Recently the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, has been at work to bring laudable changes for  the Prime Minister to notice.

Some of the changes considered are ground breaking. For instance the Ministry has sought JNU, which is  the academic seat for Leftist Thought, to accept the Indian Institute of Mass Communication(IIMC),  a Central Government undertaking to train Information Officers for the government’s own information cadres, in a merger deal. Now we also know, IIMC is getting a lot of Right Wing inputs in a staff churning so an attempt is in the making to mix oil with water and make things look murky.

Recently the Minister in charge  disregarding her senior colleague who just got elevated to become the next Vice President of India, threw out his decision of appointing a committee of film experts to select films for the coming International Film Festival of India (IFFI) at Goa when this committee was half way in its work , and replaced it with a whole new lot of persons spread all over the country whose exposure to international cinema over an extended period of time, was severely questionable.

The Ministry  oversees the   management of IFFI through its field office called the  Directorate of Film Festival which works whole time to create the IFFI and the National Film Festival for the Government. The Ministry decided one fine morning, that the Directorate should be ordered to transfer this  to the Mumbai located National Film development Corporation(NFDC) again midway when the Festival is to be held in mid November. Seemingly managerial disaster awaits IFFI at Goa now. Such is the scenario  and we as audience must watch the fun at work.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, must be now aware that at JNU, instead of an ABVP  students’ Executive Committee,  a block of Left wing students have  succeeded  through the process of fair voting  to stage a comeback. Will the next students union in IIMC  follow the fashion? Last fortnight the Organising Committee of IFFI also suffered another sudden shock when its numbers was pruned and reduced to nearly half of its experts’ representation.

Indeed the time has come and seems there cannot be a more appropriate and holier moment, to scrap IFFI  being organized in Goa. The concept  has failed in its objects and we the tax payers must cough out annually Rs 20 crores for this jamboree which today goes unnoticed in its impact and commercial viability.  Allow me to put my cards on the table.

IFFI was taken from its first base in New Delhi and shifted in 2004, to create ‘a Cannes’ in Goa. After banning the show of legs and pegs on the beaches for which Cannes is fundamental, how could anything else from that French town succeed. Goa goes to sleep by 11 pm at night and Cannes goes to bed at 4 am to wake up at 11 am. This chemistry in time does not exist locally. Goa’s neighbourhood does not relish night long parties  and in Cannes the locals invite themselves to such parties whenever they are organised . Cannes has dozens of cinema hall with seating for over 800 seats for its  audience. Goa has just one such multi purpose hall. The opening ceremony of IFFI is being held in an indoor sports stadium which allows for  about 5000 people to sit, and is located half way down to the present day airport about 15 kilometers from town. The scheme to construct an international convention centre first announced in 2004, is still at the board room stage.

The film industry in Mumbai does not give a damn to IFFI at Goa. In fact it gives a damn to any international film festivals in India. Once held in New Delhi, IFFI was never short on its audience response. How can  one suffer a classic film screening with 200 people in the hall when 1500 other persons wait outside the hall drinking cold water, because  that is the capacity of some screens.

The government’s keenness to see foreign film artists got a real cold water treatment, when it was once brought to their notice in the Ministry, that Sofia Loren would charge an appearance fee of about Rs one crore and hospitality for her son, hair dresser, one cousin, a dress seamstress and a para medic plus air tickets in First Class for her entire crew and hotel stay at six star treatment. A cool expense of over Rs three crores for a show of five minutes at a theatre on a hot and murky evening!  Reality had then hit the bureaucrats.

Goa  also has no cinema savvy audience, No real international cinema comes to town. The locals interest does not go beyond a small tradition of ‘theatre’ outing and seeing a Konkani film. IFFI in Goa attracts  only film buffs from other parts of the nation, but after high tickets were enforced the freedom loving free loading film buffs, have  stopped  marching to Goa. The numbers in registered delegates have shrunk to dangerous levels. This would not happen in New Delhi.

Goa is made expensive to draw out foreign currency from the pockets of those who can pay for the publicity of the local beaches. Film festivals are pass for them and  the Indian tourist must seek  the huts for stay, some twenty km away from town with no buses at night, to see their choice of films. It just does not work in Goa. The Ministry must see this aspect also.

Then there is now the Entertainment Society of Goa , a hundred percent funded directorate of film festivals that partners with its sister organisation of New  Delhi since 2004, in hosting IFFI at Goa. It was time  the charge of hosting a film festival be given to the local organisation completely, and IFFI moved back to New Delhi. Goa can still have a smaller version of IFFI catering to the local tourists during the annual Winter season. The saddest part of IFFI is that while it had now featured itself an annual event in Goa in the local festivals for tourists, the event as an international event  is still absent from its international calendar for tourists, by the Tourist Bureau.

Finally no one gave a serious thought  why IFFI should have moved from the National Capital to Goa. One fine afternoon Sushma Swaraj, then the Minister of the Ministry of I&B, made a political bargain with Manohar Parrikar to give him IFFI in Goa,  and the other part of the bargain must stay silent! If the new lady at the helm, can scrap the choice of the would be Vice President of India, surely a decision of a chit of a girl, now the EAM, can be given a quicker cut in her list of do and don’ts.

IFFI  should be scrapped from Goa, and relocated in New Delhi.

*The author is a veteran film  historian, and a national awardee for film journalism. Trade Magazine