The 45th edition of the IFFI got off to a glittering start at a ceremony here amid the towering presence of legendary actors Rajinikanth and Amitabh Bachchan, Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley, Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and ewly-installed union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
Big B and Rajinikanth
The 11-day International Film Festival of India held in the state capital will screen 179 films from 75 countries across different categories which include World Cinema (61 films), Masterstrokes (11 films), Festival Kaleidoscope (20 films), Soul of Asia (7 films), Documentaries (6 films), and Animated Films (6 films).
Fifteen films, from across the globe, including two from India are competing for the coveted Golden Peacock awards at the festival.
Speaking on the occasion, the chief guest Amitabh Bachchan said that a darkened cinema hall was one of the greatest examples of human integration in a world that was fast disintegrating.
"When we sit inside a darkened hall, we never ask the caste, creed, religion of the person sitting next to us... In this fast disintegrating world of ours, where will you find such a better example of human integration, than a cinema hall?" Bachchan said at the end of an emotive, but informative presentation on the evolution of Indian cinema.
To thundering applause, Bollywood's living legend also recited a stanza from his father Harivansh Rai Bachchan poem "Himmat karne walon ki haar nahin hoti". He also made a strong case for Indian popular cinema, which he said, despite ridicule and criticism was finally making its way to the global arena.
Jaitley, who along with Bachchan awarded the Centenary award for Film personality of the Year to Rajinikanth, said that while cricket is religion in India, cinema has been the country's "alternative religion".
"It entertains us, it educates us, it gives us various social perspectives. Young growing minds learn more from it, than even from formal methods of education. It throws up men and women of great talent," said Jaitley.
The cabinet minister also said that the relatively newer phenomenon of corporatisation of the Indian film industry would hold it in good stead in the future.
"Our cinema industry has matured immensely. Commercially it has grown. The last decade has seen the corporatisation of industry...this will make it professional," Jaitley said.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar, who hails from Goa and was serving as chief minister until a few weeks back, said that a new venue had been identified for the next year's IFFI and expressed satisfaction at a recent decision of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre to make Goa the permanent venue for the grand event.
Goa chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar also said that his government would look at encouraging local business to set up film assistance units, which could look after the production needs of several dozen film crew who use Goa as a shooting location every year.
The occasion's last speaker Rajinikanth was brief and after thanking his 'elder brother' Amitabh for handing him the award, dedicated it to his producers, directors, technicians and his fans.
"The President" directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf will be the opening film of the fest, and "The Grandmaster" by Wong Kar-wai, who will incidentally receive the lifetime achievement award, will be the closing film of the festival.