Utpal Borpujari

September 22, 2008

IFFI Panorama casts its net wider

 The last bastion of India’s alternative cinema is about to yield ground to the biggies, reports Utpal Borpujari

In a marked departure from a long-established norm, the government has decided to add five mainstream films to the prestigious Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI). The Panorama, meant to be a showcase for socially and artistically relevant cinema, usually comprises a maximum of 21 fi lms in various Indian languages. But this year the number will jump to 26. The fi ve additional Panorama fi lms will be selected from a shortlist of 12 mainstream features recommended by the Film Federation of India (FFI), Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) director Neelam Kapur told Sakaal Times here.


It is obvious that this move will trigger a raging debate. Girish Kasaravalli, much-acclaimed fi lmmaker from Karnataka and Panorama regular, says, “This will dilute the whole idea behind the Indian Panorama. It was conceptualised to give space to quality Indian cinema in various languages.” Kapur says the decision has been necessitated by the growing demand for mainstream Indian cinema among organisers of the world’s leading fi lms festivals. “Berlin had Om Shanti Om this year. Bollywood now evokes huge interest in places like Hong Kong, Korea and elsewhere,” she adds. “The idea is to project new talent. We want the Panorama to refl ect cuttingedge Indian cinema, besides recent trends in mainstream movies,” she adds.

 Kasaravalli isn’t opposed to the inclusion of mainstream cinema in the Panorama, but is critical of the way DFF is going about doing it. He says: “Mainstream cinema has always been part of the Panorama. Films like Lagaan and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam come to mind. Why is the jury being made to select a quota of fi ve fi lms from 12 pre-selected titles? Mainstream cinema should compete on an equal footing with the rest of the field. Select the best of the whole lot. If some mainstream films make it, so be it.”

 Multiple National Award-winning filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta echoes Kasaravalli’s view. “I personally have no objection to this number of 26. It will help accommodate more filmmakers in the Panorama. But at the end of the day, numbers don’t count. What does is quality. The biggest problem of Indian cinema is continuing mediocrity,” the Kolkata-based director says.

 However, Aruna Vasudev, veteran film critic and founder-president of the Osian’s-Cinefan Festival of Asian & Arab Cinema, sees the move as a step forward. While she too believes that all films – whether mainstream or parallel – should be considered together, the quota of five, she asserts, is a good idea. “Bollywood is attracting attention worldwide. Therefore, it makes sense to stop segregating mainstream films. The quality of mainstream Indian cinema is showing marked improvement,” she argues.

 Till 2006, IFFI used to have an Indian Mainstream section of 12 films selected by FFI. The section was introduced in 1987 to showcase what is considered by FFI as the best of Indian mainstream cinema. Quite obviously, the section was dominated by movies from Bollywood and the southern film industries.

It is not that the Panorama has never had mainstream cinema. Recent examples of blockbusters that made the Panorama cut: Dil Chahta Hai, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and the Oscar-nominated Lagaan. Films like Page 3 and Chandni Bar, not mainstream in the strictest sense but made within the Bollywood milieu, have also had fair representation.

 Film industry observers will now watch with interest whether mainstream filmmakers send their entries to the main Indian Panorama, fighting to be among the 21 representing the whole country’s cinema, or opt to slug it out to be in the FFI shortlist of 12.



(An abridged version of this was published in Sakaal Times, www.sakaaltimes.com, 22-09-08) 







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