The temptation to rant is always stronger than the desire to give credit where credit is due. So let me get this out of the way first: I value the Cinefan festival, it’s done some great work and it’s even more important for the Delhi movie-lovers’ circuit now that IFFI has moved to Goa. I’ve seen some good and great films here (along with some terrible ones) in the past six years, films I otherwise wouldn’t have had access to - and free of cost at that. And about this year’s edition: things have improved after the first two days. Though I still feel bad about India Habitat Centre no longer being on the venues list, I have to concede that with Siri Fort (and its four auditoria) becoming a consolidated centre, Cinefan has acquired something of the ethos of a high-quality film festival - with people leaving one hall after a film finishes and rushing to another one, or to the media centre, or for a lecture/seminar/press conference, with everything within walking distance. These are positive developments and I’ll include them all in the fest-overview I’ll be doing for my newspaper, along with my rants about Neville Tulli’s silly speeches.
Having got that out of the way *turns off "Gracious Jabberwock" switch*, some organisational screw-ups are so blindingly obvious one wonders how they could ever have been implemented without someone in the planning committee keeling over in shock. Yesterday Ray’s Pather Panchali, the festival’s "centrepiece", was screened. It was fully anticipated that a huge, unmanageable crowd would show up and that there would be enough problems for the organisers anyway, with vast queues in place (and out of place) well before the screening time. The film was scheduled for 6.30 PM. So what diabolical scheduling, one must ask, permitted the screening of a 131-minute film (that’s 2 hours 11 minutes, for the mathematically challenged) in the same auditorium at 4.30 PM? So that by 6.45 PM incensed crowds, having waited for an hour already, were pressing hard against the auditorium doors with an almost equally large number of people trapped inside.
I won’t go on about this because given the disaster potential in this situation, surprisingly little happened. No deaths or anything. But you get the idea. This is as bizarre as it is annoying, because in past editions the festival has usually ensured a fair gap before the screening of a high-profile film. These are easily avoidable mistakes, one would think, and yet, and yet.
P.S. For some reason everyone who makes pre-screening speeches says Satyajit Rai (as in Lala Lajpat...). Everyone. It’s pronounced with a particularly lusty Punjabi inflection. I know not why this is.
P.P.S. Overheard during long wait outside auditorium, conversation between two young college-students, one of whom was playing Ray-expert for his uninitiated friend:
CS1: I believe this is the first film Satyajit Rai made?
CS2 (sagely): No no, I’ve seen Mahanagar and Sonar Kella before this.
Also overheard: man asking if this was where Paanch Patthar was being screened. Hmm. Sounds like a neat Feluda movie. Hidden treasure, location unknown. Five stones in strange formation.