How Parrikar won IFFI trophy for Panaji

The late chief minister fought a big battle to take the festival to Goa

 

Kedar Dhume, editor of Goa-based magazine Viva Goa, was a close associate of former chief minister Manohar Parrikar.

In an interview with Showtime, he gave an account of how the charismatic leader made Goa the permanent residence of the International Film Festival of India.
 
What was Parrikar’s interest in IFFI?
He wanted to make Panaji to Goa what Delhi is to India. Delhi is always in the limelight because of the international conventions it hosts. Parrikar’s idea was to turn the focus on Goa through IFFI. That way, Panaji would also get a chunk of the attention. But he was the chief minister of all of Goa and not just Panaji, so he could not directly say ‘let’s do the event in Panaji’.

How did he manage to bring IFFI to Goa?
In 2010, the Model Code of Conduct was on. Around that time, Parrikar personally went to the airport to receive Sushma Swaraj as part of the campaigning. On the way, he discussed IFFI and presented Goa’s case. She liked the idea as international film festivals are known by the town they are in. She told him the environment in Delhi was not conducive for IFFI and that Goa would be great.
As a joke, she also said that if Parrikar won the state for BJP again, she will shift the fest to Goa. Parrikar took it up as a challenge.
Goa has 35 per cent minority vote that does not favour the BJP. To Parrikar’s good luck, he returned to power and then reminded Sushma of her promise. The matter was discussed at the highest levels. In 2003, it was decided that the next IFFI would be in Goa.

And what happened after the approval?
Work began on a war footing. CM Parrikar took a back seat and instead, the engineer in him came to the fore. There was even a joke that all the construction companies had asked their chief engineers to go home because Parrikar was doing the job anyway. The place where the INOX multiplex (one of the venues now) stands was a morgue. It was brought down.

When IFFI finally happened, what was it like?
The first IFFI which came after all this is the biggest and the grandest yet. Parrikar wanted Amitabh Bachchan (who was the guest of honour at the 50th IFFI) as the chief guest. 

In the six months he was given, there was another challenge — the BJP lost power at the Centre. And the Congress government was not in favour of shifting IFFI to Goa because they didn’t want to give credit to a BJP government. 

But the minister concerned, Jaipal Reddy, convinced Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But they did not grant Parrikar the full freedom he wanted. So, they got Dilip Kumar and Aamir Khan as the chief guests because the Bachchans and the Gandhis were not on the best terms at the time. Instead, Bachchan came
as a guest of the chief minister three days later.

What was Parrikar’s next step?
Parrikar had one year to put things in place. By the time, the declaration came and there was only six months’ time. Panaji did not even have a multiplex then, just old theatres. When an Information and Broadcasting team came to Goa for inspection, they gave a negative report about the infrastructure. Later,  a committee of two filmmakers and some other officials from the I&B ministry were assigned the task of choosing the best place in Goa to host IFFI. They picked Panaji.

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