The screens came down at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), a festive celebration held in Goa for the past 19 years with a glittering closing ceremony at Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium on November 28. This year’s IFFI was the 54th internationally, and 20th in Goa, as it was brought to this tourist state by the then dynamic Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar in 2003. Kicking off in Goa with a starry opening ceremony on November 20 at the hands of Union (I&B), Youth Affairs and Sports, Anurag Singh Thakur, the festival had important announcements about incentives for those in the film industry in India and abroad. The curtains raised in the distinguished presence of The Chief Minister of Goa Dr Pramod Sawant in the presence of Minister of State (MoS) for I&B Dr L Murugan, MoS for Tourism Shripad Naik and actor and MP Sunny Deol, actors including Shahid Kapoor, Khushbu Sundar and many other dignitaries. Several prominent Indian and international film personalities also graced the nine-day event.
Breakthrough Announcements on Policy and Film Making Incentives
The ear-catching announcements by Anurag Singh Thakur included India will increase the incentive for foreign film production in the country to 40% of the expenses incurred with an increased cap limit of `30 crore. Earlier, the per project cap for the incentives was only `2.5 crore, so this is huge including additional 5% bonus for significant Indian content. The announcement is a part of the efforts to streamline foreign film productions and to ensure ease of doing business in India.
International productions that have been granted shooting permission by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry of External Affairs (for documentaries only) after April 1, 2022, will be eligible for this incentive scheme. The above incentives will be distributed in two stages (interim and final). The final disbursement claim can be made once the project is complete in India. Incentives will be provided on the recommendation of a Special Incentive Evaluation Committee. Film Facilitation Office (FFO) set up under the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) is executing this incentive scheme. FFO acts as a single-window facilitation and clearance mechanism that eases filming in India, as well as endeavouring to create a film-friendly ecosystem and promoting the country as a filming destination. The services rendered by the FFO have now been extended to Indian filmmakers as well.
Madhuri Dixit, Michael Douglas feted
On the occasion, the legendary Indian actress Madhuri Dixit was honoured with ‘Special Recognition to Bharatiya Cinema’ Award and glorifying this moment, Thakur appreciated her contribution to the Indian silver screen with words on X, “An icon across the ages, Madhuri Dixit has graced our screens with unparalleled talent for four incredible decades.”
Thakur also congratulated Hollywood actor/producer Michael Douglas for having been conferred with the prestigious ‘Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement’ Award for 2023. A legendary actor with 50 celebrated years of film, television and producing experience, Douglas is known for his era-defining roles, dedicated public service record and enduring cultural impact. He is recognized for his roles in films such as Wall Street, Fatal Attraction, The China Syndrome, The American President, Basic Instinct, and Ant-Man.
The announcement and the policy interventions in the sector are aimed at boosting the economy, creating jobs and promote tourism and culture in the country. The sunrise industries like AVGC: Animation, Visual Effects and Postproduction services are also expected to benefit from the recent incentives in the film sector. Reasoning out that there was a need for a higher incentive to attract medium and big budget international projects to the country considering India’s size and vast potential, Thakur stated, “This paradigm shift in incentivising film production serves as a testament to India’s commitment and support for artistic expression and reinforces our position as a preferred destination for cinematic endeavours.”
The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023, received approval recently from both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, paving way to broaden the legal framework, shifting its focus beyond censorship to encompass copyright protection and to introduce rigorous measures against piracy.
75 Creative Minds of Tomorrow
The Union I&B Minister also announced a recruitment drive for the young minds who were selected in the ’75 Creative Minds of Tomorrow’, opening doors to limitless opportunities for their blossoming talents and career trajectories. The ’75 Creative Minds of Tomorrow’, now in its third edition, was born in 2021 from the Prime Minister’s vision to provide the youth with a platform to showcase their creative expression through the medium of cinema. This year, out of around 600 entries across 10 categories, 75 young filmmakers were handpicked from 19 states. The participants were all under the age of 35 and the youngest of them was Shashwat Shukla from Mumbai, who is just 18, and is in the music composing and sound design category.
