Just six days to go, for the 53rd International Film Festival of India to open. As the celebration revs up and the festive spirit fills the air and our hearts, why don’t we add more depth and perspective to our labour of love, by traversing the forgotten alleys of IFFI history? By continually going back to where it began, so that we stay connected to our roots, so that the wisdom of the past inspires and shapes our understanding of the present and our vision for the future?

Yes, we did make such a brief exploration here last week, by seeking to virtually attend the maiden edition of one of Asia’s oldest film festivals. Today, let us move forward a bit in the past, from the first edition in 1952 to the second edition in 1961. Yes, you read it right, the second edition was held more than nine years after the first, in New Delhi, during October 27 – November 2, 1961.


So, #WhyIFFI? Let us hear what the-then Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Dr. B. V. Keskar has had to say about the purpose of film festivals such as IFFI.

“The object of international film festivals is to provide a forum for the participating countries to present films of artistical and cultural value and of high technical standard. Such a presentation not only helps the progress of the film industry in general but also promotes cultural exchange and generates new ideas. It also helps in bringing nearer the various participating nations and their film industry.”

The Minister said this at the inauguration of the 2nd edition of IFFI, in New Delhi, on October 27, 1961. He noted with satisfaction that the national film producers’ organizations in various countries took great pains to select good films, providing a cross-section of production values from the point of view of aesthetic as well as technical excellence.

Welcoming the delegates from various countries, the Minister expressed the hope that “their visit to India will start a new process of greater and more frequent cultural exchange in the form of films and the production trends in those countries will become better known to us for production of better films.”

The I&B Minister recalled that the maiden edition of IFFI led to a very fruitful exchange of ideas and artistic standards.

“The first Festival organised by India after Independence was held in the month of January 1952. Twenty-one countries participated in the festival and it was gratifying to note that the festival helped in a very beneficial exchange of ideas and aesthetic standards. It has a very useful impact on the production of films in our country. Since that period, a number of Indian films have participated in foreign festivals and many have won recognition in some of these international festivals.”

The importance of cross-cultural exchange of ideas and the potential this holds for learning and improvement was underlined also by the then-Vice-President of India Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, in his inaugural address at the opening of the second edition of the festival.

“Since this Festival, something like it, met some years ago, India has made great progress in the film field. I am informed that she is the second largest feature-film-producing country in the world. Some of our leaders on the screen have won world fame and some of our films have obtained world recognition. Yet, we can’t feel that we are happy. We have to take so many improvements and this Festival which is organised will be able to enable our people to exchange ideas and thoughts with others who have come from distant countries where the level of film production is much higher than it happens to be here.”

The Vice President threw light on the multidimensional contribution films are called upon to make to humanity.

“Generally, a film is intended to help the entertainment of the audience, the education of the audience and also elevation of the spirit. Man has a vital, an intellectual and a spiritual side. All these sides should be fulfilled or satisfied if a proper film is made.”

The Vice President exhorted film-makers to guard against what he referred to as the temptation of putting the profit motive higher than the pursuit of artistic excellence. He made the striking observation that the idea of films should be not to cater to the taste of the public, but to improve their tastes.

“There is a tendency now-a-days to put the profit motive higher than artistic excellence, I do hope that our film producers will not succumb to that temptation. I know, we have to look to profit, we have to take sone kind of consideration we should have for what a film is able to earn, yet our idea should be not to cater to the taste of the public but to improve their tastes.

I have an impression that our own artistes, directors and producers are quite competent, extremely skilled. They are spontaneous, unsophisticated, unspoiled by success, well, may be quite as good as any artiste in the world. All that is necessary for us to guard against is any kind of lowering of tastes. That is a thing which we have to protect ourselves against and I think that, in the days to come, India will have a greater future in the film field.

It is essential for all those connected with the film production, whether they are directors, producers or actors and actresses that they should resolve that they will not use their knowledge, their skill, their imaginative power, their artistic ability for any ends other than justice, freedom, peace and dignity; and they will not merely cater to the ruthless intent of certain individuals, who, in their anxiety to make profits, tend to corrupt human nature, degrade human beings and lower their tastes: that is a danger which we should like to avoid. I have no doubt that when we see the actual films, we will be able to profit by our witnessing them and know what great standards have been achieved in other countries., and it will be possible for us to acquire certain lessons and we will ourselves profit by this Festival.”

The Vice President stated that films have a vital contribution to make for both national integration and world solidarity.

“It is a happy thing to note that at a time when the political climate is depressing, when dark clouds are gathering, when great powers are accusing each other of pushing the world to the brink of a thermo-nuclear war, when to achieve victory in such a war we are trying to darken the sky, poison the air and pollute the earth, here are representatives from the great countries of the world meeting together not for the purpose of any kind of warlike measure but for the purpose of promoting mutual understanding among the nations. Fear is the most portent source of danger and if fear is to be replaced by confidence and trust, we would have made an effective contribution to the film, to the world understanding and world peace itself. Films can be employed for the purpose of national integration in our country and for the purpose of world solidarity. Both these ends can be achieved.”

The Vice President concluded by expressing the wish that the festival gifted delegates a feast for the eyes and music for the year.

“It must truly be a Festival, a thing which gives us a feast for eyes and music for the ear and it must be able to combine all the different arts that go to the making of a film. There are several things: dance, drama, dialogue, music, theatre, design: all these things are essential ingredients in the production of any great film and I have no doubt our people will profit a great deal from participating in this Festival. I once again wish you the best of luck.”


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