49th edition of IFFI takes off

The much hyped opening ceremony of the 49th International Film Festival of India got off to a delayed start sans the glitterati at Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium. After much anticipation, it began with a Bollywood dance sequence, beating of the dhols, some aerial stunts on numbers from Bajirao Mastani, Bahubali, etc.

Secretary of Information and broadcasting, Amit Khare welcomed the dignitaries and cine enthusiasts present for the 49th edition of the film festival that first began in 1952. He also congratulated the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Dan Wolman. Praising Indian cinema’s progress, with films like Padman and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, he said: “films are becoming strong messages of social change. The entertainment industry is providing revenue and growth and generating employment.”

It was at least half an hour into the ceremony at this point, when superstar, Akshay Kumar and producer and director Karan Johar walked in to some cheering from the audience.

The cast and crew of the opening film, ‘The Aspern Papers’ were called up onto the stage after a trailer of the film – it will have its world premiere here. Playback singer, Shilpa Rao with her troupe enthralled the audience with some romantic hits.

With Israel being the country focus this year, consul general of Israel in Mumbai, Yaakov Finkelstein shared that the country has a fondness for India and Goa and it was an honour for Israel to be chosen as ‘Country Focus’ this year. He used the platform to extend cooperation to Indian filmmakers to shoot for films in Israel. He also said that cinema will fortify the relation between India and Israel.

Finklstein’s address was followed by a splendid aerial silk acrobatics and dance show by the Mumbai-based Fly High Aerial Art and the release of the book ‘Women in Indian Cinema’.

This was followed by Johar having a chat with Rathore and chief guest Akshay Kumar in ‘Koffee with Karan’ style.During the quick chat, Akshay spoke about how much he enjoyed doing his recent film Gold and about doing social relevant films. “I am not doing these films just for the sake of it, the films have meaning for me,” he said, adding that post the release of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, he has learnt that many women are not choosing not to be with and marry a man if the home does not have a lavatory.

Rathore meanwhile told Karan that he enjoyed both his portfolios – Information and Broadcasting as well as Sports and Youth Affairs – equally. “While in Information and Broadcasting I get to meet interesting and creative people, in sports there is a whole lot of energy and I get to interact with young people,” he said.

This year, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to veteran Israeli filmmaker Dan Wolman, who stated that this was the highest award that he had ever received. “It is sweeter and more meaningful because this award is given in India, a country which I have become very much a part of a country where its people, culture, and vibrant cinema, I admire,” he said.

He also expressed happiness about Israel being the ‘country focus’ at this year’s edition. “I am glad to see that the films that the festival has curated are diverse and reflect the many voices of the country, some mainstream, some fringe, some voices are suffering, demanding, loyal,” he said.

Indian actor Sonu Sood brought the event to a close as he shook a leg to a few popular Bollywood hits.

Pic Credit- Hemant Parab