Melbourne reacted with warmth as one of its iconic festivals – The Indian Film of Festival (IFFM) 2017 – got underway last week. Opening with the film Lipstick Under My Burkha on Aug 10 to packed houses in two auditoriums at Hoyts, Melbourne Central, audiences were treated to the presence of actor Konkona Sen Sharma and director Alankrita Shrivastava who happily took questions from film goers struck by the boldness of a film that delves into the secret desires of four women longing for freedom from their trapped lives.
The evening set the pace for much more in the days to come. With the festival running till Aug 22, festival director Mitu Bhowmick Lange has managed to organise one of the largest festivals bringing a rich bonanza of entertainment for Melburnians with 60 films in 20 languages spread over eight venues.
This was seconded by Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley who called the festival, now in its sixth year, an event that explores diversity and connects audience and one that is growing each year. “The festival is a vibrant, interesting and happening event that forms a passionate part of our existence. Growing each year, it has carved out an important place in our cultural and festivals agenda,” he said at the festival press conference on Aug 11.
But adding to the delight and one of the most memorable events has been the presence of Bollywood queen and global celebrity Aishwarya Rai Bachchan at Federation Square on Aug 12. She became the first Indian woman celebrity to hoist the Indian flag, one of the festival’s flagship events, linked to the Indian Independence Day celebrations that falls on August 15. With an undiminished power to draw crowd, Aishwarya along with her five-year old daughter Aaradhya arrived an hour late but more than made up for the delay as she hailed the excited crowds, relinquishing her eminent spot at the pulse point of the city.
Federation Square resonated to the melodious sounds of the national anthems of both Australia and India as hundreds and hundreds of people united in a spirit of celebration. Indeed Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle remarked it was the second time he was seeing such a big crowd. He also added, “We are one Melbourne and inside that one Melbourne the Indian community is particularly special.”
After unfurling the Indian flag along with her daughter and obliging excited fans with a few selfies, Aishwarya said it was a day the two of them would never forget in their lives. Thanking Melbourne from the bottom of her heart for giving them such a moment of pride, Aishwarya said this was a beautiful memory for her and Aaradhya to cherish. She also thanked all those present for being there to welcome her. The last time Aishwarya was in Melbourne was in 2006 when she performed for the Commonwealth Games ceremony and she had said then, ‘I have to come back again’, a wish fulfilled 10 years later.
At the Westpac IFFM Awards night on Aug 11 Aishwarya was given the Excellence in Global Cinema Award. “You have sweetened this experience by rewarding me too for my efforts in cinema. It’s truly humbling. I feel honoured and I am very, very grateful. Love you all,” she said at Federation Square.
Veteran film director, producer, and actor Satish Kaushik, one of the festival guests said, “It was very necessary for me to come here, see and be a part of the Independence Day being celebrated in Melbourne. I am so grateful and happy.”
You don’t have to go to India to see some of the best works. The festival with its unique and beautiful mix of documentaries and films run till August 22.
By Indira Laisram
(For films and programs go to www.iffm.com.au)