The curtains come down on this year’s IFFI
The columnist writes about the closing ceremony of International Film Festival of India 2019 in Goa
There were dozens and dozens of dancers who were doing their hardest to regale the audience. There were popular actors, there was a concert. There were top politicians too, but somehow, the closing ceremony of the 50th edition of IFFI, Goa, seemed far removed from the explosive opening ceremony that had happened at the same venue a week ago. It’s tempting to conclude that it’s because this time, there was no Rajinikanth or Amitabh Bachchan, and actors like Vijay Deverakonda and Rakul Preet who were there were not quite in a position to deliver speeches. The truth is, everyone seemed ruminant, and it’s perhaps just them wondering how this festival that just seemed to have begun, had already hurtled towards its end.
On that very stage, a week ago, Rajinikanth had stood, accepting the first-ever Icon of Golden Jubilee Award. It seemed just now that his dear friend, Amitabh Bachchan, stood by his side, his voice booming across the auditorium, as he touched upon their longterm friendship. Seated inside the auditorium, phasing out of the routinous developments on stage, it was hard not to remember the highlights of my IFFI experience in bits and pieces. The packed schedule, the long queues in the sweltering heat of Goa, the accidental conversations with film lovers…
I’ll remember waking up at midnight every day to reserve tickets for future screenings (bookings open at 12 midnight each day). I’ll remember the frenetic scampering between screenings at theatres sometimes separated by many kilometres. I’ll remember artistes and directors being forthcoming in a way their routine usually doesn’t allow them to. Vetrimaaran confessing that he hadn’t quite enjoyed making Asuran as much as he had thought he would, on account of the cramped schedule. Nitesh Tiwari telling everyone how painstakingly he questions the macroscopic purpose of every scene in his films. Vijay Deverakonda, in a moment of vulnerability, sharing that his stardom has softened him a bit.
And of course, I’ll remember the festival for the cinematic experiences. Only someone who’s caught Parasite in theatres will understand why an OTT experience could not even come close. Only someone who’s seen Sorry We Missed You among a vast group of people will understand the stunning quiet towards the end of the film, and how, inexplicably, it added to the experience of the film. IFFI, Goa, also provided me with a couple of theatrical experiences for films—feature and short—that will likely never get shown in theatres again.
Above all, I’ll remember the festival mainly for the shared love for cinema that united everyone. I’ll remember it for excited old couples exchanging notes with college students over film recommendations. While on unity, how about when the whole North-South divide got shattered momentarily as everyone sang an Ilaiyaraaja song during his masterclass. The Hindi audience sang, “Surumay akhiyon mein”. The Tamil audiences sang, “Kanne kalaimaane”. Those unaware of the lyrics of either version simply hummed along. Suddenly, Ilaiyaraaja’s passing comment that music classes in schools could potentially solve the problem of violence seemed to make so much sense.
I’ll remember that moment after the screening of a short film called I’m Gonna Tell God Everything, when the child actor who played the lead role, got mobbed by viewers. It felt less like viewers engaging with an actor, and more like relatives greeting a child. In that sense, IFFI, Goa, proved to be something of an emotional experience too, and it’s really no surprise that the closing ceremony lacked the bite, the energy, of the opening ceremony. The auditorium, after all, was full of people who seemed to be mourning the ending of the festival.