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Film festivals came, went away and returned to Delhi, resulting in a better equipped and culturally aware audience. With the forthcoming relay of screenings in the city, Iknoor Kaur analyses how Delhi is now a perfect world venue
There was a time when the only way one could watch a foreign film was by going to a film festival. Good, bad, funny, dramatic, heroic or silent, one festival would have it all. Those were the good old days of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), back in the 1950s. From then till now, there have been many changes, in technology, sensibilities, resources and output. So much so that we are beyond the world of VCDs and DVDs stuck in a vortex of Torrents, Blu Ray and YouTube. However, that never hindered our interest in fresh content, instead only improved it. Where we used to watch the best of cinema, we moved onto viewing the classiest of it. There was a time we only awed the exclusivity of the product, but now we value it. Film festivals in India have gone from being a platform for movie buffs who wanted to see the best of world cinema to providing the budding Indian filmmaker his chance at the box office.
Even though the Mumbai International Film Festival, till date, stands alone as what can be called a “successful” international film fest, a lot of states in the country have taken an initiative towards the same. The latest addition to that list is Delhi. With the first edition of the Woodpecker Film Festival and the Delhi International Film Festival running into its second year, there has been a massive evolution in the city’s cinematic audience. However, it is not for the first time that Delhi featured on this list. IFFI was held bi-annually in Delhi before 2004 and the Osian’s Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema began in the city in 1999 and was on till the previous year.
According to Narender Yadav, spokesperson for the Woodpecker Film Festival, Delhi is evolving into being the second hub for filmmakers. He said, “Earlier filmmaking as a profession was limited to Mumbai, but now budding filmmakers are in every part of the country. The interest is growing. Since Delhi is the Capital, when you showcase something here, it makes a difference. After Mumbai I think Delhi is growing as a venue for film festivals. Even the community of filmmakers is becoming bigger. The only thing that Delhi lacks now is a national or international level film institute.”
Sumedh Natu, a member of a student-based self production called Shotgun Crew, feels that with more mainstream films highlighting Delhi as a location, a part of the film industry has moved here. “Having said that, I think there is still a need for people to understand the basics of filmmaking in Delhi,” he shared.
The city was questioned for its lack of audience. However, at the Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival 2012, the myth was broken. The organisers of the festival were thrilled to see the response to the festival. Over 45,000 cinema enthusiasts thronged the venue to watch films and take part in discussions. Almost all screenings were running full-house and there were long queues at ticket counters. Imtiaz Ali who was a part of one of the open sessions said, “It is surprising to face tough questions straight from the viewers, who may or may not like our work. They are so curious to know each and every detail about the dialogues, scenes, songs and inspiration.” Dibakar Banerjee too was elated to be at Osian. “It’s huge. You come here, talk and divorce the profit motive from it,” he said.
Films at such festivals also cross a lot of genres. While the Woodpecker Film Festival focusses on short films and documentaries across all languages of the country, DIFF has a variety of films from over 39 countries like China, Sri Lanka and Nepal. “We also make it a point to bring in student films from the well-known and the lesser-known institutes of India. This helps students put their work at the forefront,” added Yadav.
An essential part of film festivals is the venue films are screened at. Randip Ghosh, film coordinator at the Delhi International Film Festival, feels that being a cultural city, Delhi has a lot of people interested in festivals. “However, what we need more are the venues. India Habitat Centre and India International Centre are not enough. We need to develop some more cultural centers like IGNCA. When we show interesting stuff, people will always come and watch, so we should make it available to them.”
The progress may be gradual, but one can see a sudden change in the way people perceive cinema in Delhi. Whether or not the city is becoming the second hub for filmmakers, this month will see a relay of festivals that will showcase some of the best of cinema from across the world.
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