Actor Manoj Bajpayee inaugurated the India Panorama in Panaji on November 21 with Paresh Mokashi's Elizabeth Ekadashi being the opening film. One of the most important segments of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which opened in Goa on the evening of November 20, the Panorama has over the years been a wonderful platform for the cream of Indian cinema.
Paresh Mokashi's Elizabeth Ekadashi is part of a 26-movie package, culled out from close to 200 entries by a jury, headed by cinematographer-director AK Bir.
Reminiscent of De Sica's Bicycle Thieves, Elizabeth Ekadashi, is the story of little boy's valiant efforts to retrieve his cycle - which he had endearingly named Elizabeth - from a pawnbroker. The boy's mother gives it away to the broker when her family falls on bad days after the death of her husband. The film, set in small temple town of Maharashtra, is narrated with beautiful innocence, and cycles us through the angst of a boy who just cannot live without his "Elizabeth".
A few days ago, a right-wing organisation had found the title of Mokashi's movie objectionable and had demanded that it be not shown in Panorama. The group felt that the title hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus.
In a short speech before the inaugural movie of the Panorama was screened, Bajpayee - who felicitated members of the feature and non-feature juries - said with a touch of nostalgia that his introduction to IFFI was as an usher in one of the early editions of the event in New Delhi. "I was so passionate about cinema that I had to somehow watch films, and working as an usher gave me that opportunity to sneak into the auditoriums," the actor, celebrated in works such as Gangs of Wasseypur, Special 26 and Chakravyuh, said.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran was part of the Indian Panorama Features Jury this year, and he is now covering IFFI for Hindustan Times)