The only major premiere scheduled for the 38th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) will, like the rest of the ongoing event, be devoid of glitz and glitter. The lead actor of Rituparno Ghosh's The Last Lear, Amitabh Bachchan, will be conspicuous by his absence at the film's screening Friday.
The other stars of Ghosh's first English language film, Preity Zinta and Arjun Rampal, will also give a miss to the premiere here.
The Last Lear, which will have as many as four screenings on a single day, will be represented by Ghosh, and supporting actresses Shefali Shah and Divya Dutta, besides representatives of the production company, Planman Media.
<b1>Speculation was rife ever since the festival kicked off on whether the Big B would deign to attend the premiere. It was only on Wednesday that the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) received final word that Bachchan, as in previous years, will be skipping IFFI despite the fact that a major film of his is being unveiled here.
The Bollywood superstar led the promotion of The Last Lear during its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Also part of the Toronto contingent was Bengal's box office powerhouse Prosenjit Chatterjee. Prosenjit will also not make it to IFFI because he is currently not in the country.
Understandably, no official reason has been given for Bachchan's absence. The DFF argument is that the festival organisers have no control over who will be flown in by the producers to represent a film.
But Bachchan's absence from IFFI is not a surprise at all. It obviously has something to do with the fact that the Big B is a virtual persona non-grata for the powers that be at the centre and the DFF officials cannot afford to fall foul of Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi by extending a formal invitation to Bachchan.
Besides Shah Rukh Khan, the only Bollywood star spotted in an official capacity at IFFI so far is Raima Sen, who plays a role in Mira Nair's Migration, a segment in the AIDS Jaago series. Vishal Bharadwaj, one of the four directors who have contributed a film to the series, was scheduled to put in an appearance, but chose to stay away.
Veteran actor Mithun Chakraborty, lead actor of Bollywood art director Samir Chanda's directorial debut Ek Nadir Galpo (Tale of a River), was also expected to be in attendance during the screening of the film. It was once again a no-show and shutterbugs had to make do with erstwhile child actor Shweta Prasad who, to be fair to her, did her bit to make amends, stopping to pose for photographs or to give autographs when besieged by fans.
One star who is unlikely to disappoint is the evergreen Dev Anand, who will arrive in Goa today to present Jewel Thief, which is being screened as part of a homage to Vijay Anand.