Mamata livens up opening ceremony

Film festival

 The irony was not lost on Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee who inaugurated the 41st edition of the International Film Festival of India in Panaji on Monday.

“From grassroots to glamour. When Ambika Soni (Union Information and Broadcasting Minister) asked me to put in for her, will I manage, I wondered?” Banerjee said wryly in her refreshingly self-deprecatory remarks.

She managed just fine, despite insisting  that her English was no good. “Speaking from the heart”, Banerjee livened up what would have otherwise been just another dull, bureaucracy-laden affair.

Sharing the stage with actors Ajay Devgn and Raima Sen and filmmaker Yash Chopra, Banerjee said she “loved” the film industry for its constructive creativity and promised to pursue its demand for tax cuts with Finance Minister Pranab Mukerjee.

Chopra who took the stage before Banerjee said Goa had failed to live up to its promise of building world class infrastructure for the festival. “I was here eight years ago when the decision on the permanent venue was being taken. There were lots of plans, but where are the improvements? Time is running out,” he said.

The filmmaker was scathingly critical of the government’s tax regime for the industry. He said the Indian film industry was “going great guns” and had put its imprint on the world map with a reach also in countries like Germany and Turkey. “But the government is giving us step-motherly treatment,” he said.

India, which celebrates 100 years of cinema in 2013, is the largest producer of films in the world with over 1,300 movies made last year. The 10-day film festival opened with Andy De Emmonys “West is West”. Over 75 films are listed in the world cinema section alone.

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