IFFI: To B or not B
The Big B controversy refuses to go away. A day after the 36th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) kicked off in Panaji, the lurking spectre of megastar Amitabh Bachchan continued to haunt officials on Friday.
Sources close to the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) admitted that Bachchan was in Goa but not at the venue of the IFFI inauguration on Thursday - evergreen hero Dev Anand opened the festival - something that has left organisers a little red in the face.
However, they are adamant in their contention that Bollywood's biggest star was never formally invited to inaugurate the 36th IFFI, contrary to reports.
"The invitation that was extended to Bachchan by the Goa government of Pratapsingh Rane was certainly not for the official inaugural function to the best of our knowledge," says a senior official of the directorate.
"It was meant for the public parade of floats that had been planned by the local administration.
"In any case, the prerogative of deciding the name of the IFFI inauguration chief guest rests entirely with the information and broadcasting ministry," the DFF official asserts.
The decision is indeed usually taken by the ministry on the basis of recommendations made by the Film Federation of India, the industry's apex body headquartered in Mumbai.
"The name of Dev Anand was forwarded by the FFI," says the official.
Incidentally, this is the second time in less than a decade that Dev Anand has been accorded the singular honour of formally declaring IFFI open. He had earlier done so at the 30th IFFI in Hyderabad in 1999.
Bachchan's close links with the Samajwadi Party are being seen as the primary reason why the DFF is wary of giving him a platform here.
The superstar will, however, be in Goa later during the festival to promote "Ek Ajnabee", directed by Apoorva Lakhia, but it is not certain whether that exercise will be appended to the official activities of IFFI.
That apart, he has two major films in the 36th IFFI line-up: the opening film of the Mainstream section, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black, and Amol Palekar's Paheli, which is in the Indian Panorama. Given the discordant note struck on the opening day itself, it is rather unlikely that Bachchan will be personally present during the presentation of these films.
Last year, when Goa hosted IFFI for the first time, Bachchan was among the most prominent invitees to the 10-day show. He even addressed an overcrowded press conference halfway through the festival, and shutterbugs and fans had a field day.
This time around, the Big B seems destined to register his presence only in the columns of controversy seekers.