These 75 young creative talents from all over India took the ‘Film Challenge’ to make a short film in 48 hours at IFFI-54 venue. These young minds also interacted with the Union I&B Minister Anurag Singh Thakur along with members of the global film fraternity present at IFFI and had a chance to witness the business of cinema at the Film Bazaar.
Another heart-warming addition was, this year’s IFFI featured films from 40 remarkable women filmmakers, allowing their talent, creativity, and unique perspectives to be a part of the festival as a celebration of diverse voices and narratives.
New Awards spelt New Horizons
A new category of awards was announced too – Best Web Series (OTT) Category. And for the first time IFFI augmented the scope of Film Bazaar by introducing a well-curated VFX and Tech Pavilion to showcase the latest innovations from the cinema world, and a documentary section to its co-production market to support non-fiction storytelling.
Sharing his vision, I&B minister said that his vision is not limited to one event, but what IFFI should be when India celebrates its 100th year of Independence once we transit from Amrit Mahotsav to Amrit Kaal. Underlying the significant role of cinema as a uniting force, Thakur said, “I strongly believe that throughout its history, cinema has captured and chiselled ideas, imaginations and innovation such that it forms the driving force for peace, progress and prosperity in a world which is increasingly distressed with division.”
IFFI and the Goan Impact: Or, its Impact on Goa
Goa hosts International Film Festival of India (IFFI) since 2004 but the common man on the street is still wondering what this has to do with him. Has his life changed in anyway, apart from witnessing the fiesta that goes on for 10 days in the capital city, disrupting the lives of hundreds who come daily to the city to work? Could a prominent film culture take any roots here? Has it raised the bar for more enthusiasts who made an entry in this field and tried their luck? Or has it created more jobs for actors, studio owners, cinematographers, musicians, set designers, dress designers, make-up artists, singers, directors, or technicians?
Sadly, the answer is no. And there is more than one reason for the overall lethargy that has grappled the minds of Goans who are struggling to set their feet in the film industry. There is not a single organisation in Goa where film related persons meet, mingle, or discuss their issues. Goa has no platform to resolve issues of film makers, actors, or technicians. There are no schemes implemented by the government for the budding filmmakers. There were a handful of schemes existing some decades ago, but they vanished.
The political leaders do spell out schemes and promises of helping the film fraternity in the state but nothing concrete has yet come out of these assurances, laments Goan filmmaker Joywin Fernandes who has done 14 Konkani films from 2004 to 2023. The atmosphere in Goa is not conducive for film makers, actors, musicians, singers as there is no return, and the theatre rents are high, opines Joywin whose hopes have sprouted now with the new announcements of incentives by the Union I&B Minister which are expected to attract more filmmakers towards this land of sun, sand, and sunshine.
The film culture in Goa seems to be on a small scale, but locals are hopeful of seeing it grow. Here, finance is always the issue, not creativity. There are several talented filmmakers, producers, directors, actors, singers or musicians, and cinematographers in Goa. But there is less exposure to film culture, and though IFFI has been here for two decades, no incentives were shelled out to boost Goan film industry, claim local filmmakers who do small-budget films.
Goa needs events that attract the rest of the country and world to come here. So, whether its National Games or IFFI, locals would welcome all events. However, the managing of these events must be done well. Goans as well as outsiders should not be inconvenienced due to traffic, transportation, stay etc. If the government can work on these areas, then Goa can emerge and prosper as an ideal venue for any event of national/international significance.
A Well-Organized Event: IFFI Scores High!
As an event, IFFI Festival did well. The crowd at the theatres was pretty good. The ticket booking system was smooth for those who understood that booking early and fast would get their hands on the tickets and the seats. The momentum was smooth at the theatres, except for the big queues. People seemed to be accommodative. The crowd was mixed (of all ages) which was good to see. The movies were spaced out well but travelling and getting good seats was an issue for those who were picky. If not picky, then one could make it for his/her show. The one-hour standing in the queue was mandatory at all theatre venues, but time flew for those who were eager to watch the movie of their choice.
