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#MeToo discussion: All quiet on the IFFI front

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Panaji, Nov 23; India’s #MeToo movement has been a raging point of discussion at most film-related red carpet events, press conferences and festivals. But not at the ongoing 49th International Film Festival of India.

IFFI was “not designed that way”, a top Ministry of Information and Broadcasting official, said in its defence.

Filmmaker Subhash Ghai, who has been accused by two women of sexual violation and harassment — both of which he has denied — continues to be on the steering committee of IFFI, and in fact, occupied a prominent seat at the ongoing edition’s opening ceremony.

He was also a part of the inauguration of a multimedia exhibition ‘The Mahatma On Celluloid’ along with Minister of Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.

This was a far cry from last month’s Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star, where there were not just heated discussions on the importance of women’s safety at the workplace but also exclusion of projects involving those who were directly or indirectly named in the #MeToo wave.

There were expectations that IFFI would take a stand on #MeToo or at least have some mention or discussion.

Asked about it, Amit Khare, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, told IANS here: “I don’t think that was the platform… I mean, IFFI was not designed that way. But definitely, as you have seen the Minister of Women and Child, she has taken a very strong stand and in fact, even in Prasar Bharati, we have taken a strong action…. even in AIR, where artistes were involved, we have taken action.”

Khare was referring to Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi’s request to Information and Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to step in and conduct a probe on the sexual harassment cases in All India Radio (AIR). This was in response to reports that the women working as casual announcers in AIR’s stations are being sexually harassed.

But the apathy was quite evident at the ongoing IFFI, when filmmaker Vinod Ganatra, head of the fest’s Indian Panaroma Non-Feature jury, termed #MeToo campaign a fad aimed at attracting publicity and getting mileage.

“It is a fad which has come with time. It is a chance to get publicity and mileage. It will not last. What is authentic will last. What is not authentic will disappear. There are people who encourage it,” Ganatra told the media here.

Writer-filmmaker Vinta Nanda, who accused actor Alok Nath of sexually violating her, believes every platform that is available to the entertainment industry should be open for discussion on issues related to the safety of women in the workplace and the #MeToo movement that rages globally.

“There wasn’t a single awards function or entertainment industry event in the whole world in the last one year where #MeToo did not become core to the discourse. That’s how seriously the movement has been accepted by the rest of the world.

“It’s sad that the respected Secretary I&B thinks that IFFI is not a platform to talk about the safety and inclusion of women in the industry. The #MeToo movement cannot be wished away as many people who are still in denial about women’s empowerment are imagining. These words spoken by the respected Secretary, if they are true, are regrettable. I don’t think that he could’ve meant it to be as it sounds,” Nanda told IANS via social media.

Film producer Siddharth Roy Kapur, President of the Producers Guild of India, took cognisance of the number of voices from the entertainment industry as part of the #MeToo movement and instructed Indian film production houses to implement and enforce the ‘The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013.

Asked about the importance of a significant platform like IFFI ignoring the movement, Kapur told IANS: “It is really at the discretion of individual festivals. These festivals are a celebration of cinema, and the idea is really to watch great cinema from around the world,” he said.

“I am not sure that there needs to be another leg to it, specifically discussing topics like this. But I think there’s a heightened awareness of it within the entertainment industry for sure,” he added.

Kapur believes it is important to let the law take its course, and to let the systems that have been set up to deal with this, play themselves out.

“I don’t think there should be knee-jerk reactions,” he said, adding that everybody has to take a call as far as including or excluding an ‘accused’ is concerned.

Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, who has touched upon issues of casting couch and sexual harassment at workplace in films like “Page 3”, “Fashion”, “Calendar Girls”, “Satta” and “Heroine”, told IANS: “Everyone has taken a strong stand on #MeToo… But we need to give attention to genuine victims. Don’t trivialise it by putting false allegations.”

