Witnessing a birth is always inspiring. Yesterday, the Aurangabad International Film Festival was launched, ready to showcase 16 films from across the globe over four days.
I was at the festival’s inauguration, and saw its proud parents eagerly showing off their baby. Sponsored by local industrialists, the Nath Group, with a supportive cousin, the Pune Film Foundation, and other significant supporters including the superb Prozone Mall, Endurance Technologies, and Sara Builders, the event was conceived almost five years ago, apparently. The city has been ready for this cosmopolitan offspring since five years. Wow. Times are a-changing. I still remember how, not very long ago, even eating out at restaurants was considered “not in our culture”. And now, the city was keen to watch films in foreign languages? Wow.
Like all events in India, which must be kicked off on an auspicious footing, this one too had a beautiful lamp-lighting ceremony, led by acclaimed Marathi and Hindi actor, Mr. Nana Patekar. A local singer melodiously sang an invocation, again part of the way the arts are revered.
When he took the podium, Mr. Patekar spoke about the importance of international film festivals, how they let us recognize similar joys and struggles even in cultures far flung from our own. Most interestingly, and, in my opinion, impressively, he spoke the entire time in the vernacular, Marathi. Talking about foreign films in the local tongue, making the unfamiliar accessible and familiar. It was a beautiful melding of the local in the global – seeing the world with firmly local eyes.
Mr. Patekar went on to celebrate the significance of a new beginning. It is in the initial years of an endeavor where the magic rests, he felt, because this is the time when our acts are more intimate, more engaged, more personal. It’s like when you plant a sapling, you have to dig your fingers into the soil and pull it around the sapling to support it, patting down the surrounding earth to nurture it. He was visibly animated as he described all this, and I was bowled over by the groundedness of a man that has every right to be jaded by publicity events like this. He really cared. Apparently, he wasn’t paid for his appearance, and he stuck around long after he had left the stage and people’s eyes were on the screen. Kudos, Mr. Patekar, for supporting such ventures with such heart.
The film festival this year has films from largely Eastern Europe this year, with some interesting old Marathi films from the 1930s (including one that went all the way to the Venice Film Festival in 1938!). I’m looking forward to catching some of them. Even though I’m a new resident of this city, I feel excited to show my support, kind of like a new parent.