Shocking as it may seem, Shankar Mohan, the director of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), the country’s arguably biggest movie event held every November at Panaji in Goa is not to be seen at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival, the world’s most important movie festival.
The absence appears particularly glaring this year, because Cannes is celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema. And India too, except that it seems to care little about its selections at Goa. For, Cannes offers one of the richest movie packages in the world, and like Casablanca’s Rick’s Café, “where everybody goes”, the Croisette on the French Riviera is also where any film festival worth its salt sends its director.
Why, the Mumbai Film Festival’s Director, S. Narayanan (who is at Cannes for the 25th year) is here at Cannes, and so are two of his deputies. So, while Mumbai has a three-member team scouting for movies, establishing contacts with foreign producers and helmers, IFFI appears to care less.
Not just Mumbai, the director of just about every film festival across the globe is here at Cannes. Even, the director of the humble Chennai Film Festival, and he is here with his huge team to select cinema for his December event. Part of India’s Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry, IFFI has been floundering for years now, largely because the Government has given it precious little support. For years, it had no permanent director, and now when one has been appointed, he is hardly ever allowed to function the way he ought to.
What is more upsetting than the absence of the IFFI director is the presence of three bureaucrats at Cannes: the secretary of the information and broadcasting ministry, due to retire in June (and who is perhaps, going by the rule book, not supposed to be travelling abroad now), the joint secretary films and the director of films.
These bureaucrats, who are by no stretch of imagination experts on cinema, are here at Cannes at the tax-payers’ expense, and are often seen at the India Pavillion. Pray, what exactly has the Government sent these officials to Cannes for? As one Cannes regular from India quipped, “they are here to shop and have a great all-expense paid vacation”.
At a time, when the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Government is under a heavy cloud, trying to weather one scam storm after another, we have three officials from the information and broadcasting ministry here at Cannes, who really have no business to be here.
Over to Mr Manish Tiwari, the new information and broadcasting minister.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran, has covered IFFI for about 25 years, and is now at Cannes)