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My wish fulfilled: Alia on Rajamouli’s ‘RRR’

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Actress Alia Bhatt, who turned 26 on Friday and will make her Telugu debut with S.S. Rajamouli’s “RRR”, says now her wish has been fulfilled as she always wanted to work with the “Baahubali” series filmmaker.Alia was interacting with the media at the Economic Times Edge – Femina ‘Maharashtra Achievers Awards 2019’ here on Thursday, on the day Rajamouli announced that she and Ajay Devgn would be a part of the period action film which stars Jr. NTR and Ram Charan in the lead.
On being a part of “RRR”, Alia said: “Now, I am doing the preparation for it. I can’t reveal details of the film because I don’t know whether I am supposed to talk about the film, but… I am feeling really grateful as I wished in my heart that I wanted to work Rajamouli sir and that wish has been fulfilled now, so I feel immense gratitude.

“It’s my first time to work in the South Indian film industry, so I am really excited.””RRR” will tell a fictitious story based on two freedom fighters. The film will release on July 30, 2020, in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam and other Indian languages simultaneously.Apart from this announcement, the teaser of Alia’s upcoming film “Kalank” has got an immensely positive response from the audience. After that she will feature in “Brahmastra”.
Asked if she she has set a new benchmark for herself by doing such big films, she said: “Whenever I do any film, I first see what is my character in the film and who is the director of the film. I think it’s not important to remember that what benchmark I have set for myself.”I feel that playing my character honestly is important and what my director wants me do with that character is important than anything else, so I don’t know what benchmark I have created, but now I just want to create something good for my next film with lot of honesty.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday urged well-known personalities and others to strengthen voter awareness efforts across the country.Urging people to cast their votes in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Alia said: “I tweeted that the nation’s voice is the nation’s choice. We have elections for every resident of the country, so I urge people to go out, cast their vote and make a choice.”

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Every young actor can become a superstar: Rajkummar

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Actor Rajkummar Rao feels that every young actor of his generation has the potential to become a superstar of the Hindi film industry as all of them are doing some very good work.Rajkummar spoke to the media on the sidelines of Economic Times Edge – Femina ‘Maharashtra Achievers Awards 2019’ here on Thursday.Actors like Varun Dhawan, Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Ayushmann Khurrana, Tiger Shroff and Sushant Singh Rajput, apart from Rajkummar himself are doing some great work in the Hindi film industry.
Asked which actor has the potential to become a superstar, he said: “Every young actor has the potential to become a superstar. Who am I to say which actor has or does not have the potential to become a superstar? I am really happy to see that we are doing some good work as an industry and because of that, we are able to see good performances from every other actor.”When I see a good performance on-screen, it inspires me to do better work.”
What’s the status of his film “Mental Hai Kya”?”We are going to announce release date of that film very soon,” he said.On his experience of working with Kangana Ranaut in the film, Rajkummar said: “I had a really good experience working with her. I think she is one of finest actresses of this country. Earlier, we have worked together in ‘Queen’ and now I worked with her in ‘Mental Hai Kya’. It is always fun to work with her.””Mental Hai Kya” is a black comedy crime thriller, produced by Ekta Kapoor and directed by Prakash Kovelamudi.

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If a film does well, it becomes trendsetter: Priti Shahani

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Film producer Priti Shahani, who has commercially successful films like “Badhaai Ho”, “Raazi” to her credit, says though once a particular kind of film becomes a superhit, it becomes a trendsetter, it is certainly not a rule.Talking about how the receptive audience is encouraging new narrative to earn box office numbers, Priti said, “The problem is that once a certain kind of film does well, it becomes a trendsetter. When few biopics did well, I know there are 6-7 biopics are ready to be directed and released. But I don’t think that is a rule. The markers from audiences have been very encouraging. There has been an eclectic number of stories that were very well received.
She was talking during interactive sessions at the 20th edition of FICCI FRAMES, the global media, and entertainment conclave, conducted by Anjum Rajabali on behalf of Screenwriters Association.Though there are many budding scriptwriters has tried to reach out to the production house, many times they feel disappointed as they do not receive any response from producers. To find a solution to the matter, she said, “A good writer cannot be necessarily a good narrator. As a producer, it is impossible to read all the scripts that are submitted to you as it is really time-consuming. So the writers should try and tell their stories in 15-20 pages.”
“If we see merit in that, then we are very happy to go through the entire development process with a writer. I also think that 15-20 pages are enough to attract director because it is a combination of a writer-director coming together, that makes a feature film,” she explained.

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