|If I had time to Photoshop I'd put Mitu's face on the choo-choo.|
What struck me throughout the afternoon press conference at the Consulate General of India, however, was the impossible task Festival Director Mitu Bhowmick Lange and her trailblazing team at Mind Blowing Films faced this year. Last year's IFFM boasted the most beloved star in the Indian universe, Amitabh Bachchan. Even today that sentence beggars belief. Did Bollywood superstar and Indian demi-god Amitabh Bachchan really come to Melbourne last year and participate in a variety of IFFM events, the finale being his appearance at the first-ever IFFM Awards in front of a packed and rapturous Princess Theatre? Did that actually happen?
Yeah, it did. And it was life-changing for all involved.
Time marches inexorably on, of course, and I imagine Mitu & Co. were daunted by the task of starting from scratch and gearing up for 2015's followup. But, like the words of the Little Engine That Could every American kid has programmed into his/her head -- "I think I can, I think I can ..." -- Mitu and her colleagues have pushed aside the weight of heightened expectations and delivered a festival bound to resonate in Australia, India and beyond.
|Madhabi Mukherjee in Satyajit Ray's 'Charulata'|
If those names mean nothing to you, here's a quick primer: Anil Kapoor's an East/West acting legend who's been a household name in India for 30 years. Sonam Kapoor's an actress on the rise whose fashion-sense lands her on magazine covers and outspokenness gives entertainment industry writers bahut headlines. Kangana Ranaut, an attendee of last year's festival, starred in one of 2014's biggest hits (Queen) and the 2015 blockbuster Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Imran Khan's a heart-throb who hails from Bollywood royalty (he's the nephew of Aamir Khan, a genius whose work you REALLY ought to know). Simi Garewal's a living legend who's been a radiant presence at the last two IFFMs. Rajkumar Hirani is back as well. He's only a writer/director with a string of box office success unmatched by anyone. Anywhere. In any market.
|Kangana at IFFM 2014.|
Living in Australia means finding many products, services, destinations and just about everything else claiming to be the 'Southern Hemisphere's greatest ...' but what we enjoy in Melbourne every year is verifiably the Southern Hemisphere's greatest annual celebration of Indian cinema.
For 2015, here's verification:
- An opening weekend that intentionally coincides with Indian Independence Day on 15 August. Both the Consul General and Mitu were especially proud to announce a flag-raising ceremony will be held at Federation Square to mark the occasion, followed by the always popular Bollywood dance competition.
- An equality theme with real, actual teeth: Films and documentaries deemed too controversial to be screened in India on gay and transgender issues, acid attacks on women, and religious charlatans, as perfectly satirised in Aamir Khan's PK.
- Screenings of blockbuster Bollywood films that defy East/West categorisation ... they're simply great films. In other words: They're safe for white people! You'll love 'em!
- The usual mix of arthouse and indie films that consistently exceed expectations and nearly always teach this child of the West as much as they entertain.
- Films from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and other parts of the world where people live and love and lose and have stories worth sharing.
- A showcase of India's greatest films, including screenings of digitally remaster classics by legendary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray.
- A closing night world premiere of Kabir Khan's Phantom starring Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif.
|Consul General Manika Jain makes opening remarks.|
|I look forward to snapping photos of Anil Kapoor standing both in the flesh and in closer proximity to Mitu next month.|
|Press conference crowd.|
|As always, I was struck by Mitu's ability to teach as well as promote. She wears her passion for all things Indian cinema on her sleeve but it's the wisdom behind her passion that lingers.|