of Kerala and Goa. Photographed stunningly by Sivan himself, the film is more fiction than fact, and often confuses the viewer with its innumerable characters and intricate plot twists. Interesting performances by Vidya Balan and Genelia D’Souza (weighed down by average efforts by Prabhu Deva and Prithviraj) were somewhat redeeming in a tiringly long work, 155 minutes in all.
Between The Consul of Bordeaux and Urumi was the lifetime felicitation of French director Bertrand Tavernier (The Princess of Montpensier, In the Electric Mist and Holy Lola). The award carrying a cash of $20,000 has been reinstated after a decade.
Paradoxically, the helmer rued that not one film of his had ever found a theatrical outlet in India. The man who has visited India five times said that he would think of making a movie in the country, maybe something on Indo-French relations.
Adding that French cinema was “actively political”, he said that his works – that often portray aspects of education and culture -- had inspired several to become teachers and few, policemen.