Panaji will now be the permanent venue of the International Film Festival of India. The uncertainty over the location since 2004, when the festival began to camp every November in Goa's capital city, was finally over with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on September 17 between the State Government and the Union Ministry for Information and Broadcasting.This decade-long ambiguity did hamper the festival. Although the complex where the 10-day festival is held overlooks the scenic Mandovi river, and has enough space for at least a couple of more theatres to be built - with already four there now - the lack of clarity over Panaji as a permanent venue blocked development. At least to an extent.
One of the reasons for this uncertainty was political. While it was the Bharatiya Janata Party-led administration at New Delhi in 2004 that mooted the idea of a permanent venue and in Panaji, other political parties which subsequently governed Goa and at the Centre seemed less enthusiastic about this plan.
But now with a BJP Government both at New Delhi and Panaji, the memorandum may well dispel any cloud over IFFI's location in Goa.
This is of course a very good thing. For, no festival anywhere in the world has had the kind of gypsy existence associated with IFFI. The festival, since its inception in 1952 till 2004, wandered around the length and breadth of India, returning to New Delhi every other year. So, we have had IFFI editions in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and so on.
A former director of the festival, Malti Sahay, had said how difficult it was to set up a new camp every alternate year. "About 60 per cent of our energy went into this while we should have been paying all our attention to getting an interesting lineup of movies," she used to lament. Also, not many celebrities were coming.
With Panaji now getting set to host IFFI from November 20 and every following year, the BJP Chief Minister of Goa, Manohar Parrikar -- who was also instrumental in organising the first festival in Panaji, apart from people like Ravi Shankar Prasad and Sushma Swaraj who were Union Information and Broadcasting Ministers by turn -- is believed to be leaving no stone unturned to make India's most prestigious cinema event absolutely memorable.
The current Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar, who along with Parrikar was present when the memorandum was signed said IFFI would have a separate section for Marathi and Konkani works.
The festival is organised by the Directorate of Film Festivals (a wing of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry) and is now headed by Shankar Mohan.
Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered IFFI for a quarter century and will be back in Panaji this November. You can follow Gautaman Bhaskaran on Twitter at @gautamanb