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LIFFT India film festival to be held in Lonavala from 1-5 September

The festival will also give away an award in the late actor Om Puri's name.

Keyur Seta

Lonavala is again gearing up for a film festival. LIFFT (Literature, Illusion, Film, Frame, Television and Theatre) India will be taking place at the hill station in Maharashtra from 1 to 5 September. It will showcase more than 20 films from around the world and also stage performing arts. 

Some prominent films to be shown this year include Leena Yadav’s Parched (Hindi), Sunaina Bhatnagar’s Dear Maya (Hindi), John Upchurch’s Mango Dreams (English), Lee Chambers’ The Pineville Heist (English), Rajan Patel’s Feast Of Varanasi (English/Hindi), Mangesh Joshi’s Lathe Joshi (Marathi), Raja Sen’s Maya Mridanga (Bengali), Gustavo Letelier’s Shining Moon (Spanish), Bharat Vijay’s Aaram Arivu (Tamil), Govind Nihalani’s Ti Ani Itar (Marathi), and Mauro Russo Rouge’s Aberrante (Italian). The festival will also showcase a number of short and children's films. 

Actor Vipin Sharma and costume designer Pia Benegal will be taking masterclasses at the event. Other personalities like Leena Yadav, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Pankaj Tripathi, and Mukesh Chhabra will be involved in chat sessions. 

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Riju Bajaj, founder and festival director, said, “The festival is different from other festivals we see around. The name itself is very slogan like — LIFFT India. When you lift India, you lift it through stories, films, books, education, entertainment and awareness.” 

The festival will take place at the Fariyas resort in Lonavala. “In multiplexes, you get availability only when a big movie of a big star isn’t being released. And you can’t book 1 September each year because each year it’s not Friday on that date. Fariyas has 200 rooms, of which 80-90% are always occupied. So, we expect footfalls from there also. I am thankful to Fariyas for giving me this space so generously.”

Bajaj added that all he needs is space. “I am not dependent on anyone for creating anything. I just need a venue, be it a room, football field, Mount Everest, banquet hall, a place on Andaman and Nicobar islands or Antarctica. I will host my festival there," he said, laughing. 

This is also a rare film festival which would be accessible online. “We also have online viewership," Bajaj said. "People will monitor the festival internationally online. They can watch the interviews, chat shows, and conversations will all happen online.” 

Leena Yadav's Parched

The festival will honour some respected names from the industry with lifetime achievement awards. This year an award has been named after the late actor Om Puri, who passed away in January this year. 

Bajaj believes the country needs more than just a Dadasaheb Phalke award. “In this country, nothing exists more than a Dadasaheb Phalke award. As if nobody else has done or achieved anything [in cinema]. We have 35 different categories. We also have honours for literary, theatre, painting and still photography. We have awards named after Om Puri, Ismail Mechant, VK Murthy, Khemchand Prakash and Renu Saluja. These are coming with permissions from the families," he said. 

Torrential rains in Maharashtra caused chaos on Tuesday, but Bajaj isn’t worried as 1 September is still two days away. “I am not worried, for two reasons. We are doing it at Fariyas and there can’t be any flooding there as its location is such. Flooding happens at a lower area and Lonavala is at the top. Most of our crowd is coming from Lonavala. Those who are coming from Mumbai and Pune will come by the expressway. That is not affected by the floods. So, we are not thinking about it right now,” Bajaj said. 

But they will look at the situation after a couple of days. “Thinking will set in only on the night of 31 August. We wil re-assess it at that point. But even if there is rain, flood or whatever, we are going ahead with the festival,” he said. 

Last year, Bajaj had founded another film festival in Lonavala. “In the previous year, I had founded another festival in Lonavala. Unfortunately, I am no more a part of it,” he said. 

A source close to the LIFFT festival said, “Last year the festival was registered on the name of the multiplex which was the venue partner. Now, the multiplex owners have taken over the festival.”

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