The MAMI Festival fever was jut subsiding when IFFI – the International Film Festival of India— opens in Goa. It’s been a while since the IFFI travelling circus alighted on Goa and stayed there, with the beautiful beach town and tourist magnet sought to be turned into the Cannes of the East.
Both festivals get a good selection of films and a barrage of celebrities descending, but whether either festival has managed to create a real and enduring film culture is debatable. People flock to watch films at the MAMI Festival, but that appreciation for good or offbeat cinema does not translate into a regular, ticket-buying audience for these films — at least not for Hindi films. Nor is it developing a taste for good cinema among audiences, since some of the worst mainstream films are still being patronized by those who profess to love indie cinema.
These indie filmmakers still have problems getting funding for their films, and in spite of winning awards and a fair amount of media support, find it difficult to release their films. If at all these films reach the multiplex, they are in unviable time slots. That dream of creating art house cinemas and boosting a culture of cinema appreciation hasn’t quite happened. Once in a while a non-mainstream film is a small success and very soon, a star system develops even in this circuit. Today a new indie filmmaker would probably find it difficult to get, say Nawazuddin Siddiqui or Rajkummar Rao for his/her film because they are so busy.
The focus on stars, celebrities and their wardrobes also takes away from the seriousness of the cinema on show. Every year, coverage from the Cannes Festival is about who walked the red carpet, wearing what. Hardly any mention of the great cinema also being showcased and viewed. Unfortunately, a similar red carpet obsession is now ruling Indian film festivals and events, so what is talked about is the stars and their styling, not enough about their performances. If at all, the acting of stars is hailed, whether they deserve it or not. Some stars have attained the status of being good actors, and now even if they sleepwalk through their films, they are praised.
The real film buffs festivals are Thiruvananthapuram and Kolkata, where audiences appreciate cinema, not stars’ gowns and tuxedos. Does the media even bother to cover these festivals? But everybody will land up in Goa and send red carpet reports.