Interview Hindi

No controversy shows that everyone's hardwork has paid off: IFFI festival director Chaitanya Prasad

The additional director general (News), Doordarshan News, spoke on the sidelines of the ongoing 49th International Film Festival of India about this year’s edition, plans for next year’s golden jubilee festival, jury selection, and more.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Blessy Chettiar

The 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Panaji, Goa, has been a rollercoaster affair for everyone involved. This edition has been controversy free and one man is responsible for it.

“I think it speaks quietly that the hard work that has been put in by everyone perhaps has paid off. God is kind, that’s it,” said festival director Chaitanya Prasad.

The additional director general (News), Doordarshan News, holds the additional charge of being the directorate of film festivals (DFF), New Delhi. The DFF was set up under the ministry of information and broadcasting in 1973 with an objective to promote Indian films and cultural exchange.

Prasad spoke to us on the sidelines of the ongoing festival about the 49th edition, the ministry's plans for next year’s golden jubilee edition, jury selection, and more. Excerpts.

What are your thoughts on the festival so far?

Thoughts? Well begun is half done, so it should be absolutely welldone from end to end. It should be good from the beginning to end, right from the opening ceremony till the last day. Hopefully, it should be a flawless kind of thing.

Talking about flawless, this year has been controversy-free. How did you manage that?

(Laughs) I think it’s a double-edged weapon that you’re looking for. We tried to put systems in place and make sure that we live up to the expectations and aspirations of the audiences in terms of content, programming, different platforms, etc. We make sure that we are on the right track. Every day is a new day and we make sure that we are able to present the best. Controversy not there, I think, speaks, quietly that the hard work that has been put in by everyone perhaps has paid off. God is kind, that’s it.

A PR agency has been hired this year, making it easy for the media to get interviews, etc. Why was the need felt for it as there is the Press Information Bureau (PIB) for the same?

There have been PR agencies in the past. Any festival has a standard protocol. The whole objective is to enhance the outreach, visibility and image of the festival through multiple stakeholders to make sure the message is spread well, people are aware of the visibility and presence of the festival.

When do you start working for the next edition and it being the golden jubilee of IFFI, what are the plans for it?

Work for 2019 has already started. Plans for next year is a work-in-progress. That is something that my [I&B] minister [Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore], [I&B] secretary [Amit Khare] will be taking up. There are lessons learnt from the current eight festival days. We are taking forward the good practices that we need to put in place. We are discussing it with people who have come here, they are giving their suggestions… The very fact that we have begun something shows that we are going to be very proactive of how we want to further improve. Next year will be a very big event. In the sense, that it’s the 50th year of IFFI would mean an absolutely mega, super-mega event. It would be India’s showcase to the world.

Did you receive any feedback from last year? If yes, what kind and what changes were implemented?

It’s not a question of feedback. Basically, what we are trying to say is very simple. Every year there are some lessons learnt. From last year’s experience also there were some lessons learnt. We make sure that all that was there should be addressed adequately.

Recently, while speaking to a person who has never attended a film festival, I was posed the question, ‘what’s in it for the government?’ What do you have to say?

The government just provides a platform, it’s a facilitator. It ensures systems are in place, it is managed well. What happens in this festival? The stakeholders are all there, they’re visible. For example, every segment is driven by the industry or by the filmmaker. It is not driven by the government, there is no presence of the government, it stays in the background. It just provides a platform for the whole thing to go forward.

Speaking of every segment being driven by the industry, in our country the Hindi film industry trumps all other industries in terms of branding. This year many conversations scheduled were of film family members, for example – Janhvi and Boney Kapoor, Rhea and Anil Kapoor, Varun and David Dhawan, the Daggubatis…

[Interrupting] It’s not a question of any family. It’s just another idea that has come up. It’s not pertaining to any families. It’s important to understand that it’s a generational connect — the idea, theme, understanding of cinema between two different generations. It’s a coincidence that it happens to be in the same family. I’m sure Janhvi thinks in a particular way, Boney made films in another way. Varun thinks in another way, David thinks in another way. So it’s all different. Just because they belong to the same family, does not mean that [we are] positioning a family.

Was there a particular theme you were going for?

Every session had a different theme, topic. It’s nice to understand that within the same family you had two different perspectives, and why not? That shows how cinema is growing even within the family. Then you have the women directors meeting together, critics [who will meet and discuss too]. Everyone is doing a great job.

How is the jury selected?

We try to get the best for the jury. That is the mandate for the whole year for the respective sections. People who have a name for themselves, each one of them has been very privileged to be part of the jury. They select the films and they are the masters of the craft.

Are there any guidelines the government gives them while watching and selecting films?

Government has broad guidelines which have been in existence for a very long time. The parameters for judgment exist in every festival and IFFI is no exception. Yes, parameters are there, but they exercise their own judgment through jury interactions.

The delegates at IFFI are a mix of film enthusiasts and those involved in the craft of filmmaking. As a facilitator, is there something you’d like to convey to them?

We are truly honoured with the presence of so many different stakeholders. We wish to address each and every concern of theirs and we hope to get their support in the future so they come in large numbers.

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