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HindustanTimes Tue,21 Oct 2014

Victor Banerjee, Prasanna Vithanage on IFFI jury

Gautaman Bhaskaran, Hindustantimes.com  Chennai, November 07, 2013
First Published: 14:42 IST(7/11/2013) | Last Updated: 14:46 IST(7/11/2013)

Indian actor Victor Banerjee and Sri Lankan director Prasanna Vithanage will be on the five-member jury at the International Film Festival of India, which rolls on November 20 in Goa’s Panaji.

Banerjee has been part of the Kolkata landscape for years and whose oeuvre includes the movies of directors as renowned as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal, Roman Polanski, James Ivory-Ismail Merchant and David Lean.

Victorda (as he is fondly and reverentially addressed) is best remembered as Dr Aziz in Lean’s Passage to India (based on E.M. Forster’s novel) – a film that explores the dilemma and disillusionment of Indo-British ties. A dramatic courtroom battles finally proves that Dr Aziz was not guilty of raping Adela Quested (played by Judy Davis) in the Marabar Caves. But what did the two do there that aroused suspicion and provoked Quested’s ire?  

As  Nikhil in Ray’s  triangular love story, Ghare Baire (which competed for the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984), as the Maharaja in Merchant-Ivory’s Hullabaloo over Georgie and  Bonnie’s Pictures and as Mr Singh in Polanski’s erotic thriller, Bitter Moon, as well as a variety of characters in Jogger’s Park and Bow Barracks Forever, Banerjee was marvellous.

Vithanage’s last movie, With You, Without You, had its world premiere at the 39th Montreal International Film Festival. The, movie, adapted from a novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, is a sweetly tragic story about a man and a woman  living in Sri Lanka, a country whose social fabric and human ties have been destroyed by the unusually long civil war.

Vithanage’s earlier work, Akasa Kusum, ran for a record 77 days across 24 Sri Lankan screens, and the Tamil version of this film was shown in Jaffna in 2011.This is the only movie of a Sinhala director to have been exhibited in the Tamil dominated Jaffna. Although the war is long over in the island nation, the relations between the Sinhala majority and the Tamil minority continue to remain uneasy.

The third member of the jury is Atiq Rahimi, the Kabul-born writer who now lives in Paris. He won France’s most prestigious literary award, Prix Goncourt, in 2008, and his books in Persian, French and English have been raved about.

His fiction, A Patience Stone, which he adapted for his film by the same name, was Afghanistan’s submission for the Foreign Language Oscar in 2012, though it was not nominated. The movie, starring Iranian actress, Golshifteh Farahani, has travelled round the world.

French auteur, Claire Denis – whose cinematic contributions include Chocolate, Trouble Every Day and Bastards – will also be on the jury, which will be chaired by the Belgrade-based Serbian-French director, Goran Paskaljevic. Some of his celebrated works are The Dog Who Loved Trains, Midwinter Night’s Dream and When Day Breaks.  

Though the jury is undoubtedly outstanding, it would have made better sense had Banerjee presided over it.  His achievements appear far more impressive than those of the others on the panel. But I suppose there is an unwritten rule which says that a foreigner must head the IFFI jury.

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