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Filmfest gets a big snub from Big B

THE FIRST-CHOICE chief guest for the 36th International Film Festival of India was in Goa on its opening day. But in a clear snub to the organisers and the state government, Amitabh Bachchan chose to stay away from the inaugural event.

india Updated: Nov 25, 2005 13:58 IST

THE FIRST-CHOICE chief guest for the 36th International Film Festival of India was in Goa on its opening day. But in a clear snub to the organisers and the state government, Amitabh Bachchan chose to stay away from the inaugural event.

The Goa government had first invited the actor to inaugurate IFFI. The invitation was later withdrawn -- apparently under pressure from the I&B Ministry. On November 21, it was announced that Dev Anand would be the chief guest.

While one side said the central government had objected to Bachchan's proximity to the Samajwadi Party, the other cited "date problems" as the reason for withdrawing the invitation.

Bachchan's presence in Goa to attend a "private function" on Wednesday indicated otherwise. He arrived at Dabolim by a Sahara flight and stayed at the Taj's Hermitage property. Sources close to the actor said he was meeting some foreign associates and would not be attending IFFI.

Bachchan did, however, set the record straight. "The Goa chief minister had invited me to inaugurate IFFI, but then I got another letter which said that due to unforeseen circumstances there was some change of plan," he said.

Actor-turned-filmmaker Pooja Bhatt was surprised on hearing that Bachchan was in Goa but not attending IFFI. "Politics should not be mixed with films," she said.

Bachchan said he was likely to return again during the film festival "to promote my film Ek Ajnabee and as a guest of the French ambassador to attend the French film day".

The tussle between the Centre and the state over IFFI started last year when Goa was first suggested as a permanent venue. This year Goa was made the permanent venue, but the I&B Ministry has shown that it is no mood to lose its grip over the event -- even when it comes to choosing the chief guest.

First Published: Nov 25, 2005 13:58 IST