Union I&B Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore and filmmaker Karan Johar during the opening ceremony of IFFI 2018, in Panaji, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. (PTI/Shirish Shete)
The International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2018 opened Tuesday as a collage of cinematic glimpses, bursts of pride, color and loads of ‘koffee’, writes Radhika Sharma.
Day one of the 49th edition of the country’s leading movie extravaganza was high on Bollywood starpower with emphasis on sports as a nation-building exercise and strengthening ties with Israel, which is this year’s country of focus.
The lamp was lit by Goa Governor Mridula Sinha, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Information & Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore, I&B ministry secretary Amit Khare, and the jury.
The Statute of Unity also found mention at the festival as an audio-visual of the recently-unveiled structure of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat was played out.
As the world’s tallest statue with a height of 182m, the figure is a “message from India to the world”, co-host for the evening, actor Amit Sadh said.
The beginning of the eight-day-event was only met by darker skies, unlike last year when the festival found itself swimming through turbulent waters after Malayalam film “S Durga” (earlier “Sexy Durga”) was unceremoniously dropped from the Indian Panorama segment.
Rains on Tuesday threatened to dampen the event but stopped well before the red carpet began as the Goa Brass Band welcomed the guests.
IFFI Indian Panorama chief Rahul Rawail was also in attendance along with jury member Major Ravi.
After a tiring wait, Bollywood bigwigs Karan Johar and Akshay Kumar made the grand entrance at the red carpet together, which did not last only till the walking rug.
Filmmaker Subhash Ghai, who has been accused of sexual harassment by two women in India’s #MeToo chapter, was also in attendance.
The bonhomie that appears to have stemmed from a recent episode of Karan’s talk show, “Koffee With Karan” where Akshay was the guest star with Ranveer Singh, found a new platform at IFFI 2018.
As hosts for the evening — actors Mandira Bedi and Sadh — invited the guests and performers for a quick tete-a-tete, the movie gala was reminiscent of the TV award shows.
The opening ceremony saw the festival turn into a chat show for over 18 minutes in a 90-minute-long programme, with Akshay and Rathore sitting down for a chat.
Karan praised both Rathore and Akshay for their achievements in their respective fields and also played the famous “Koffee Quiz” with both the guests.
Akshay talked about his love for sports and how his recent release “Gold”, which he enjoyed working on, whereas Rathore said his stint at both Sports and I&B ministries had taught him a lot.
Rathore also said that if a biopic on him were ever to be made he would want Johar to direct it. He is clueless about which actor would portray him onscreen.
The book “Women in Indian Cinema” was unveiled by Governor of Goa Mridula Sinha, Col Rathore and Sadhna Raut.
I and B secretary Amit Khare announced that the segment on focus state Jharkhand was a unique feature this year in line with ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’.
The event began with a nod to the dances of India with participants swinging to Classical tunes to “Baahubali ” theme and Azeem-o-Shaan Shehenshah from “Jodhaa Akbar” to the newly-wedded Ranveer Singh’s fiery “Malhari” and his war cry of “Har Har Mahadev”.
Julien Landais, the director of “The Aspern Papers”, which is the opening film this year, said he was honoured to have his movie’s premiere at the festival and overwhelmed with the love. Also present were the film’s actors Nicolas Hai, Lois Robbins and others.
Shilpa Rao sang a heartwarming multilingual medley of songs that can rightly be called a celebration of romance. She sang Bengali, Tamil, Gujarati, “Ek Kudi” and her iconic hit “Bulleya” for Punjabi and finished the act with all-time favourite Farida Khanum ghazal “Aaj Jaane Ki Zidd Na Karo”.
With stunts – both fluid and fearless in nature – four gymnasts of the Mumbai-based Fly High Aerial Art Academy set hundreds of people gasping for breath as they slithered their way up and down on that red satin cloth, twisting their bodies into unimaginable forms.
Sonu Sood gave an electric dance performance as a tribute to the action heroes of the film industry such as Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Salman Khan, Ajay Devgan and Sunny Deol, along with his character Chhedi Singh from blockbuster “Dabangg”.
This year Israeli filmmaker Dan Wolman was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award, whose filmography includes movies such as “An Israeli Love Story” and “Roman Za’ir” among others.
Wolman said the award from IFFI comes from a “sweet and meaningful” place as he is a huge admirer of Indian cinema.
“I thank IFFI 2018 for honouring me with the lifetime achievement award. I believe there is chemistry between Israel and India and I hope that this will manifest collaborating co productions in Cinema,” Wolman said in his acceptance speech.
Rathore, Akshay, Karan and Governor of Goa among others presented the director with the award certificate, a cheque of Rs 10 lakh and a shawl.
Celebrities such as Prasoon Joshi, Arijit Singh, Randhir Kapoor, Siddharth Roy Kapur, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Poonam Dhillon among others were present.