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LIFFT India opening ceremony celebrates cinema, dance, literature, with tribute to Om Puri

Cinestaan.com encapsulates the various events that inaugurated the opening day of LIFFT India 2017.

Rakesh Malhotra and Tanuja (Photo: LIFFT India)

Sukhpreet Kahlon

The opening ceremony of LIFFT India 2017 or LIFFT India Awards and Filmotsav, was a gala affair with several multi-hued events lined up and eminent film personalities in attendance.

From a book launch and reading session to a play and Kathak performance, the ceremony lived up to its ideology of encompassing the various arts.

The opening ceremony began after the screening of Leena Yadav’s award-winning film Parched (2016). The director was welcomed on stage and she introduced several cast and crew members from the film who were present at the festival.

Pictures: Tanuja, Rajit Kapoor, Leena Yadav, Dolly Thakore, Riju Bajaj welcome LIFFT India 2017

The felicitation was followed by the launch of Rakesh Malhotra’s book Dil Dhoondta Hai by yesteryear actress Tanuja. Malhotra mentioned his father as the inspiration behind his writing and thanked his wife for being his guiding force. Reading an excerpt from his book, he concluded with a beautiful line, “Ujaale mein sab dekhte hain, andhere mein dekhna seekho aakhir dil dhoondta kya hai [Everyone can see in the light, try looking in the darkness to find what the heart seeks]." 

A book-reading session by Snigdha was next and she read out an excerpt from Bibhu Datta Rout’s book, Wheels Of Wish. The co-founder of the web portal Story Mirror, Rout talked about how Story Mirror encourages young writers as it offers an alternative to publishing houses that often have a barrier against new talent.

Founder and festival director Riju Bajaj then spoke about the ideology of the festival and welcomed chief guest Leena Yadav and presented her with a plant, in keeping with the green theme of LIFFT India 2017.

Actress Vani Tripathi then engaged the director in a conversation and asked her a range of questions on her films and their unusual themes. Resisting the label of being a woman director, Yadav said, “Parched liberated me.” 

Tripathi asked Yadav how Parched looks at the sexuality of women and the need for the theme to be discussed in cinema, to which Yadav responded, “We need to talk about sex. There are so many issues buried deep in that. We need to talk about sex a lot more.”

Addressing a question on the 'gaze', Yadav said that instead of thinking in terms of a male or a female gaze, we need to think of an “individual gaze”, where an individual’s way of looking at things is highlighted. She ended the dialogue by talking about her next film in progress, Rajma Chawal, which she described as being “a light film about men”, that addresses the generation gap and communicating with technology.

Dolly Thakore , Wahid Chauhan, Nandita Puri , Leena Yadav, Tanuja, Kanwaljit Singh, Ram Gopal Bajaj (Photo: LIFFT India)

The LIFFT India award trophy was unveiled and the Lifetime Achievement award was given posthumously to producer-director Ismail Merchant, which was accepted by Wahid Chauhan on his behalf. Veteran actress Dolly Thakore reminisced about her time spent with Merchant and revealed some little known facts about his life, including that he was the first to start restoring Satyajit Ray’s films and was thus instrumental in the Academy Award being presented to the auteur in 1992.

As this year’s edition of LIFFT India is dedicated to actor Om Puri, who passed away on 6 January, 2017, there was a screening of a short film on him made by his wife Nandita Puri. This was followed by a reading of excerpts from her book Unlikely Hero: Om Puri by her and their son, Ishaan Puri. She also announced the creation of the Om Puri Foundation to encourage artistes and provide them financial assistance.

The eventful evening was enlivened by a solo play performed by Rajit Kapur and a Kathak fusion recital by Rujuta Soman.

In keeping with the festival's ideology, the opening day celebrated cinema and the allied arts, setting the tone for the days to follow, which have a packed schedule with masterclasses, performances, book-reading sessions and, of course, film screenings.

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