As Bollywood completes 100 years in 2013, the 12th edition of the ongoing Marrakech International Film Festival is paying a tribute to it by devoting almost the entire event to Indian cinema.
The venue of the opening gala on November 30 was the new Taj Palace Marrakech, which welcomed a large Indian delegation, led by actor Amitabh Bachchan. Names such as Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Arjun Rampal, Sridevi, Tabu, Alia Bhatt, Malaika Arora Khan, Abhay Deol, Boman Irani, Rishi and Neetu Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap and Kalki Koechlin were there, among others from the film fraternity. We were all staying at the iconic Hotel Mamounia there.
Having attended several festivals, rarely have I seen anything like the on-the-ground excitement such as in Marrakech. The entire city was abuzz with big festival posters and billboards all over, and the venue of the festival, Palais des Congres, had adorned an Indian avatar.
The opening act of the festival was by Malaika who made the audience swing to her hit number Chaiyaa Chaiyaa.
However, December 1 was the real night when Indian cinema was truly celebrated. It was a dignified ceremony with the entire Indian film delegation on stage. The glamour and shine of our ethnicity did not go unnoticed. When our actors, specially SRK, arrived on the red carpet, the Beatlemania-style scenes were unbelievable! The level of local Moroccan support for Bollywood films, for example, was an unexpected discovery; during the tumultuous tributes, mention was made of the number of Moroccans who have learned Hindi through our films. Big B was honoured and paid a tribute by French actor Catherine Deneuve. A special tribute was also payed to late filmmaker Yash Chopra and his last film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, was screened on the same day to a very August audience.
I was sitting a seat away from Italian beauty Monica Bellucci who dreams to visit India and maybe one day be a part of an Indian movie.
Shah Rukh was decorated by the Moroccan medal of Honour at the royal banquet by His Highness Prince Rachid.
Whilst we enjoyed the royal treatment, there were outdoor screenings of popular Indian films such as Deewar, Silsila, Jodhaa Akbar, Kabhie Kabhie, to name a few, at the famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square to an enthusiastic local audience.