IFFI 2021: Ranveer Singh, Karan Johar, Salman Khan, Shraddha Kapoor take the stage as festival takes the popular route

The inaugural day saw Martin Scorsese and István Szabó presented with the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement award and Hema Malini with the Indian Film Personality of the Year award.

Shriram Iyengar

Returning as a physical event after two years, the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) kicked off its 52nd edition with an inauguration ceremony at the Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee indoor stadium in Panaji, Goa, yesterday.

The event saw a host of big names from Hindi cinema like filmmaker Karan Johar, lyricist and Central Board of Film Certification chairman Prasoon Joshi, and artistes Salman Khan, Ranveer Singh, Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D'Souza Deshmukh join Union information and broadcasting minister Anurag Singh Thakur in opening the festival.

The opening ceremony was attended by Goa's governor PS Sreedharan Pillai, chief minister Pramod Sawant and Union minister of state for information and broadcasting L Murugan. Johar hosted the ceremony with actor Maniesh Paul.

After the traditional lamp was lit, the international jury for the festival, led by the chairperson, Iranian filmmaker Rakhshān Banietemad, was felicitated. The other members of the jury are filmmakers Stephen Woolley, Ciro Guerra, Vimukthi Jayasundara and Nila Madhab Panda.

In his address, Anurag Thakur invited filmmakers from all over the world to be a part of the collaborative effort to make India a 'hub' of 'content creation'. "The world is ready to hear India's story," he said, adding, “The India story is being written and defined by Indians. Our message to all filmmakers is this — come, be a part of India’s ‘cinematic kaleidoscope’ of collaborative diversity’ that is set to take new strides as the voice of a rising, aspirational billion.”

While the event was largely focused on cinema, tributes were paid to the late Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who was influential in moving the festival to Goa from Delhi back in 2004, by Thakur and Sawant.

Asked to recite his favourite movie dialogue, Thakur picked Shah Rukh Khan's iconic line from Chak De! India (2007): "Mujhe states ke naam na dikhaai dete hain na sunaai dete hain. Sunaai deta hai toh bas India! [I can neither see nor hear the name of any state. All I recognize is India.]"

In view of the growing differences between the central government and various state governments, the minister seemed to be subtly hinting at the need to overcome divisions within the country's federal structure and unite as Indians.

As part of the government's Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav (75 years of Independence) programme, 75 aspiring young filmmakers have been invited to the festival as special guests.The 75 youngsters comprising seven female and 68 male artistes, all below 35 years of age, have been invited to visit the festival and interact with other filmmakers.

Speaking about the initiative, Thakur said, “For the first time, we are recognizing and mentoring promising 75 young minds as we celebrate 75 years of India’s independence. They have been chosen by the grand jury and selection jury after a meticulous process.”

Among the highlights of the festival was the virtual appearance of Academy award-winning American filmmaker Martin Scorsese to accept the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement award. Scorsese was followed by Academy award-winning Hungarian director István Szabó, who was also presented with the honour.

Scorsese spoke warmly of discovering the joy of Pandit Ravi Shankar's music and Ray's stories through Pather Panchali (1955) while Szabó recollected the late auteur inviting him and his wife out for dinner at Venice in the past.

The festival also saw a large collection of OTT platforms as part of a new initiative. “There are many firsts at IFFI. For the first time ever, IFFI has allowed OTT platforms to come and showcase what they have produced in the past few years," Thakur said. He remarked that this will be a part of the festival's growing effort to embrace change and adapt to the pace of the entertainment world.

Actress-turned-member of Parliament Hema Malini was presented the Indian Film Personality of the Year award. Hema Malini, the top female star in Hindi cinema in the 1970s, expressed her delight at the honour and said, "IFFI is doing a great job in encouraging our creative youngsters through this international platform.”

The best part of the night for the audience was the performances of Ranveer Singh, Shraddha Kapoor and Salman Khan. Ranveer Singh burst on to the stage with energy as he performed to a medley of tracks marking a timeline of Hindi cinema, from 'Yeh Desh Hai Veer Jawanon Ka' from Naya Daur (1957) to his own 'Malhari' from Bajirao Mastani (2015).

He was followed by Kapoor who took to the stage to perform to a medley of songs that included 'Kar Har Maidaan Fateh' from Sanju (2018). The final star to perform was Khan, who took to the stage to the tune of his now signature Dabangg (2010) title song. Perhaps in keeping with the theme, the actor also performed a patriotic number from his unfinished film Dus (1997), 'Sabse Aage Honge Hindustani',

The night concluded with the minister hosting the artistes and other industry bigwigs at a private dinner.

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