The fees for the normal IFFI delegates were around `1000-1200 which was affordable, most said. This included a cloth bag (empty) with no brochure or any material. Not all could lay their hands on the 360-page IFFI booklet, which was distributed on displaying the ID card on stalls outside the ESG complex. However, as there was no scanning done of the IDs, there was no registration of the names who got the booklet. Many were seen complaining about not receiving the booklet. The IFFI bag should have had the booklet, so that it would have gone to all who had registered their names as delegates.
Sharing her experience a delegate asserted, “There were days I thought that all the best masterclasses and films were lined up on the same day. Many good films overlapped with each other so at the end I just decided to choose whatever movies I know will not show up on any OTT platforms anytime soon, said a delegate who had turned up for the second time at IFFI, after her last year’s participation. “This is only my second time at IFFI, so I am unsure of how things have always been. But I think this time IFFI has attracted a wider audience to the point that it almost seems like an extension of Goa’s tourism. Which may be a plus for the state but that also means fewer parking spaces because of the traffic,” she opined.
“I think the Indian movies could be differently curated. The Malayalam picks were great. I think IFFI this time may have unnecessarily roped in a lot of Hindi films that are straight up mainstream just because they are new or because they can invite the celebrity cast,” quipped a film lover from Kerala, adding, “I think that IFFI has become more touristy as compared to how it was specifically for cinema enthusiasts before.”
Conversations at IFFI
Acting makes one a better human being: Pankaj Tripathi
An enriching masterclass session with actor Pankaj Tripathi, in collaboration with the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata, was moderated by film critic and journalist, Mayank Shekhar. Reflecting on the art of acting, Pankaj Tripathi said, “The world is a theatre, and we play different roles in our lives. Acting is the recreation of real-life roles and emotions. One needs to be empathetic in becoming a proficient actor,” According to him, acting serves a broader purpose: to make individuals better human beings by understanding diverse perspectives.
“When you put yourselves in someone’s shoes, and understand their thoughts, their emotions, and their perspectives, you also become a better human. This happens when you analyse, observe and understand the good and bad of others’ lives and learn from them to make yourself better,” he said.
He highlighted the significance of aligning the body and mind for natural acting. “Flexibility and openness of mind and body are crucial to moulding oneself according to the character. The recreation of emotions on the screen can happen only when you force a hypothetical situation of the character in the brain and train yourself to do so.”
He pointed out, “An actor can always take the opportunity for experimentation with their role. The actor underscored the importance of experimentation, distinguishing between an actor’s freedom to explore roles and the constraints of stardom which create an expectation and a larger-than-life image in the minds of the audience. Experimentation keeps acting alive.
Filmmaking is an organic journey: Madhur Bhandarkar
Filmmaker, scriptwriter, and producer Madhur Bhandarkar, in conversation with film critic and analyst, Taran Adarsh, offered insightful cinematic exchange into the art of cinema, the nuances of filmmaking, and the challenges and inspirations that shape storytelling. Renowned for his distinctive films, Bhandarkar shared an array of perceptive insights, illuminating the essence of authentic storytelling and the intricacies of cinematic creation.
Emphasizing the organic nature of filmmaking, Bhandarkar championed the notion that failure is an integral part of the creative process. “Filmmaking is an organic journey where failure serves as a stepping stone towards success. It’s indispensable in crafting superior content,” he expressed, adding, “A film stems from an idea. Realistic cinema holds a significant place in the cinematic landscape. Realistic films have the power to resonate deeply with audiences, navigating the duality of being both artistic and commercially impactful.”
Theatre is an actor’s medium; film is that of the director: Manoj Bajpayee
Hindi film ‘Gulmohar’, written and directed by Rahul Chittella, featured in the ‘Indian Panorama’ category, explores the meaning of family and home, interweaving individual storylines of various members of the Batra family. While interacting with media Manoj Bajpayee, the lead actor of ‘Gulmohar’ said that the family atmosphere created by the director on the sets served as a workshop, for shooting a heart touching film on ‘family’.
