Kolkata: In January 1994, as IFFI being held in Kolkata, festival Director, Malati Sahay personally called and invited Chetan Anand to be a delegate. The sensitive director politely refused saying he lost interest in film festivals.
Quite unusual from Chetan Anand who represented India at Cannes, Venice, Moscow and Peking film festivals. He had said, “I have viewed and analysed works of Eisenstein, John Ford and Victor Flaming. A diehard fan of Greta Garbo, I don’t see films like The General Line, How Green Was My Valley or Matahari, anymore.”
Come January 2022 and film festivals will again start after the corona pandemic dreaded days.
Eminent filmmaker Goutam Ghose says, “Film festivals are always welcomed. Cine lovers are exposed to the best of movies from all parts of the world. Artists, technicians, production persons and genuine film buffs have a common platform to discuss various aspects of cinema.”
IFFI Goa, this year presented the coveted Satyajit Ray Award to stalwarts Martin Scorsese and Zabo. Films from the OTT platform, non-features and others were screened. There was a Sean Connery retrospective too.
Yet the million-dollar question remains: why are classics like Modern Times, Autumn Sonata and Devi missing these days? Adur Gopalkrishna answers, “Those were the golden days of cinemas. Be it films by Satyajit Ray, Jean Luc Goddard or Akira Kurosawa, they were masterpieces. Their commitment to the cinema cannot be equaled by today’s standards.”
In all fairness, the slow death of single-screen theatres and the multiplex culture has harmed cinema in India to a good extent. The audience in single theatres earlier was more responsive to good cinema. An average viewer had a minimal sense of cinema. The multiplex going audience does more escapist entertainment love. It has no time to think and analyse.
Once Mrinal Sen had confessed, “I feel suffocated watching a film at a multiplex. I am always comfortable with single screens.” To his close associates he always said not a single filmmaker of the present generation could come anywhere near Satyajit Ray, Francisco Rossi or David Lean. From Hollywood, he admired the versatility of Steven Spielberg.
At modern film festivals, one often comes across lots of excited viewers discussing cinema. Ironically many of them have not even heard the names of Henry King or Louis Mal. Indian spectators are not even generally aware of the brilliant works of Pramathesh Barua, Nitin Bose or even Bijoy Bose Sandip Ray terms this Greek attitude to Indian cinema, “Very sad”.
Raj Chakraborty, Chairman, KIFF says, “I saw a film conscious audience at the past few Kolkata International Film Festivals. This section has a lot of knowledge of cinema and is not too comfortable with the OTT platform. There cannot be any comparison with the audience of the past and the present.”
Once Richard Burton commented in the ’70s at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts that a festival of cinema requires a true cinema-conscious audience. His view even today is endorsed by Maryl Streep. A strong study of cinematic language and a return to the classic cinema can only make film festivals colourful.
At IFFI Goa, Hema Malini and Prasun Joshi were honored for their outstanding contributions to Indian cinema. A special feature of the latest film festival was interactions with professors of FTII Pune, about the various works of Satyajit Ray. It enlightened the upcoming generation of film lovers who are not so well versed with Ray classics.