Yashpal Sharma with Prof. Dr. Ashouri, Mr. Alikhani, Santosh Barne, Mohan Das, Bhupen Vyas & Dr. Mansoor Showghi Yezdi
The Café Irani Chaii International Film Festival 2020 which took place at the Culture House of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Mumbai on 12th & 13th March 2020 ended on a successful note last evening. Given the recent developments around coronavirus, which has had sweeping effects in all sectors including the entertainment industry, many festivals across the globe had chosen to either call off the festival or postpone it to a later date sometime in the same year. Those included reputed festivals like IFFLA, Tribeca Film Festival, Prague Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, Istanbul Film Festival, Belfast Film Festival, Beverly Hills Film Festival, Cleveland Film Festival, New York Children’s Film Festival, the KinoFilm Festival and many others. As festival organizers, even team CICIFF had the same two choices - postponement or cancellation. But team CICIFF chose to downscale the event and limit audiences in auditorium instead of cancelling the same.
“But cancel we did. It was our grand Awards event which we had to cancel and it’s a decision that we did not take lightly,” said Dr. Mansoor Showghi Yezdi, Chairman & Festival Director, CICIFF. “Considering this was our first year, we had planned for a grand Awards event at a leading star hotel. However, the well-being of our esteemed guests, festival partners, film enthusiasts and our team was paramount and hence we called the event off,” he added. The Awards event was conducted later in the evening followed by a networking get together at the same venue after the screenings for the day ended on day 2. “We know it was no substitute for the grand awards event with its unique and fantastic audience, but at least it’s some way to honour these amazing film makers for their wonderful films that made its way to our festival.”
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The awards evening took off with Dr. Mansoor taking the stage to speak about the festival and why it was named as the Café Irani Chaii International Film Festival. He also went on to mention that the Chaii has two “i”s in the name of the festival that symbolizes the relationship between the two countries. “I’ve added the two “i”s - one for India and the other for Iran,” he says with a sparkle in his eye. He also enlightened the guests about his documentary by the same name that attempts to trace the history of the Irani cafés through the cities of Bombay, Pune and Hyderabad.
Though scaled down, the awards event still did see the presence of Bollywood actor Yashpal Sharma, Flora Saini, Rekha Rana and Rohan Mehra of ‘Bazaar’ fame. Honouring the esteemed presence of Yashpal Sharma at the festival, his Excellency Consul General of the I.R. of Iran Mr. Alikhani as well as the Hon’ble Prof. Dr. Ashouri Director Culture House of the I.R. of Iran, Mumbai awarded him with the CICIFF “Excellence in Cinema” award. A film actor and theatre artist, Yashpal Sharma is best known for his roles in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Lagaan, Gangaajal, Ab Tak Chhappan, Apaharan, Singh Is Kinng, Aarakshan, Rowdy Rathore as well in the Haryanvi film ‘Pagdi the Honour’ which has been conferred with two National Awards.
|Mohan Das with Rohan Mehra & Yashpal Sharma. Actress Flora Saini with her team...|
The incredibly versatile Yashpal Sharma says he is ecstatic on receiving the CICIFF ‘Excellence in Cinema’ Award. "I'm humbled and honoured for this recognition. I’m really ecstatic as this is not an acting award; it’s an achievement award. It’s such a morale boost and shows that you are being appreciated for what you do.” Speaking about his love of Indian and Iranian cinema, he went on to praise Iranian films he’s completely in awe of. He mentioned that one of his best loved Iranian language films happens to be Majidi’s “Children’s of Heaven” as well as Abbas Kiarostami’s “Where is the Friend’s Home?”
