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Light and shade jostled for space as the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) opened here today amid much fanfare and in the presence of Bollywood's best such as Shah Rukh Khan, but with the controversy over "Padmavati" casting a shadow on the festivities.
IFFI was also in the news over the government's decision to drop two films — "S Durga" and "Nude" — from the final list of the Indian Panorama section, leading to the resignation of jury president Sujoy Ghosh and members Apurva Asrani and Gyan Correa.
But "Padmavati", whose December 1 release has been deferred by the makers amid protests by Rajput fringe elements and political leaders, hijacked the red carpet.
The opening ceremony, held at Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium, turned out to be a star-studded affair with SRK, Shahid Kapoor, Sridevi, AR Rahman, Anupam Kher, Nitesh Tiwari, Prasoon Joshi, Rajkummar Rao and Radhika Apte in attendance.
"It is our endeavour on behalf of the government of India and the government of Goa that we invite filmmakers from across the world to this land of stories," Union minister for Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani said in her address.
The ceremony opened with an energetic dance performance towards the end of which Shah Rukh made an entry on stage and struck his signature open arm pose.
In his opening remarks, the 52-year-old actor said stories and films brought people together.
"There is a word in Sanskrit -- Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. It means bringing the world together like a family. I believe no matter what your language, no matter what country your story comes from and no matter what ideologies, storytelling and listening should be a familial experience," he said.
In what seemed like an oblique reference to the ongoing protests over "Padmavati" and the exclusion of the two films, he said, ".... Familial experience binds us all together, makes relationships stronger even in the face of dissent and discussion as it happens in a family, instead of tearing us apart."
Shah Rukh, who called India the land of stories, invited Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to the stage.
The chief minister announced that by 2019 IFFI will have its own venue in Goa.
"In its 50th year, IFFI will have its own venue with multiplexes and all other facilities. I welcome everyone to enjoy the festival to its fullest," he said.
Parrikar added that Goa's contribution in the field of music and films was immense.
Rao, who was co-hosting the event with actor Radhika Apte, played on words and said it was a co-incidence that film director Majid Majidi was an "Irani", just like the Union minister.
Later, in her address at the event, Irani joked, "Rajkumar Rao, this (incident) should be known to the rest of the country... you poked fun at a minister. And it shows as a government how tolerant we are."
Iranian director Majidi's film 'Beyond the Clouds' inaugurated the film festival. Starring Ishaan Khatter and Malavika Mohanan in lead roles, the film is based on life in Mumbai.
Shahid, who was seemingly unhappy about the deferred release of his film, said he was proud to represent the "brave" film fraternity.
"From running in fields full of mutlicolour flowers to making films on women empowerment, I think Indian cinema has come a long way. I am very proud of this fraternity, the new generation, which is allowing this change to happen and brave people making brave films, sometimes at a great cost," he said.
The celebrities had to field questions about "Padmavati" on the red carpet.
"It is a film we are very very proud of. I am sure once people see the film, all this will be forgotten," Shahid told reporters.
"Padmavati" has been mired in controversy since early this year, with Rajput Karni Sena and others claiming that Bhansali has distorted historical facts in the film by depicting a dream sequence between Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji, a charge denied by the director.
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) sent the film back to the makers, citing "incomplete" application for certification.
When asked about the delay in the certification of the film, CBFC chief Joshi said the board was trying to resolve the issue but needed time.
"We need to understand that the CBFC must take a balanced decision. This situation was not created by the CBFC. It had nothing to do with the protests on the roads. You show the film to media houses and get reviews done but you want the CBFC to deliver a fair and well-thought out decision?" Joshi said on the sidelines of the IFFI opening ceremony.
The festival also paid tributes to industry veterans who passed away this year. A special section in the ceremony was dedicated to actors Om Puri, Vinod Khanna, Tom Alter, Reema Lagoo, Jayalalithaa, Shakila and directors Kundan Shah and Abdul Majid.