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LIFFT India guests praise its simplicity, hope it doesn't get too commercialized

On the last day of the festival, Cinestaan.com spoke to guests attending the closing ceremony of LIFFT India to learn about their experiences.

Photo: LIFFT India

Shriram Iyengar

The closing ceremony of the LIFFT India Awards and Filmotsav 2017 saw a number of filmmakers, actors, theatre professionals, and singers join in praise of the cultural festival, held in Lonavla. The 5 day festival, held between 1-5 September saw a medley of events that included singing, performing arts, painting, theatrical performances and film screenings, together at the Fariyas resorts.

Cinestaan.com spoke to a number of guests about their experience at the festival. The most common opinion among participants was that the festival's quiet, intimate nature made it easier for them to have conversations with the many like-minded people around. Sunaina Bhatnagar, director of Dear Maya (2017)said, "I think conceptually the idea of this festival is really lovely, as an art festival that talks about writing, as well as plays and music, films, etc. This festival will grow because the idea is good and will grow into something special."

Costume designer Pia Bengal echoed similar sentiments, saying, "I thought it was very nice, very intimate. I like intimate festivals because there is a sense of closeness, a sense of family. I was a little disappointed that there was not enough attendance from the local people. I do hope there will be more people coming from Lonavla, Khandala, Pune, and of course, Mumbai. But people who are associated with films, theatre, and who have been associated with the festival, have come in large numbers."

Theatre veteran Dolly Thakore seconded this observation, saying, "You can see that the cultural events in the afternoon have a far larger audience. It increases the cultural scope for the city. All the performers who have come...it is not just theatre, there are book readings, solo performances, interviews which have been amazing to watch. Those have been, by far, more interesting for the general public."

While the cultural aspect of the festival certainly caught the attention of attendees, with Dastaangoi performances by Danish Hussain, solo play performances by Rajit Kapoor, Girish Pardesi and Mita Vashisht, it was the cosy nature of LIFFT India's atmosphere that truly allowed these artists to indulge in conversations. Pia Benegal said, "One thing is for sure that it shouldn't get too big, because intimate festivals is what really works very well. Intimacy and when you have a one-to-one with people, there is a feel of bonding, friendship, long-term professional contact and personal as well. I look forward to that developing from LIFFT India on many levels."

Nandita Puri too agreed and said, "I am absolutely thrilled and excited. I have been to many festivals worldwide, but this has a very homely feel. Firstly, Lonavla is like home, great weather, and every one is in a very nice, healthy space. It is such a wonderful, warm feeling, that when it goes big you won't enjoy it. I hope even if it gets popular, it retains its cosiness and simplicity. We are meeting friends we have not met in 15 years, talking about everything and everyone. It has been great fun."

Director Sunaina Bhatnagar, however, added that it was inevitable for the festival to grow big, "Maybe, because it is in the first year, it is not so commercialized. This allows a lot more room for conversation, more warmth, it is smaller and becomes more personal. The feeling is much more artistic. I am not in a bazaar. Obviously, it is a Catch-22, but that bazaar feeling happens. You lose the personal thing. Most often you can't even approach or speak to people participating and showing their films. I am really happy to be here, and hope that the festival grows."

While the festival saw a healthy participation from the film fraternity, Pia Benegal noticed the lacking local crowd. She mentioned, "I do want to see people who are curious and interested in film, theatre, images, literature to attend. I do hope it will open up. It is still a fledgling festival, and this is baby steps. I think the attendance should increase, and wish LIFFT India the very best. I will support it wholeheartedly."

The festival concluded on 5 September.

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