Aruna Vasudev, host of the Fifth Cinemaya Festival of Asian Cinema, currently on in New Delhi, cannot believe hundreds of youngsters are lining up before a tiny theatre to see 3 Deewarein, directed by Nagesh Kukunoor.
"I was simply delighted to see the response. We were forced to screen the film again after the first show. Yet, there were hundreds more who wanted to see the film," says Vasudev, founder director of the Festival at India Habitat Centre. The centre is one the three venues (Srifort and French Cultural Centre being the other two) where the Asian films are being screened.
"More than 75 films from 30 countries are being screened in the seven sections of this festival showcasing the best cinema of Asia from Japan to Turkey," she adds. The festival began on July 18 and ends on July 27.
What began as a small venture five years ago has now become a prestigious event for Asian filmmakers. "What can be a greater source of satisfaction for me that besides being able to show good feature films made by the Asian filmmakers, our festival has also managed to attract a huge audience?" she says.
Vasudev lists Siddiq Barmak's film Osama as one of the best films at the festival. "The film is about the post-Osama period in Afghanistan. This young Afghan director [Barmak] has made a tremendous film depicting the life of the people after the exit of the Taliban," she says.
Vasudev believes the Indian audience wants to see films that rarely make it to the Indian theatres. "They want to know about the development that has taken place in the field of cinema, not only in India, but in other Asian countries as well. It is heartening to see them come and enjoy the films."
Also: Salman's Lord Ram act on hold
Sunny's biceps can't save Jaal
Robin Khosla makes a bilingual Taj Mahal
A 10-day film festival also means huge investments. Raising money was not an easy task, Aruna admits.
"We began this festival with the help of the Delhi Government under the Bhagidari [sharing] scheme. The Government agreed to contribute 50 per cent of our expenditure. We had to pitch in with the rest. The Ministry of External Affairs thought they should support this venture since most Asian countries are involved. We looked for sponsors to put up the producers and directors taking part in the festival," she informs.
The five-member international jury, headed by noted filmmaker Mrinal Sen, includes Marilou Diaz-Abaya (Philippines), Prasanna Vithanage (Sri Lanka), Fatemeh Motamedarya (Iran) and Park Ki Yong (Korea).
The jury will be selecting the Best Film, Best Actress, Best Actor and NETPAC Award.
There is also a special prize of Rs 1,00,000 for an Indian film, based on the choice of the audience, to be given away by politician and cine patron Amar Singh.
Though pleased with the audience response, Vasudev realises it will be difficult to handle the increasing number of films at each festival. "I am definitely not looking for more films to be screened at the next festival in July 2004. On the contrary, I would like to set an outside limit of 60 films," she declares.