Later Dr. Mansoor requested Yashpal Sharma along with members of jury Bhupen Vyas and Santosh Barne to honour his Excellency Consul General Mr. Alikhani as well as the Hon’ble Prof. Dr. Ashouri for their esteemed support to the festival. The winners of the festival were later announced collectively by Chairman Jury Mohan Das and Dr. Mansoor. While the Best Feature Film went to B M Giriraj’s Kannada film “Amaraavati”, the Best Short Film went to Ishaan Raisinghania’s “Purdah”. The Best Documentary award went to Junichi Kajioka for his documentary “Sugihara Survivors” from the UK. The other winners included Seema Biswas for ‘Idam’ (Best Actress Feature), Divya Dutta for ‘Zuni’ (Best Actress Short), Rohan Mehra for ‘Hum’ (Best Emerging Actor), Rekha Rana for ‘Tara - The journey of love & passion’ (Best Emerging Actor), Saurabh Sharma for ‘Unpredictable’ (Best DoP), Nilesh Naik for ‘Woh Pal’ (Best Children Film), Ram Kamal Mukherjee for ‘Rickshawala’ (Best Emerging Director) and Ajay Mahendru for ‘Dastak’ (Best Actor Jury) amongst others. Short film ‘Unpredictable’ that took home the Best Cinematographer award is produced by actress Flora Saini who will soon be seen in the upcoming film “Darbaan”.
Speaking to a cross section of the filmmakers and audiences, Ashu Dhaliwal, producer of the short social film ‘Manav Bomb’ says she is happy that at least the festival was conducted and her film screened too. “We do understand the organiser’s predicament at such a time of international calamity. While we didn’t as much get the festival experience, the awards celebrations and red carpets as one is used to, but we did get an opportunity to be recognized for our film, which was the silver lining,” said Ashu.
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Neeraj Awchat who took home the Best Story award for his short film ‘Block’ says, “It’s heartening that the festival is committed to ensuring the health and safety of the public while also supporting friends, filmmakers and storytellers who look to such film festivals as a platform to showcase their work to audiences. What else can one ask for?”
Despite its limitation, the Café Irani Chaii International Film Festival will surely be looked forward to from the viewpoint of a movie enthusiast who wants to see some of the best cinema at such a festival. And CICIFF did provide them an array of wonderful films. “Cinema is the most powerful medium and telling specific stories that connect you with realities you had no idea or connection is a weapon these makers have. Being at a film festival reminds me of this power of film, the power that the story can make you see things. ‘Purdah’ was one short film that had the capacity to keep you riveted with a masterfully executed screenplay and earnestly shows us the beauty of good cinema. Another film that I liked was ‘Carbon Monoxide’ that showcased the brutal reality of carbon monoxide deaths,” said Arbind Mishra who travelled all the way from Bengaluru just to watch good cinema.
Another film enthusiast Chandrashekhar Bhide who was religiously present on both days right since morning watching wonderful cinema says, "It is an inspiring experience that is vastly different from other film festivals. What sets it apart is the warm and wonderful welcome accorded to even the film loving audience. This is what one needs to learn from these festival organisers. The best part was the Irani brun maska pao and chaii during breaks. No wonder, I’m going to come every year now.” Its inspiring to know that Chandrashekhar is a B.Tech in Computer Science & Engineering from IIT Bombay as well holds an MBA degree from IIM Ahmedabad.
“I totally agree with this gentleman” said Jitendra Diwakar an aspiring film maker from Mumbai. “Their completely genuine intimacy permeated throughout the event and this sensibility I'm certain it comes from the top. I came just for the love of Iranian cinema and to see some of its best works here. I’m glad, I could make it.”
Jury Chairman as well as additional Chairman & Festival Director Mohan Das says, “It’s such a strange thing to conceive, get ready to deliver and not give birth. We preferred delivering what we envisaged, albeit on a smaller scale as this was a difficult situation for us all. We are grateful for our film fraternity’s understanding, loyalty, and continued support during this challenging time. Same time we thank all our sponsors and participating partners for their understanding at this difficult time.”
As the evening proceeded on, the festival organisers thanked everyone for making time to be present and chose to end the festival with a group photograph of all the film makers with the esteemed guests, jury and film makers. This was followed by a networking get together at the Culture House of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mumbai with a promise by Dr. Mansoor Showghi Yezdi to come back with more wonderful films at the next edition of the show.
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