The Indian Film Festival of Melbourne had its awards night yesterday, beginning on an all-time high with Bollywood biggies like Rani Mukerji and Rajkumar Hirani leading the pack of winners like Richa Chadha and Vicky Kaushal to a rather lustrous 3rd Day.

Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi at the special screening of Sanju at the La Trobe University in Melbourne at IFFM 2018
Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi at the special screening of Sanju at the La Trobe University in Melbourne at IFFM 2018

Sanju, which won Best Film, with leading man Ranbir Kapoor bagging the Vanguard award, had a special screening at the La Trobe University in Melbourne which was followed by a rather interesting Q&A with director Rajkumar Hirani and writer Abhijat Joshi. The students were quite interested in the interaction and as the evening flowed, so did the session. With a rather fun repartee between the students and the esteemed director and writer, relevant questions and responses flew back and forth as Raju even answered the frequently asked question: Why did you make a biopic on Sanjay Dutt? “We were actually writing Munnabhai immediately after PK when we happened to meet Sanju. He was out on parole and we met at his place when he started venting out; things that were bottled up. He just didn’t care who he spoke to. He had to get it out. I always had a professional relationship with Sanju, but that was one long evening. He has told us things about his life, things that I didn’t know and I thought, that’s a wonderful story. Abhijat and I went over to his place for 5 days and just kept recording while he spoke. People know about the drugs and the controversies. But there are so many aspects of his life that the people don’t know about. We wanted to show the world the other side of the story, the relationship he shared with his father, his mother; the wonderful relationship he shared with one of his closest friends. We wanted the audience to see that side of him,” the PK director replied.

Simi Garewal at the special screening of Siddhartha in Melbourne at IFFM 2018
Simi Garewal at the special screening of Siddhartha in Melbourne at IFFM 2018

Another highlight of the evening was the special screening of the evergreen Siddhartha, starring the late Shashi Kapoor and Simi Garewal, who gave a rather touching tribute to her co-star and dear friend. Held at HOYTS, the evening brought in an eager crowd of cinephiles who wanted to watch this 1972 classic and get a feel of true cinema. A Q&A session followed the screening and the veteran actress answered several wonderful questions on the film and how it was way ahead of its time with much élan. Remembering such an important member of the Hindi film industry, Simi reminisced, “Shashi was my friend and fellow actor and it is very common in India to praise someone after they’ve gone but I have always said this, Shashi Kapoor was the perfect Co-star. You don’t want someone to interfere; you want someone to support you when you’re acting. You want someone well behaved, punctual, who is polite and courteous with everyone and he was exactly like that. He was very professional and he had no ego at all he would shake hands with everyone from the lighting technician to everyone else. He was amazing that way and I don’t know another actor in the world who would work in commercial cinema earn money from there and take it and put it into meaningful films like Kalyug, 36 Chowringhee Lane etc. But he had a passion for real cinema and he put his money where his mouth was. He started the parallel cinema. We never had it before.”

Students from La Trobe University in Melbourne for the special screening of Sanju at IFFM 2018
Students from La Trobe University in Melbourne for the special screening of Sanju at IFFM 2018

Day 4 of the Indian Film Festival closed on a positive and hopeful note, chronicling Sanju as a true film for the masses and Siddhartha as a film for every generation. The Indian Film Festival of Melbourne will continue holding screenings of wonderful films from all across India and the subcontinent till 22nd August, ensuring the Australian audiences revel in the truest sense of cinema.

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