Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon will inaugurate the 44th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) here this evening.
Sarandon, who shot to fame with her 1995 Oscar clincher Dead Man Walking, will be joined by some of Indian cinema's luminaries like Tamil superstar Kamal Haasan, yesteryear Bollywood heartthrob Rekha, singing sensation Asha Bhosle, Mr "Bharat" Manoj Kumar, noted Iranian helmer Majid Majidi and Czech master Jiri Menzel.
Menzel will be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award and his latest creation, The Don Juans, will open IFFI. A Czech comedy that will hopefully create the mood for 11 days of movies and magic, The Don Juans is operatic in just about every way. It revolves around a small-town company's delightful dilemma over the production of Don Giovanni. The film is a burst of energy created through terrific gags and the exuberant notes of Mozart.
Earlier in the evening, Waheeda Rehman will be presented with the Centenary Award of the Indian Film Personality of the Year. She enjoys the privilege of being the first-ever recipient of the annual Centenary Award, introduced this year to celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema.
This year, Goa also has the privilege of hosting IFFI for the 10th time. The Festival moved to Panaji in 2004 after decades of gypsy existence when the cinematic event moved from city to city, pitching its tent in New Delhi every other year. Organised by the information and broadcasting ministry, the festival has to still grapple with an element of uncertainty as far as its venue goes. For, ever so often there is this talk of the Festival being shifted out of Panaji, out of Goa itself.
Years before IFFI came to Panaji, there was a fancy notion that Goa will be as idyllic as Cannes, replete with sunny beaches and touristy attractions.
These precisely were the overriding considerations when the French decided on Cannes six-odd decades ago.
Panaji may or may not turn out to be an Indian Cannes, but it is important to put at rest any speculation about IFFI's venue. Only then can the location -- scenic as it is washed by the Arabian Sea, and with a cinema complex overlooking the Mandovi River -- can be developed into a truly world-class facility.
But for the next 11 days, all these thoughts will pushed aside as Panaji celebrates cinema with over 300 movies from about 75 countries and a 10,000-strong delegate presence.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering IFFI for the 25th year)