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Riju Bajaj, Rajit Kapoor kick off LIFFT India Awards & Filmotsav in Lonavala

At the inaugural press conference, Riju Bajaj, founder, LIFFT India, said that the festival sought to offer a platform to all major art forms in the hill station of Lonavala. 

Riju Bajaj, founder, LIFFT India; Nisar Khan, GM, Fariyas Resorts and actor Rajit Kapoor. Photo: LIFFT India

Shriram Iyengar

For the next week, residents of Lonavala will see an inflow of artists, actors, film lovers making regular visits into the city. The LIFFT India Awards and Filmotsav kicked off on early, on Friday morning. Speaking at the press conference for the LIFFT India festival, founder and festival director, Riju Bajaj, was accompanied by actor Rajit Kapoor, and Nisar Khan, GM, Fariyas Resorts. 

LIFFT India 2017: Must-watch films at the Lonavala festival

Speaking about the objective of the festival, Bajaj pointed out that the overall theme and objective of the festival was to provide a platform for every art form, around cinema, to flourish. Bajaj said, "It is a very toddler festival. We are in our initial stages. We are rising like a phoenix from the ashes. The roadmap is ultimately to have one's own multiplex and cultural hub in Lonavala, where we can have all cultural activities under one roof. Fariyas Resorts have promised to be with us as long as we have to be." Bajaj also added of the association with Fariyas Resorts, "It is iconic in Lonavala. It is the grandad in Lonavala, and it is always good for a toddler to have a granddad."

Khan, GM, Fariyas Resorts, the host of LIFFT India, added, that "Fariyas Resorts will grow along with LIFFT. It is going to be a lifetime association with the festival. An event like LIFFT will put Lonavala on the global map. It is not only about films and Bollywood, it is also about literature and theatre and arts under that framework." Speaking about his decision to partner LIFFT, Khan said, "It is not just films. It brings in culture, theatre, literature. It involves a lot of community and social responsibility. It brings Lonavala onto the global map. It will support a lot of new talent."

Actor Kapoor, who will be conducting a short play, and a book reading on the inaugural day of the festival said, "I think the major USP is that Riju (Bajaj) has been very specific about making it a very literary aesthetic content based event. Sirf coffee peene ke liye nahi hai, which is what festivals become sometimes. There is a lot of effort put into giving it a certain literary value status, which, hopefully will make it stand out in the times to come." 

Bajaj seconded the idea by saying, "Films cannot survive, and require these allied arts. Unfortunately, cinema has taken all the glamour, and all these so-to-say art forms like painting, photography, or theatre, or poetry, are losing the sheen and attention of the people.

Most Indian festivals don’t give importance to Indian cinema: Lonavala fest organizer Riju Bajaj

Speaking about the eclipsing quality of cinema, Kapoor said, "I will give you an example. I went to judge a theatre competition in my own school. I was horrified that all the five plays were lifted out of cinema songs and television serial material. 25 years ago, when we used to write short plays for school, that was not there. We used to look stories amongst us. It is shocking. So, it is there. Some of our mainstream cinema does tend to eclipse the thinking of the young mind." 

A festival that will see films from more than 37 countries screened at the venue, LIFFT founder Bajaj emphasised that the efforts for the festival began a year ago. "We received more than 300 entries for the festival, out of which 120 were shortlisted, out of which 86 films will be screened. "At one point, we had to tell them to stop sending us entries, we couldn't take it," Bajaj laughed. "We promised them we will take them in next year. It is a very multi-layered filtration process."

Speaking about the multi-cultural and linguistic aspect of the festival, Bajaj said, "We are now speaking in English because we want to reach out to the world. But in the process, we have lost some of that touch with our regional languages. But it's alright, we can use it as a tool to make our own presence felt." 

LIFFT India received entries from 37 countries: Festival director Riju Bajaj

Bajaj, who began his 'internship' as he calls it, working with his father, Ram Gopal Bajaj, organising the national festival with the NSD, also worked with Kapoor on his debut film, Sooraj Ka Satvaan Ghoda (1992). Kapoor pointed out that it was an interesting coincidence that the two were sitting together 25 years to the month when they were shooting for the Shyam Benegal film.  

The LIFFT festival is being held at the Fariyas Resorts in Lonavala from 1-5 September.


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