The 53rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa got off to a spectacular start on Nov. 20, with the best of Bollywood on display.
A near full house at the 4,000-seater capacity Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium witnessed performances from Bollywood stars Varun Dhawan, whose next film “Bhediya” is premiering at the festival, and Mrunal Thakur. There were on-stage appearances from A-listers Ajay Devgn, Kartik Aaryan, Manoj Bajpayee, Suniel Shetty, Paresh Rawal and Sara Ali Khan. Actor Aparshakti Khurana compered the evening.
South Indian cinema star Catherine Tresa Alexander performed to a medley of Telugu, Tamil and Kannada-language cinema hit songs and the southern industries were also represented by “RRR” and “Baahubali” writer Vijayendra Prasad.
Presiding over proceedings was India’s Information & Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur. The country is celebrating 75 years of independence and Thakur said that India is on track over the next 25 years to become a global film shooting, co-production, post-production, technology and content hub.
“We aim to make India a powerhouse of content creation, especially regional cinema, by scaling up regional festivals,” Thakur said. The minister also highlighted the South Asian film market Film Bazaar which happens concurrently with IFFI and that for the first time the festival has a technology hub to showcase the latest innovations from the cinema world.
Goa’s Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said that the setting up of an international standard multiplex and convention center in Goa was in its final stages and IFFI could be held there by 2025.
Spanish auteur Carlos Saura was honored with the festival’s Satyajit Ray lifetime achievement award. Saura was unable to attend due to bronchitis and accepted via a video speech. His daughter Anna collected the award on his behalf. There is a Saura retrospective at IFFI. South Indian megastar Chiranjeevi was accorded the IFFI Indian Film Personality of the Year award.
Among the dignitaries present were L. Murugan, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Ravinder Bhakar, MD of India’s National Film Development Corporation, which organizes IFFI alongside the Entertainment Society of Goa, and Apurva Chandra, secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Chandra read out a letter from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which said in part: “Films in different Indian languages are reaching out to a larger international audience and are being increasingly appreciated across the world. As the biggest film festival of India, IFFI promotes an invigorating synergy between delegates from different nations and societies united by cinema.”
The festival opened with Austrian film “Alma & Oskar,” directed by Dieter Berner. IFFI runs Nov. 20-28.