“Family and its feeling extended well beyond the shooting. We were playing father, son, daughter, mother in front of the camera. After the shoot, we used to get together as a family sharing ideas, laughter, and food. This atmosphere has helped all young actors to stay in the role and understand all finer things about the character. The film is depicting family, its members and their interpersonal relations. This could not have been achieved without this atmosphere,” added Bajpayee.
Bajpayee said that he always considered himself as a theatre actor first and recalled that it was Shekhar Kapoor who encouraged him in the path of films by underlining the difficulties theatre artists might face with regards to monetary compulsions of the future. Highlighting the significance of theatre he said, “Theatre is an actor’s medium in contrast to films, which is director’s medium. I find it very difficult to take credit for my performance when I am part of a film, because I know deep down that it is led by a director’s vision.”
There is no formula for acting: Vijay Sethupathi
During an engaging ‘In-Conversation’ session at Kala Academy, actor Vijay Sethupathi, alongside actress Kushboo Sundar shared insights into their experiences and reflections on their cinematic journey. Sethupathi, one of the most versatile actors of the Indian film industry has acted in more than 50 films. His first lead role in Seenu Ramasamy’s Thenmerku Paruvakatru won three National awards. Discussing his journey about his acting skills, Sethupathi exclaimed, “I know that I don’t know” and revealed that his preparation for roles involves learning from discussions and arguments with great minds in the film fraternity. He emphasized that audiences are drawn to the story and characters rather than the star of the film. When asked about acting, he stressed the importance of giving freedom to the mind and ‘to go with the flow’ saying, “There is no formula for acting. One must fully immerse themselves in living the character.
There are only two types of films – good and bad: Dr T S Nagabharana
“Since 1979, I have been part of Indian Panorama at IFFI, witnessing its evolution with nine feature films. The panorama mirrors the nation’s cultural diversity and visual literacy growth. As a cinema enthusiast this journey serves as an invaluable study of India’s cinematic landscape and societal transformations,” stated Dr T S Nagabharana, the Jury chairperson of Indian Panorama Feature Films.
Stating that there are only two types of films – good and bad, Nagabharana added, “A good movie is the one which touches, moves, make us think twice and has a lasting impression till we die. The entire Jury critically analysed the films based on the ‘cinema language’ and the heart of the movie. Whether fortunate or not, as filmmakers our perspectives inevitably vary. Yet, the essence lies in comprehending the heart of cinema, its language and essence. Amidst our differences, none of us questioned each other’s understanding.
Always tried to portray Indian women as strong characters in my films: Rani Mukerji
A captivating In-Conversation session with the Hindi film actress, Rani Mukerji, exploring the theme of ‘Delivering Compelling Performances’ was held at 54th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa today. Moderated by Baradwaj Rangan, Editor-in-Chief of Galatta Plus and a National Award-winning Film Critic, the freewheeling discussion delved into Mukerji’s life and illustrious career.
Reflecting on her cinematic journey, Rani said that she always tried to portray Indian women as strong characters. “Outside India, films and their characters are viewed as windows towards our Indian culture,” she added.
Emphasizing the importance of commitment to one’s craft, the accomplished actress asserted, “It is important to always stand by strong films and roles. Sometimes you might not get the audience’s approval at that period of time. But in the history of cinema, such films and characters will find a place.”
Rani Mukerji also highlighted the significance of versatility for an actor. Elaborating on its significance, she said, “If an actor is versatile, they can portray different facets of life. The more diverse I can make my characters, it will be more interesting for the audience and me. This diversity in characters also inspires me.”
Delving into the intricacies of character portrayal, Rani shared, “For doing particular roles, actors often meet real-life people to get their physical characteristics right. But it is also important to know what all emotions they are going through. What distinguishes a scene in a film is the emotions behind the scene. It is important to portray the emotions for it to reach the audience’s heart.”
