The 50th edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) got off the to an edgy start in Goa yesterday, with the inaugural ceremony marred by public heckling of federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar over his role in the ongoing water dispute between Goa and Karnataka.
Political party workers and activists were also arrested, after they protested with ‘Go Back Javadekar’ placards outside the festival screening venue in the state capital Panaji.
At the inaugural ceremony, which was attended by superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Rajinikanth, Javadekar described cinema as India’s “soft power” while announcing the setting up of a single window clearance system for processing of permissions for film shoots.
“India has such scenic locations, sites, but for shoots one has to take 15-20 permissions. We are starting a single window system for (permission) for shootings. Goa, Leh-Ladakh and Andaman and Nicobar will also benefit,” Javadekar said during the inaugural session.
The inaugural session, compered by well-known director Karan Johar, began with a tribute to Goa’s stalwart politician the late Manohar Parrikar who hosted the first IFFI in the state.
Apart from Rajinikanth who was presented with the Icon of the Golden Jubilee award and the felicitation of Bachchan, French actress Isabelle Huppert was conferred the festival’s Lifetime Achievement award.
“Feel honoured and grateful for being the recipient of the extraordinary award,” Huppert said.
“I am extremely happy to receive the Icon of the Golden Jubilee. I dedicate this to all my directors, producers and technicians who have been with me and above all my fans,” Rajinikanth said on receiving the award.
Maria Lemesheva, head of the delegation from Russia, which is the country under focus in this edition of the festival, invited Indian film makers to shoot in Russia and work on co-productions, saying the Russian government had recently announced a 40% rebate on foreign films shot there.
“In the last few years, the Russian film industry is rising and films of all genres are being made and getting access to different festivals across the world,” Lemesheva said.
Bachchan who was specially felicitated on the occasion said that he owes his success to his fans.
“This is a debt on my head of your love and affection. I would not be able to repay the debt and I would not want to, because I would like to keep it forever,” he said.
To commemorate the occasion a special postage dedicated to the completion of 50 editions of the festival was released yesterday.
Over 9,000 delegates have already registered for the event, which is scheduled to screen over 200 films from 76 countries, which includes 26 feature films and 15 non-feature films. These will be screened as part of the Indian Panorama section.
Earlier, protesters accused Javadekar of betraying Goa’s interests in the tussle between Karnataka and Goa over sharing the water of the Mhadei river.
Hundreds of party workers from the Congress, Goa Forward party and several other NGOs also staged a protest outside the IFFI campus in Panaji, against Javadekar’s refusal to withdraw the Ministry of Environment and Forest permission to Karnataka’s controversial Kalasa-Banduri project, aimed at diverting water from the Mhadei river.
Javadekar is also in charge of the environment ministry.
The protests were held despite prohibitory orders.
“Javadekar has betrayed Goa and has caused great injustice to its people by giving a green nod to the Kalasa-Banduri project illegally,” Goa Congress president Girish Chodankar said.
On Tuesday, Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat said Javadekar should abstain from attending the inaugural session of the IFFI, because he had failed the people of Goa.
Javadekar turned down the Goa government’s request for withdrawal of the ministry’s letter issued last month giving the Karnataka government the go-ahead for the Rs841 crore Kalasa-Banduri project.
The Mhadei river originates in Karnataka and meets the Arabian Sea near Panaji, while briefly flowing through Maharashtra.
An inter-state water disputes tribunal, set up by the central government, after hearing the over two-decade-old Mhadei river water sharing dispute between Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra, in August 2018 allotted 13.42 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) (including 3.9 TMC for diversion into the depleted Malaprabha river basin) to Karnataka and 1.33 TMC to Maharashtra.
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