PAGE 03: Leading The Way

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By Sachin Chatte

Organizing a film festival during such uncertain times is an uphill task because it involves several variables that could impact it. For the first time since the shifting of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) to Goa in 2004, the film festival got postponed last year because of the pandemic that threw the world out of gear. After careful consideration, the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) and the Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG) decided to go ahead with the 51st edition of IFFI that will be held from 16th to 24th January 2021. 

As the Vice-Chairman of Entertainment Society of Goa,  Subhash Phaldessai is a busy man, who is overseeing the last-minute preparations for the festival that begins on 16th  January. Despite the momentous task ahead and time running out fast, he has a smile on his face and a cool and calm demeanor. 

“The uncertainty of what was going to happen next was the biggest challenge for us and every day posed a new set of issues that we had to deal with”, Phaldessai said while talking about the last few months of planning.  

Since most activities, including film-related, had come to a standstill, the I&B ministry decided to have the festival to get the industry going because apart from entertainment, it is also an economic activity and many people earn their livelihood from cinema, he added.

“Unfortunately, because international flights are still not fully operational, we can’t have international guests but we are hoping to conduct various Masterclasses and In Conversation sessions online in this festival, which will be in a hybrid format. We will be using seven auditoriums in all for people who want to watch films in person, adhering strictly to protocols,” he said.

Given the current scenario, ESG will take utmost care to ensure that all the protocols are followed. The use of masks, following social distancing, and sanitizing the auditoriums after every screening, with a gap of an hour between films, are some things that will be adhered to. 

“We are even ensuring that any guest that comes in is kept in a safe environment right from the moment they land. We have booked adequate rooms and since it is not a good time to share a taxi, we are making sure that every guest travels separately. We have even eliminated all other peripheral activities where crowds could gather, including official dinners”, he said.

As a result, the activities among the Campal promenade, Children’s Park, open-air screenings, and exhibitions have been curtailed this year. Phaldessai is also keeping a close eye on the registrations, and feels that there is scope to accommodate more people. “There are about 970 seats that can be occupied, which means that we can take up to 5000 registrations but since we are not near that mark, we have opened up free registrations for students to attend the festival.”

While IFFI is the flagship event for ESG, Phaldessai plans to expand the scope of the organization and play an important role in the entertainment industry in Goa. “Our priority this year is to implement single-window clearance for line producers and make it totally hassle-free to shoot films in Goa. Apart from that, we are also opening up registration for line producers and train them.”

There are several film shoots that happen in Goa but not all of them take the proper permissions, and presently, ESG is toothless to take action against such shoots. Phaldessa i is hoping to get support from the government in terms of legislation to empower ESG.  He is also pleased with the manner in which ESG will now get more revenue from the lease of the refurbished multiplex. “We had estimated the work at Rs.20 crores to renovate the multiplex but I am happy that the work done was much more than that without any expense to ESG or the government. Also, they did it in a record time of just 9 months. Not only that, ESG will also earn revenue for the government with the lease and there is an increase of 5% every year,” he said.

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