Inadvertently, Amitabh Bachchan is in the eye of a storm again. He has been invited to attend the Indian premiere, on November 30, of his first English language film The Last Lear at the International Film Festival in Goa. But oh oh, this invitation has become a raging controversy in the corridors of the Information and Broadcasting ministry in New Delhi. Will the superstar fight or withdraw? An exclusive report by Amitabh Parashar.
The decks are clear for another major controversy. So, as the kickoff date of the 38th International Film Festival of India approaches, so do issues ranging from the absurd, the very absurd to the Bachchaneque.
Goa hosts its ten-day-long fourth IIFI come November 23. You know that. But our intrepid reporter has already sourced the news that the "possible presence" of Amitabh Bachchan at the beach paradise during the fest has become an "important but disturbing issue."
Funny but Bachchan Sr does seem to find himself in the embarrassing situation of not being wanted at official, government events. The janta swarms around his house and hundreds of showbiz-related events crave his presence.
On the other end of the spectrum, New Delhi's Information and Broadcasting ministry and the Directorate of Film Festivals, under the ministry's wing, at this very moment would rather not touch the superstar with a barge pole – or his extended family.
Now what?.. you might wail. Amitabh Bachchan's English language film The Last Lear, directed by Rituparno Ghosh, is scheduled to get its Indian premiere at the Goa fest. <b1>
The date of the premiere – November 30, 8 p m - had been informed to the film's production company Planman Motion Pictures headed by Arindam Choudhary. This was confirmed with a source at the Mumbai-based office of the production company.
Interview ho jaaye
Sources also confirm that Bachchan has been informed about the premiere, which would obviously be preceded by a promotional press conference and the mandatory one-to-one interviews.
Bachchan, in recent months, has contracted the interview virus, evidently making up for the time lost during his off-the-press years from 1980-'89. Of late, he has started the trend-setting method of doing interviews on SMS. <b2>
Producer Choudhary is said to have received a confirmation from Bachchan that he will be attending the premiere of The Last Lear.
It has been gathered that the Information & Broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi is unhappy over the fact the film was programmed for its premiere show at Goa and that Bachchan was invited officially to the festival.
The minister, it seems, was not consulted about this either by officials of the ministry or the festival directorate. Chances are that heads may roll because of such "impropriety and insubordination."
There's a bit of a problem here. According to the rules, the Directorate of Film Festivals has to invite Bachchan officially for the premiere, even if it did not want to.
Since the film has been invited, its actor has to be extended an official invitation. Before inviting The Last Lear, the directorate forgot the equation of the central government and the ministry with the superstar.
Now the directorate, headed by Neelam Kapoor, is wringing its hands.
Incidentally, an invitation to Amitabh Bachchan to be the Chief Guest at IFFI in Goa, two years ago, had to be withdrawn at the last minute.
It is common knowledge that the then Chief Minister of Goa, Pratap Singh Rane had to say thanks-but-no-thanks to Bachchan.
It was an embarassing situation for Rane because he had persuaded Bachchan to be the chief guest at the opening ceremony. Bachchan was replaced by Chiranjeevi.
This year when Bachchan was on stage to receive his Best National Award for Black, he was cold shouldered by Dasmunsi who ignored the hand shake extended to him by the actor. It was a freeze moment recorded by the TV crews.
At the National Award ceremony, Abhishek Bachchan and Shweta Nanda Bachchan had been given seats in practically the last row of the auditorium.
In other words, the war intensifies. It is learnt that the excuse the directorate is attempting to placate the minister with is that The Last Lear has not been invited to the Goa fest through a written communication (meaning by letter or email). The contentious invitation was extended only "over the phone."
The plot takes another twist. It is learnt that Bachchan has been informed by the film's production company and everything has been sealed. Known for sticking to his schedules, Bachchan will be attending the festival and will talk to the Indian media about The Last Lear.
The fun begins.