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IFFI54: It’s a wrap – Kannada film ‘Kantara’ strikes chord; Nawazuddin Siddiqui charms; Michael Douglas award; Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan sizzle; ‘The Archies’ and ‘Farrey’ launch…

IFFI54: It’s a wrap – Kannada film ‘Kantara’ strikes chord; Nawazuddin Siddiqui charms; Michael Douglas award; Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan sizzle; ‘The Archies’ and ‘Farrey’ launch…

The popular holiday resort of Goa hosts India’s biggest film festival, the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) which honours both global independent filmmaking and popular Hindi language cinema, better known in many parts as Bollywood and we were there… 😉

ONE OF THE BIGGEST cheers of the closing ceremony of the International Film Festival of India (November 20-28) came when Kannada filmmaker Rishab Shetty went up to collect the Special Jury Award for his film, ‘Kantara’.

You could feel the affection of the audience.

Rishab Shetty and Sailesh Ram (acv editor)

His film, ‘Kantara’ has been a huge commercial and critical success and screened in the Indian Panorama section, which aims to showcase the best of Indian – especially regional – cinema over the year gone and is in some ways a reflection of the best – though the Malayalam disaster movie, ‘2018 – Everyone’s A Hero’ – may have something to say about that – as it has been selected by India as its official entry to the Oscars. We attended an evening function on November 22 marking this – and more about it here.

Kantara’ is in Kannada, the language of the state of Karnataka (Bengaluru is its state capital), it’s a forest mythological tale, high on drama, special effects and spectacle – and stars Shetty in a dual role. He was facilitated on the stage with great affection by the hosts and from where was sitting in the middle of the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium on the campus of Goa University in Talelgao, a short distance away from the main festival area of Campal in Panjim (the capital city of the state of Goa), there was clearly a well of affection for him from the gathered film lovers. Not everyone sitting around myself seemed to understand Hindi – which was sort of reassuring. The ceremony is broadcast live on Indian national TV – and the onstage show spoke both English and Hindi – not Konkani, the local language (of Goa state).

Endless Borders‘ – The Golden Peacock award from Iran

The top award – the Golden Peacock – went to an Iranian film, ‘Endless Borders’ about an exiled Iranian teacher whose sense of right and wrong is disturbed by Hazara refugees fleeing from the Taliban in a border district, between Iran and Afghanistan. Director Abbas Amini was not in Goa to collect his award and his £40,000 cash prize. The international jury led by filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, and supported by cinematographer Jose Louis Alcaine, who has worked with director Pedro Alomovar; Jerome Paillard, the former head of Cannes Marché du Film, the market section of the Cannes Film Festival; Catherine Dussart, the French film producer who helped to make Gurvinder Singh’s ‘Chauthi Koot’ which was in Cannes in 2015; and Helen Leake, an Australian producer and also director of the Screen Australia Board.

They said about the winning film: “The film depicts that the emotional and moral borders that you impose upon yourself can be more complicated that the physical borders.” (See the other award winners below).

The closing ceremony on Tuesday (November 28) was grand and entertaining.

Michael Douglas (centre) Dr Pramod Sawant, chief minister Goa and the Himachal Pradesh Orchestra and singers

What other country would have a singing police ensemble group bring the curtain down on an international film festival? The Himachal Pradesh Police Orchestra have enjoyed widespread popularity since appearing in an Indian TV music competition and even have a postal stamp dedicated to them. They got to meet Michael Douglas who was receiving his Satyajit Lifetime Achievement Excellence in Cinema Award at the closing ceremony. The group sang ‘Harmony of Pines’ and were first formed as a way of stress relief for harassed staff.

IFFI has its quirks and we tend to be tickled by them. It was a heartwarming way to end the festival – and our return to IFFI since the pandemic. We covered both IFFI49 and IFFI50 – see our Youtube channel and search IFFI49 and IFFI50.

Most screenings at IFFI take place around the central hub – an Inox (a brand of upmarket cinema theatres) multiplex – the cinemas are neat, tidy and modern and are situated close to the complex that was once the Goa Medical College but is now a series of buildings owned by the government and run by the Entertainment Society of Goa which runs the festival alongside the government’s National Film Development Corporation (NFDC).

We only saw one film in our eight days at the festival. Our videographer was there only for our first three days and so the accent was on video (see here and subscribe and never miss!).

Nawazuddin Siddiqui (centre) with other team members from the film ‘Rautu Ki Beli

We caught star Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s latest film, ‘Rautu Ki Beli’ – it’s actually a name of a small town in the state of Uttarakhand on the foothills of the Himalayas. We can’t officially review this film but suffice to say Siddiqui plays a cop who isn’t totally at ease with anyone – his police colleagues form a lovely ensemble troupe; it’s a whodunnit and it’s quite enjoyable, if you let go of the familiar tropes and a slightly uncomfortable resolution (for this critic anyway). His many fans certainly appreciated the film.

We were at Cannes earlier this year when Michael Douglas received his Honorary Palm d’Or – that time he also came with his Welsh wife and fellow actor, Catherine Zeta Jones and their daughter, Cerys. The couple brought their son, Dylan with them. In Goa Douglas senior received his Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Cinema – he and Zeta-Jones made a glamourous entrance on Monday (November 27), appearing at a packed press conference (you can see it for yourself, the link is below). We put out a video in near real-time of his entry at IFFI.

Michael Douglas at the Closing Ceremony on the big screen

The trio were accompanied by their friend and Indian filmmaker, film personality and entrepreneur Shailendra Singh – the man behind such films as ‘Page 3’ (2005) and ‘Kanchivaram’ (2008). There was a good deal of bonhomie between the men and it extended to the In Conversation the two men conducted at one of the other main venues, The Kala Academy, another venue close to Inox.

