A curtain raiser generally informs tells us what films will be screened, when and what are the countries represented. But this year’s spotlight on the Cairo International Film Festival on Indian Cinema has a slightly different perspective. Kicking off from the 10th of November and closing on the 20th in the historic city of Cairo, this is one of the most picturesque festivals because of the country, the city and the fact that it is bringing Indian cinema together under this global umbrella perhaps for the first time.
Gaurang Jalan Cairo IFF 2009

Gaurang Jalan Cairo IFF 2009

The spotlight on Indian cinema has been possible through the wonderful initiative of a single man, of course in collaboration with CIFF. His name is Gaurang Jalan of Gaurang Films India, who has been representing this film festival for the past six years and has been instrumental in promoting Indian cinema in Egypt. He works with the DIFF in Delhi as well. Believe this or not, he does all this purely for the passion of making India proud of its cultural heritage vis-à-vis its cinema. “There is absolutely no quid pro quo involved. I have my family business in facilities management. I am not a film person per se. But I love Indian cinema and I am saddened by the fact that till this day, Indian cinema has not been able to produce an international brand identity star like Jackie Chan or Omar Sharif,” says Gaurang. “Because India is the spotlight country this year, Adoor Gopalakrishnan is chairperson of the international jury,” he adds.

I sit here in my Kolkata office and manage to network across the world to bring like-minded people and diverse films from my country together so that Indian cinema can find its position on the international map of Cairo International Film Festival,” he says, adding that this year, he worked really hard to get India to become the Spotlight of the festival.

Eight new Indian films will be screened this year at the 33rd CIFF. There will be two in international competition. One of them is New York directed by Kabir Khan and the other is Madholal Keep Walking directed by Jai Tank. Mudhal Mudhal Varia will compete in the digital competition. Other Indian films not in competition are Raman (Hindi), The Cover Page, The Man Beyond the Bridge, Ishitaa Nandy’s directorial film Saluun, Dibakar Banerjee’s Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Sameer Hanchate’s Gafla (Hindi), Achamundu Achamundu (Tamil) directed by NRI Arun Vaidyanathan  of the USA and Prashant Pethe’s Gabrichaa Paus (Marathi) on farmer suicides.

“The festival has organized a retrospective of Madhur Bhandarkar’s films from Chandni Bar to Fashion. There is a special section placed as tribute. Heading this list is Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Naalu Pennungal (Malayalam), followed by Girish Kasaravalli’s Gulabi Talkies, Priyadarshan’s Kanchivaran, Vishaal Bharadwaj’s Kaminey along with two other films A Wednesday and Summer 2007,” details Jalan.

There is this sense of satisfaction when one discovers that Indian cinema no longer draws hierarchical lines between mainstream and off-mainstream cinema. The casteism that raised its ugly head from the 1960s is now a thing of the past. So, an Adoor Gopalakrishnan film finds itself being screened to an international audience alongside Kaminey. And, running the show from behind the curtain, off-stage is this young and courageous man who has no stake at all – financial, glamorous or otherwise, in cinema. The only qualities that stand out in him are – a pride in his country – India, a love for cinema and the determination to place Indian cinema and the people within it on the world map.
Article by: Shoma A. Chatterji

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