Debut Director-C Senthil Rajan

features
By Sachin Chatte

International Film Festival of India has a new director. C. Senthil Rajan has been in the information services for almost two decades, and brings vast experience to the table as the festival director of IFFI. He spoke exclusively to The Peacock about his debut IFFI experience, and the challenges that lie ahead.

Q. As the new director of IFFI, what aspects were you looking to improve?
IFFI is a great brand and we need to enhance it further. We need partnerships with more organizations, so that there is more participation in the festival. There were issues about co-ordination, logistics and hospitality and I wanted to address all of these. Thanks to the co-operation of the ESG (Entertainment Society of Goa) everything fell in place smoothly.

Q. From a long term point of view, what are the key factors that will make the festival better?
There are two parts to this – one is to get more people and participation, and the other would be to get more international delegates at the festival. That is something I would like to see. It will also boost the brand image of Goa. I would also like to see consistently good programming every year. This time we do have a very good package. We have a new section called the First Cut which has films of debutant directors from around the globe. The idea is to associate ourself with the young talent who will become big names in world cinema in the future.

Q. You tied up with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this year. Is it going to be a long term partnership?
This year we had it on a one-off basis. But we’ve had discussions with them to have it as a long term affair, where Academy members would come down and conduct workshops and master classes. Besides we would also like to screen a package of Oscar award winning films next time.

Q. Do you think the festival can become self-sustaining, and is there any step being taken to get in more sponsors on board?
Ideally, we would like to make it more self-sustaining. As of now, the Directorate of Film Festivals looks at the programming, workshops and master classes, while the hospitality, and logistics are taken care of by the ESG. We would certainly like to bring sponsors on board. It will not only help the branding of IFFI, but the association will go a long way, after all this is the biggest film festival in India. We have delegates coming in from 80 countries and from all over India as well, so there is adequate potential for corporates.

Q. How do you see the emerging competition from other festivals, like those in Kerala, Kolkata and now MAMI (Mumbai)?
Each festival has its own identity and character, and I don’t see them as competition. The programming at all the festivals is also such that there isn’t a great deal of overlapping. The audience is also different, those who go to MAMI may not necessarily come to Goa and vice versa. As for IFFI, everyone knows that it has been around for a long time, we always get a very good package of world cinema, competition and the rest of the categories as well. This year we had 26 films which were nominated by the respective countries at the Oscars.

Q. One criticism that is levelled is that though IFFI has been around for eleven years in Goa, it has become stagnant and not gone to the next level. How do you respond to that?
We are taking one step at a time, it is important for delegates who come in to have an enjoyable festival, so that is always our priority. One of the issues is improving the infrastructure; the Goa government is working on a long term plan since Goa is the permanent venue. We were looking at an additional multiplex (in Porvorim) but even though the theatre there is ready there are some other pending issues with the building so we couldn’t include it this time.

Q. You have taken over this year. Where would you like to see the festival when you leave?
I would like the festival to be unique, it should be essentially Indian but with a world flavour. It should become the home for international delegates to see Indian cinema, and for Indian audiences to see world cinema. The motto of the festival after all is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam which means the world is one family, and I would like to adhere to that.

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