Enlisting a good friend to conduct such an exercise has both its advantages and disadvantages. For his part, Douglas was frank and open – hearing him talk about how he got ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ (1975) off the ground and made his first film as a producer was fascinating. His father, the legendary Hollywood actor Kirk bought the rights to what had been a successful novel by Ken Kesey (1962) and Douglas senior first took it Broadway only for it to flop there – and shelved the whole thing, until Douglas junior, fresh off his success on the TV show ‘The Streets of San Francisco’ picked it up and presented it to Saul Zaentz, a successful music producer who helped to co-finance it. It won Douglas junior his first Oscar and the film won the much coveted big five Oscar main awards. Some still regard it as one of the best films ever made and it still features on many top 10 and 20 lists and its central subject matter of mental health remains potent.

Catherine Zeta-Jones and son Dylan at the Closing Ceremony
on the big screen

Douglas was gracious and charm personified (extending his greetings to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Goa Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant who was present at the ceremony) when he received his Lifetime Achievement Award from Bollywood star Ayushmann Khurrana and Jones also joined her husband on the stage for a few minutes. It was easy to forget that she too is an Oscar-winner (for ‘Chicago’) and she answered a few questions and also gracefully received a momento from the director of the festival, Prithul Kumar (who is also managing director of the National Film Development Corporation of India, which effectively looks after the film sector).

For us, our highlight was a mix of the above and the In Conversation series we covered – especially memorable were the Bollywood dames, Rani Mukherji and Vidya Balan. To any Bollywood lover, they need no introduction and both these women have been furrowing an independent plough in a male dominated and still largely machismo world. Both deserve huge credit and accolades for stamping their own feminine – possibly even feminist – credentials on the wider popular Hindi language film industry.

Vani Tripathi Tikoo, Prithul Kumar (festival director) and Vidya Balan

Vani Tripathi Tikoo, the moderator of the Balan session, benefitted from knowing Balan long before Balan was someone in the film industry – it was wonderful to see these two women hold such a space in IFFI. More, please.

We spoke to Tikoo at Film Bazaar, the market section of the festival at the plush Marriott, situated on the river that flows out towards the Arabian Sea.

There was also a palpable sense of excitement when directors DK and Raj and actors Manoj Bajpayee and Sreekrishna Dayal – all talked about their work on the hugely successful Amazon Prime show, ‘The Family Man’ in the same Masterclass/In Conversation series.

Apoorva Bakshi, producer of the International Emmy award-winning series, ‘Delhi Crime’ joined them and talked about how these shows made in India – and really for an Indian audience primarily became global hits and what the future holds – expect more like these.
Video highlights from the chat and how our earlier coverage of ‘Delhi Crime’ connects…

Though Zoya Akhtar’s ‘The Archies’ is just a one-off film for Netflix, it has a young main star ensemble cast of newbies – much has been made of Suhana Khan – daughter of Bollywood king, Shah Rukh Khan and Agastya Nanda, the grandson of the Hindi film industry living legend that remains Amitabh Bachchan, making their full features debuts.

Zoya Akhtar on the red carpet for ‘The Archies‘ at IFFI54

Akhtar was at IFFI last Tuesday (November 21) on the publicity trail and talking about her new work. The film also features Khushi Kapoor – the daughter of producer Boney Kapoor (brother of actor Anil Kapoor) and married to the late screen siren and one of the most popular actors of recent times in Bollywood, Sridevi. There is also a family connection with her older sister Janhvi appearing with dad at IFFI49.

Though we have yet to see this and have talked to Akhtar about in a London-Mumbai video link (coming), the comedy musical set in a fictional Anglo-Indian community looks sumptuous and dare we say at least one of the seven main leads will break through in the coming years to be a global star. Yes, global! Watch…

Salman Khan (third left) with team ‘Farrey‘ – on his right is Alizeh, his niece

On that note too, another Bollywood icon was also at IFFI and launched his film, ‘Farrey’ as a producer. Salman Khan is better known as an actor and is the host of the phenomenally popular, ‘Big Boss’ in India, (similar to ‘Big Brother’ here). His niece, Alizeh, (daughter of Salman’s sister Alvira) is one of the main leads and along with other attractive members of the young cast was also at IFFI for the premiere of ‘Farrey’ on the same Tuesday and appearing just after Z. Akhtar. It played to good reviews and has been doing decent business and Alizeh is another one to watch.
We caught all this on camera pretty much just hours after our arrival in Goa for IFFI and this is how it all started…

It was an excellent eight days (and nights, as we filed according more to UK times in the latter part of the fest) and thanks to the organisers and hospitality and a special shoutout to the IFFI volunteers (especially those who helped with transport – Ravi!) who made it it quite smooth (not always something you can say about working in India – cheeky!)… and thanks for reading, supporting, liking, commenting and subscribing if you did 🙏 (Sailesh Ram, editor of

Other Awards…

Silver Peacock – ‘Blaga’s Lessons’ – a film from Bulgaria, picking up the award on behalf of the director Stephan Komandarev was lead actor Eli Skorcheva and Rozalya Abgaryan. Iconic and much feted Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan whose film, ‘About Dry Grasses’ showed as the mid-fest gala screening was on hand to present.
Pouria Rahimi won the Best Male Actor award for his role in ’Endless Borders’
Best Female Actor Award went to Melanie Thierry in ‘Party of Fools’.
Reger Azad Best Feature Debut Diretor for ‘When the Seedlings Grow’
The ICFT-Unesco Gandhi Medal went to director Anthony Chen for ‘Drift’.
Best Web Series to Panchayat Season 2 (Prime Video). was a guest of the National Film Development Corporation of India and the Entertainment Society of Goa, which hosts the festival.



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Written by Asian Culture Vulture