On the topic of ageism in the film industry, the renowned actress opined that actors need to acknowledge their age and accept roles that suit their age for the audience to receive them. She added that the audience helped her to break ageism and other barriers in the film industry.
Sharing her personal reflection, Rani remarked, “I don’t give much importance to the age factor and tried to do justice to my characters. Fifty percent of your battle of making people believe in the character is won if you look like the character.”
While expressing contentment with her journey, the celebrated actress revealed that she never regret doing any characters in her cinema life. “But it was unfortunate that I couldn’t be part of Aamir Khan’s first production venture film ‘Lagaan’ due to a date clash,” she added.
From ‘Tina Malhotra’ in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai to ‘Maya Talwar’ in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and ‘Debika Chatterjee’ in Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway, Rani Mukerji has enthralled the audience with hundreds of beautiful characters. On the question of her favourite character that she has played, she revealed that the character in the film ‘Black’ is closest to her heart, illuminating that the character transformed her and helped her to be a better human being. “The character of ‘Michelle McNally’ in Black inspired and challenged me at the same time. The character in ‘Mehndi’ also empowered me”, she added.
This is the best time for Indian cinema industry: Michael Douglas
India is investing more money into production of movies in the last few years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur, said the legendary Hollywood actor and film producer Michael Douglas in an interaction with media at IFFI 54. Michael Douglas was bestowed with the prestigious Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award at the closing ceremony.
The iconic actor further said that this is the best time for Indian cinema industry, and the representation of more than 78 foreign countries in IFFI 54 is the reflection of its strength. “Indian films are renowned all around the world and are travelling more and more to the various corners of the world. Streaming platforms are playing an important part in this growth,” he added.
Highlighting the role of movies in uniting the world, Douglas said that movies share same language and brings us closer together. “The audience from all around the world can understand what is going on in movies. Movies create this international connection. This is the magic, beauty and joy of this industry and that’s why I love this business very much,” he shared.
Sharing his joy on being awarded the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award, the two time Academy award winner said that it is a tremendous honour to receive this prestigious award. In a recollection of his college days, he candidly shared that he had studied the works of Satyajit Ray like Pather Panchali and Charulata in his film course and getting an award named after him is special. “Ray’s pictures were so interesting and they portrayed reality. The greatness of Ray is that he was not only a director, but also a writer, film editor, musician, all at the same time,” he reminisced.
Speaking about his father Kirk Douglas, acclaimed American actor and filmmaker, the five time Golden Globe Award winner said that stepping out of his father’s shadow took a very long time. “During earlier part of my career, I was playing softer kind of roles. People used to compare me with my father,” he said.
India dear to our heart and welcomed us with open arms: Catherine Zeta Jones
Michael Douglas’s wife and the multi-award winning actress Catherine Zeta Jones who also joined the media interaction said that India is very dear to her heart and family. Sharing a personal connection with India, Catherine shared a story of an Indian doctor saving her life when she was 18 months old. The BAFTA Award winning actress also revealed her love for Indian films and expressed her interest to be part of Bollywood films. Talking about Indian movies, ‘The Lunchbox’ is one of my favourite Indian movies. I watched it twice back to back. The film really touched me.” She also shared her liking for the Bollywood movie ‘Om Shanti Om’ which she has watched many time with her family and friends.
The National Award winning producer and founder of Percept Ltd Shailendra Singh was also present on the occasion. He remarked that “Life is incomplete without cinema,” reflecting on his long journey of 25 years in the film business.
As technology becomes more accessible, more Goan films will come out. A bit more exposure on the national and international platform (like IFFI) will give the much-needed boost to local film making culture. While it is mostly festive, networking can be done if IFFI creates a good platform (like Film Bazaar). But movie-goers like me have no interest or idea about the Film Bazaar. We only watch movies, go for Masterclass or In-conversation sessions, opined a delegate who travelled from South Goa every day for all the nine-days of the festival.
This feature was commissioned by The Goan, leading daily; said to be the fastest growing newspaper in the city. The writer and photographer work with The Goan.