NOV 25, 2009 – YOU LUCKY [UNPRINTABLE]! That’s the usual effusion of greeting that comes my way when I inform people that I’m at the IFFI – in Goa! I might as well let you in on the little secret that the IFFI could be held in the boondocks of Chennai and it wouldn’t make a difference. It’s not as if there are open-air screenings of films, on the beaches, as we recline in boat-chairs as sarong-clad lovelies keep refreshing our coconut shells with freshly brewed cashew feni. The experience is more along the lines of a ruthless military drill. Rise in the morning. Rush to the ticket counter before the others can snatch away your seats. (Though having media accreditation does help a bit in that regard.) Run into first screening. Try not to fall asleep if it gets too arty or if the previous night’s film didn’t leave you much time for a good night’s rest. Rush out and grab a snack. Rush in for second film. And so on and so forth.
ACTUALLY, I REALISE THAT was a desperate attempt to draw sympathy for a situation that deserves none. But you have to believe me when I say the first couple of days here are utter chaos, the very definition of hell-on-earth. The brochures (announcing the programme lineup, with synopses and so forth) have yet to be distributed – so the highly scientific method for choosing films you want to watch is essentially close-your-eyes-and-point. (A sage soul next to me graciously shared his thumb rule: first pick films from Europe, then South America, and finally Asia. Why? Because someone else told him to do so.) And did I mention that, at the counter, you cannot simply name the film you want tickets for? There’s a code for each film, so you have to run to the one place where the codes are posted, stamp over a few hundred feet while making sure you’re not jotting down the wrong codes, race back to the counter, and… So a little sympathy, perhaps? Just a wee bit?
BUT PERHAPS THE LAD DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH. The much-maligned Films Division has put together, here, what is a mini-festival of its own – Moments with the Maestros, “a bouquet of films on music exponents.” (Second gratuitous Bard-quote alert: the booklet ends on a note of, “If music be the food of…”) Films on Rafi, Pandit Jasraj, Manna De, Thyagaraja (or Thyaga Brahmam, as the title goes), Teejanbai, Balamuralikrishna, Ustad Allah Rakha, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Sheikh Chinna Maulana, Mallikarjun Mansur – along with meditations on dhrupad and tarana and khayal and “shruti and graces in Indian music.” There’s even a biography on Husnlal-Bhagatram, India’s first film-composer duo. For all the chaos reflective of life in India, you have to give the organisers this much – they also showcase the culture of India like few others do.
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