When the International Film Festival of India shifted to Panaji in 2004 -- that has now been confirmed as the permanent venue - just about everybody feared that the 11-day cinematic event could become a platform for Bollywood. World cinema and also movies made outside Mumbai and in languages other than Hindi could become a casualty of such Bollywoodisation, they dreaded.
Admittedly, this did happen for a couple of years, when the festival, popularly known as IFFI, did see an over-swell of Mumbai mandarins. But thanks to some who ran it, this was nipped in the bud.
In comparison, the Mumbai Film Festival, the only such event in the country run with the help of private, not government, sponsors, had stayed away from an overly Bollywood influence - and this despite its location in Mumbai!
But this year, with the main sponsor, Reliance, getting out, the festival ran into a serious financial crisis. There were days when it was felt that the festival could not be held this year, and let us not forget that a wonderful festival like Osian's had to close down because it had not money.
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However, the Mumbai Film Festival managed to find resources through crowd funding, with stars like Aamir Khan donating liberally. And the festival is now on. But as the saying goes, there is no such thing as free lunch, and funding invariably comes with strings attached.
And this is exactly what has been happening. The other day, when actor Imran Khan walked into an auditorium to present an excellent Belgian movie (premiered at Cannes in May), Two Days One Night by the Dardenne Brothers, he was booed down and literally shooed away. "Start the film!" chanted an impatient and rude crowd. One man screamed at Khan, "What are you doing here?"
Khan was startled by this kind of reception - used to, as he was like other stars, pampering and undivided attention. He replied rather sheepishly, "I'm not sure what I'm doing here." Obviously, Khan must have been pressured into talking about a movie which he might not have even seen!
A Firstpost report said: The Mumbai Film Festival's creative director, Anupama Chopra, may believe that 'you can't have a movie festival in Mumbai that excludes Bollywood, but at least as far as the audience of Chandan Cinema was concerned, the film festival is no place for Bollywood'.
Perhaps taking a cue from what happened to Khan, the other celebrity presenter of the day, Varun Dhawan, who was to have introduced Richard Linklater's Boyhood, did the vanishing act. And the movie was shown without an introduction.
Sadly, the longtime Festival Director, Srinivasan Narayan, whose knowledge of world cinema cannot be questioned - with the man attending several film festivals in a year, including Cannes (25 years) and Berlin - appears to have been pushed into a corner by a Bollywood that opened its wallet with some kind of agenda.
Really, as much as an international festival could do with some glamour, an excess of it can spell disaster. Usually, audiences in a movie festival are in no mood to hear star speeches. They want to watch some sensible, sensitive and meaningful cinema. Two Days One Night is a lovely work that could have done without the introductory interruption.
Yes, finally, one hopes that IFFI is watching all this, and will take the hint. Goa should not be turned into a Bollywood, and must continue to remain a venue for world class fare.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered IFFI for 25 years, and the Mumbai Film Festival several times.)