The current turmoil in the Indian film industry made its appearance on stage at the opening ceremony of the 48th International Film Festival of India (Iffi) on Monday when Union I&B minister Smriti Irani playfully remarked about the BJP government being tolerant, while actor Shah Rukh Khan, the chief guest, said storytelling can make relationships stronger even in the face of dissent.
As actor Rajkumar Rao, who was hosting the event, cracked a joke linking Irani's last name and the Iranian origins of legendary auteur Majid Majidi, whose film opened the festival, Irani, in her speech, obliquely took a dig at the intolerance debate.
"I will not say much. I think Rajkumar Rao, the word should go around throughout the country that you have joked about Irani, which shows what a tolerant government we are. Thank you. I am thanking you so that at least no one should say that BJPwalas broke an actor's leg," she said.
By a broken leg, Irani was referring to Rao's fractured leg, despite which he was hosting the event.
The I&B ministry is mired in controversy with the 'Padmavati' row and the withdrawal of two films—'Nude' and 'S Durga'—from Iffi's Indian Panorama section.
While Rajput groups have called for a ban on Padmavati's release, withdrawal of 'Nude' and 'S Durga' has triggered protests from a group of filmmakers, who allege that it is a prejudiced decision.
Iffi chief guest Shah Rukh Khan, after declaring the festival open, seemingly hinted at these controversies.
"There is a phrase in Sanskrit, 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam', which means bringing the world together like one family. I believe no matter what your language, no matter what country your story comes from and no matter what your ideology is, storytelling and listening should be a familiar experience, which binds us all together, makes relationships stronger even in the face of dissent and discussion... as it usually happens in a family, instead of tearing us apart. With that in mind, the International Film Festival of India's slogan this year, hopefully, will make that come true."
Khan later also joked that if he says anything more, "Smritiji maregi mujhe (Smritiji will beat me up)."
Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar said the new infrastructure in Goa for Iffi will be ready in 2019, in time for the 50th edition of the festival. Goa is a permanent venue for the festival and is hosting it from November 20 to 28.
The festival opened with screening of Majidi's film 'Beyond the Clouds'. At the opening ceremony, Majidi said, "The film has actually premiered in London. But for me, this is the premiere of the film, here in India."
Actors Sridevi, Shahid Kapur, international jury of the festival headed by Muzzafar Ali were among the dignitaries present at the opening ceremony.