One more legacy of the past has been laid to rest, or say, more or less. This is the dismantling of the Directorate of Film Festival in New Delhi.

This Directorate is about to disappear into history. It follows a decision in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to merge some fi eld units of the Ministry into bigger like working units and dissolve their old identity. The Directorate of Film Festival was suggested to be merged with the Song and Drama Division of the Ministry.

In one overnight move, the current Director of the Directorate was asked to relinquish his charge and proceed on long leave. Two of his deputy directors were also shunted out without much ceremony and posted to vacancies in Ahmadabad and Mumbai in the Ministry’s offices of Publication Divisions. A new incumbent from the Ministry has been posted in the Directorate as its Director who will oversee the National Film Festival, scheduled for 3rd May.

Changes have also been made which suggest the direction in which the Directorate is going. The Ministry abolished the Committee on the Dada Sahib Phalke Award and got the jury of the National Film Award to suggest names. In distant NFDC, Sunit Tandon who was director of IFFI in Goa from the government side, moved out of his Mumbai assignment and found a new non cinema job. The Managing Director of NFDC is also away from her seat permanently. There is talk that NFDC may also be wound up.

Mercifully after the Award ceremony of NFA is over, there will be a lull in the working of the Directorate. No one is now going to Cannes to scout for fi lms; the new role is being given to the regular fi lm critics who go to cover the Festival on behalf of their newspaper chains. As for bringing Cannes to Goa, well that was one more ‘jumlaa’ of the BJP Sarkar when it took offi ce for the fi rst time in this century.

The Indian film industry has an envious record of starting very high on international festival prestige, and then slowly and steadily slide down in both quality and management.

In 1952, it was Jawaharlal Nehru who presided over the First International Film festival of India. Even among the private fi lm festival, on one occasion it was Abdul Gamal Nassar, President of Egypt , who came down from Cairo to present the Award to the deserving. The National Film Awards however have been able to sustain the level of getting the awards handed over by the President of India, though the sanads are signed by the Secretary of the Ministry, and not the President.

Today we have the Minister of I&B to preside over the IFFI, and in the National Film Festival the President of India reads his speech when handing over the awards for Indian fi lms, written by a team of speech writers from the Directorate and the Ministry. It was only Giani Zail Singh who threw out the official speech and let his audience know what he thought of Indian cinema. Indeed that was a hilarious moment in the history of the National Film Awards.

The Directorate was the successor office for the work which was originally done by the Lalit Kala Academi to select each year films made in India and give out awards. The Academi was given this work as a followup on the S.K. Patil Film Enquiry Report, 1949. The new switch over now followed the recommendations made by the National Seminar Celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the Indian Film Industry,1958. The seminar presided by Devika Rani Reorich, suggested in its final Report that the work of the Lalit Kala Academi should be transferred to an independent body under the Ministry of I&B. The Academi was under the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry of I&B first took the work of organizing the International and the National Film Festival directly, and then soon enough created the new Directorate of Film Festival. Its first office was in the Ministry building itself then it was shifted to the newly opened Lok Nayak Bhawan in Khan Market, and fi nally moved to the Siri Fort Complex which also boasted three regular cinema halls.

When the Directorate was created it was given some of the best names in film crafting in the country. Even Girish Karnad once headed the directorate but briefly. He gave up because he found his theatre interest in Bangalore, slipping out. But the Ministry also treated this office in a cavalier fashion and the Directorate had once an official on deputation from the CPWD who was an engineer!! On another occasion a ward-robe incharge of a film unit held fort for a considerable time working in the Directorate. This was against an international tradition where the leaders of film festivals were always well known names in letters and film craft who remained head of the organisation for decades at a stretch.

torate. This was against an international tradition where the leaders of film festivals were always well known names in letters and filmcraft who remained head of the organisation for decades at a stretch.

There were moments of plain horror in mismanagement and on the other side there were moments of plain joy when some of the greatest artists descended from other parts of the world to join in the celebrations. All that seems now part of history. The government in order to encourage the submission of good films from well known film makers also announced schemes for the Directorate to buy the winning entries, only to go back on such assurances when it came to making the purchases. Today the best of world cinema does not come to India.

A question mark remains on the final fate of the Directorate. Will the office disappear totally. It could, because all the good talent who had acquired the skills of managing such programmes have been shunted out and replace by lesser staff who have no idea of international cinema or for that matter even the Indian film industry. Being member of cinema audiences is not knowing what filming is.

Film producers hand over their works purely on the basis of personal trust between individuals, and not by government guarantees, Presently in matter of film festivals, this trust for India and its film representatives, is particularly low in its estimate. The Modi Sarkar, for that matter, may not even care .

– Kaul60@rediffmail.com

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