By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, Sept 25:
Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur inaugurated the star-studded five-day ‘First Himalayan Film Festival’ as part of “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” ( a festival to commemorate 75 years of India’s Independence), at Sindhu Sanskriti Kendra, Leh, on Friday.
The film festival organized by the Administration of Union Territory of Ladakh (UTOL) in collaboration with the Directorate of Film Festivals, the I & B Ministry, and the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, will be on till September 28, an official statement of UTOL said.
In keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for ‘Jan Bhagidhari’ (People’s participation), the festival will have active participation from the local filmmakers and will showcase talent across 12 Himalayan states and Union Territories.
‘Shershaah’, the biographical war movie based on ‘Param Vir Chakra’ awardee late Captain Vikram Batra was screened during the opening ceremony in presence of its Director, Vishnuvardhan, and the lead actor Sidharth Malhotra. (Late Capt Batra led one of the most difficult mountain warfare operations in Indian military history, during the 1999 Kargil war and ultimately made supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. Internal messages of the Pakistani Army intercepted by India often referred to him as “Sher Shah”(Lion King).
The movie “The Shepherdess of Glacier” will be screened at the closing ceremony. It is an award-winning film by Stanzin Dorjai Gya and Christiane Mordelet, a first of its kind from Ladakh which has received several national and international awards.
Addressing the audience at the ceremony, Thakur said that the Central Government will give a new identity to the hill states, and the Union I & B Ministry would work towards this goal. The Himalayan states have a diverse culture and have a lot to showcase. The youth of these states need opportunities to display their talent. The cinema provides a platform to bring cultural diversities together and showcase the culture of the country.
The people of Ladakh stand shoulder to shoulder with our brave soldiers in the protection of our borders. Movies like “Shershaah” remind many generations of the valour of our soldiers who fought bravely in the wars. Such movies are a great contribution that will inspire generations to come, Thakur said.
He said that the popularity of OTT platforms is growing in India. It presents an opportunity, not only to the big states, but also to smaller states and Ladakh will find recognition even in international film festivals in the future. It is the content that is drawing people to the OTT platforms. The power lies in content and India can become the subcontinent of content creation of the world. Post-production work for many international blockbusters was done in India and this sector along with gaming and visual graphics provides an immense space for growth.
Thakur said that there has been a persistent demand that Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh be connected with a film training institute and this demand will soon be turned into a reality. The expected compound annual growth of the Media-entertainment sector is 30 billion dollars till 2023 which indicates a massive generation of employment in this sector in the country including Ladakh and other Himalayan states. India is the second-largest pay-TV market in the world after China, having 19 crores 70 lakh pay-TV viewers. Around 30000 free dish TV sets have been provided to the households of the Himalayan Region so far and the rest will be given within a year.
On the occasion, Thakur inaugurated an exhibition on “Freedom Fighters of Himalayan States” and “Best of Indian Cinema” with a focus on the Himalayan region organized by the Regional Outreach Bureau, J&K, Ladakh region.
In his speech Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, an MP from Leh praised the efforts of the Union I & B Ministry and the administration of the UTOL for organizing the festival and said that it will create new vistas for the talented youth of Ladakh. He also praised the prime minister “for a new dawn of development after Ladakh became the Union Territory. The Ladakh is making great strides in education, economy, health, infrastructure and the day was not far when it will be top the Union Territories in terms of development index in the country, he added.
Ladakh Lieutenant Governor R K Mathur said that the object of organizing the festival was to expose the talent from Ladakh to the national and international circles and garner the skills of youth in photography, film, heritage, and culture.
The films from Himalayan states
Popular films from the Himalayan states-Assam, Sikkim, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Ladakh are being screened in addition to Indian Panorama selected films, in the festival.
Masterclasses on editing by Priya Krishnaswamy, wildlife by S. Nallamuthu, direction by Nila Madhab Panda, and in acting by Phonsok Ladakhi aiming to impart necessary skills and networking opportunities to budding as well as established filmmakers are also be organized during the festival.
Similarly, “In-conversation” sessions with renowned film personalities including Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Anupama Chopra, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and Kirti Kulhari will also be organized. There will be a competition section for short films and documentaries to recognize talented filmmakers in the Himalayan region, connect to the sparsely located film-making community of the region and encourage fresh talent. Also, a “Jury meet” with Manju Borah, Sesino Yoshu, Raja Shabir Khan, and G.P Vijay Kumar will be organized.
In addition, a food festival showcasing the unique cuisines of the Ladakh region, a cultural show exhibiting the rich culture of Ladakh, and a music festival will be organized in the festival.