IFFI 2017: Majid Majidi's Beyond The Clouds screening, buzz on film censorship dominate Day 1
A cloud of concern seems to hang around the International Film Festival in Goa — regarding increasing film censorship and no reason for banning films this year (so far three films have been dropped from IFFI: S Durga, Nude, Saawan).
In a letter to Smriti Irani (dated 18 November) 6 more members of the jury that selects films for the Indian Panorama section expressed their concerns at the ministry’s dropping of two films selected by the Jury, Nude (by Ravi Jadhav) and S Durga (by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan). The letter emailed on Saturday evening says, ‘We find it distressing that the two films were removed without any intimation, discussion or recourse to the Jury which has the final say according to the Indian Panorama rules.’
The letter further gives an explanation of the festival rules, including a detailed deliberation that is required by the jury to come to a final decision on the chosen set of films. Any decision to overrule the jury goes against the festival rules. The letter also acknowledges the resignation of three members following the ministry’s unexpected removal of the two films. The six signatories include: Satarupa Sanyal, Sachin Chatte, Suresh Heblikar, Hari Vishwanath, Ruchi Narain, Gopi Desai. The letter, which was picked up by the media soon after, was quietly followed by an email on Sunday night where Rahul Rawail was appointed as the acting Chairperson of Jury.
The letter to the Jury ended with ‘a request to initiate a conversation so that the remaining films which are extremely worthy of the Indian Panorama are not forgotten in the midst of this controversy, and that the two films under dispute are also given a fair chance to be viewed in the light that the Jury has wished them to be.’
Owing to this controversy and threats around Padmavati, the aura of dissent and conflict seemed to have a repercussion at the film festival as well, especially with Shabana Azmi tweeting to boycott IFFI.
Sources have said that an eminent female director from mainstream cinema, who was supposed to conduct a masterclass at the IFFI 2017, has also dropped out. This too is a cause of concern because of the misplaced reaction that seems to now affect the festival.
It must be noted that a film festival like IFFI gives fair exposure to cinephiles and students all over India, with panels, masterclasses and director interactions.
During the course of the day, the issue of censorship and the removal of two Panorama films were quietly replaced by fear around the future of historical fiction. While Padmavati was being discussed in relation to politics and appeasement, the primary concern of dissent at IFFI was about the small films Nude and S Durga's removal.
Meanwhile the International Film Festival began in Goa with a starry opening ceremony followed by the opening film Majid Majidi’s Beyond the Clouds.
The opening film started right after the cast and crew facilitation: director Majid Majidi, the producers, new actors Ishaan Khattar, Malvika Mohanan, music director A. R Rahman. But what followed after was the most unique prelude to a film I have seen in my years of film watching. The text on the theatre screen said the usual ‘All Rise for the National Anthem’ except the audio was silent and just on cue, the entire auditorium started singing the National Anthem to the Flag on screen.
Brought back memories of a school auditorium.