"Cinema is not about information or broadcasting. It is about cinema." Filmmaker Vijay Anand (Guide, Jewel Thief, Johnny Mera Naam, Teesri Manzil), who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the inauguration of the 6th International Film Festival of Mumbai, could not have said it better.
Organised by the Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image, the festival began its week-long sojourn on November 20 with the Chinese film, Warriors Of Heaven And Earth. Distributed by Columbia Tristar Films of India, its music has been composed by A R Rahman.
Chief Guest and Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Aparna Sen (36 Chowringhee Lane, Mr & Mrs Iyer), Kiran Shantaram, Manmohan Shetty of Adlabs and Deepak Sehgal of Star TV were the special guests at the inaugural ceremony.
Shinde, a cine aficionado, announced Rs 10 lakh to the IFFM. The festival will showcase films from Italy, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Spain and Norway. It will also have a special thrust on Indian films made overseas, like Manish Jha's Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women, Shyama Prasad's Bokshu, The Myth, Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK's Flavors, and Nisha Ganatra's Cosmopolitan and Chutney Popcorn.
Vijay Anand said his was "the last name I can think of to win this award," pointing to the fact that his brothers filmmakers Chetan and Dev Anand have not received any recognition for their body of work. He minced no words on the rather dubious marriage between the State and the film industry. He called for encouragement by way of funding for films, and urged the censors not to curb the freedom of filmmakers.
A passionate call to abolish the hurdles to filmmaking followed: "There are four obstacles to making films: finance, distribution, exhibition and stars. Stars today are more interested in shooting for Colas and Italian shoes than making films."
He also pointed out to the spectre of piracy, and the "gentlemen pirates" who remixed old film songs with semi-nude girls. "That is no way," he said, "to honour one of the greatest living composers in our midst today," pointing out to composer Naushad Ali (Baiju Bawra, Aan, Mela, Mughal-e-Azam), who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
"Bollywood," continued Anand, "stank of [the term] Hollywood. And a blind following of a Western terminology. "Let us throw off this word called Bollywood. I am proud to be part of the Indian film industry."
Aparna Sen was equally passionate about projecting regional cinema onto a national platform. "Unfortunately, the only two films people know me by are 36 Chowringhee Lane and Mr & Mrs Iyer. It's almost as if I have made nothing in between."
She emphasised the nationwide release of Rituparno Ghosh's Chokher Bali, starring Aishwarya Rai, is a great first step in this direction.
Guests at the inauguration were an eclectic mix of politicians and filmmakers, including Shyam Benegal and Vikas Desai and actor Mita Vashist. It was a telling absence of mainstream participation in what is one of the nation's biggest international film festivals.
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