New Delhi: In September, the picturesque hill station of Lonavla, a little over 80 km from Mumbai, will host its first international film festival, where veteran filmmaker Govind Nihalani will be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The fest is not just an attempt to boost tourism in the area, but also to develop a film-viewing culture.
The Lonavla International Film Festival India (LIFFI), to be held September 1-5, will showcase the works of student, independent and established filmmakers with fresh ideas, concepts and styles.
"LIFFI is the first ever film festival being hosted in Lonavla. Having been actively involved with eminent cinema directors, I felt that it is my duty to nourish the art of cinema and keep it going ahead by way of promoting through the fest, which is striding to bring the world cinema to the hill station," Riju Bajaj, the festival director, told.
It is during his stay in Lonavla since the past five years that Bajaj stumbled upon the idea of launching a film festival, which he felt was perfect for the place considering that it is "fast emerging as a compact smart city in its own way".
"Having advantages of being in between Mumbai and Pune, it enjoys access from the airports and railway stations of both the cities. Lonavla is among the best and busiest holiday destinations in Maharashtra and gets maximum footfall of tourists on weekends,” he said.
"These very tourists are, in fact, art lovers and film buffs, and make the best audience," Bajaj shared, adding how Lonavla has been a writer's paradise too.
"I have wanted to host a film festival since a long time and having found a perfect partner in Mr. Madhav Todi, owner of Triose Plaza, a multiplex, the idea became a reality," he said.
Names like Shyam Benegal, Naseeruddin Shah, Ketan Mehta, Sudhir Mishra and Hansal Mehta are coming forward to support the event.
The opening ceremony will see Benegal present the Lifetime Achievement Award to Nihalani, known for his socially relevant films like 'Aakrosh' and 'Ardh Satya'.
Benegal, in a conversation with IANS, said: "A festival in Lonavla is a wonderful thing because people living in smaller places don't get the opportunity to see films outside of what is released in commercial cinema. So, they get to look at films from all over the world.”
"Clearly, 90 percent or more of the films that will be shown at the fest are not likely to be brought to a place like Lonavla ever. So, that is a huge kind of a plus point for people who live there."
Even Naseeruddin is 'all for the idea of a film festival in Lonavla', where access to world cinema is difficult, he said.
While he feels it's a 'courageous' move on the part of the organisers, the actor even praised the idea of honouring Nihalani, who, he feels is a 'great' part of Indian cinema.
"It will be wonderful to be there at the fest to applaud him for the achievement," Naseeruddin told IANS.
For LIFFI, the paid submission/entry for feature films, short films and also short web films in all Indian and foreign languages, opened from May 4. Entries can come in till July 15.
The selection panel will choose the best films to be considered for awards and screening, and then forward them to the panel of jury.
The jury will then review the film for awards to be announced on September 5.
Awards will be given under various categories, and the categories will increase with every year along with the response and success of the event.