It was just one of those evenings after college. I was walking towards the bus stop along with my friends when I first heard about BIFFES. My friend Naveen was talking about it and I wondered what it was. Upon enquiry, I learnt that BIFFES is the abbreviation for Bengaluru International Film Festival. I pictured it to be a medium scale event which screened many slow paced, boring, classic movies whose names I would never even have heard of before. A few weeks later I heard about BIFFES again – it was in Professor Arul Mani’s English class. He gave a brief description of the event and also encouraged the class to go watch a couple of movies at the festival if possible.
Naveen, who is extremely passionate about cinema cajoled me into attending BIFFES. I got my registration done and collected my pass at Badami House. The festival offers passes at discounts to students and senior citizens at Rs 300, while the delegate pass costs Rs 600. I eventually persuaded my engineering friends to join me. I even got my aunt to come along with me. I still wonder how my parents allowed me to go to BIFFES, despite my exams nearing but I am glad that they did.
Until the last year, BIFFES was usually organized in the last week of December. But this year it officially started on the 27th Jan but the screening of movies at Orion mall began only from the 28th onwards. The festival was scheduled to screen 170 odd movies in 8 days from 27th January to 4th February. Prior to the screening I did a bit of homework to find out which movies to watch the next day. While I was busy finding out what to watch, with the schedule in my hand, my mid semester exams were just two days away and I still didn’t know the exam time table!
The crowd was large enough on the first day and grew larger and larger on forthcoming days, especially over the weekend. The audience were cosmopolitan including movie lovers above the age of 18 to octogenarians. Many dignitaries from the Karnataka Film Chamber were present with many senior and junior activists. One could often see fans clicking selfies with celebrities at the festival.
I managed to attend only 5 days of the 8 day festival and was able to watch around 20 movies, out of which a third of them were exceptionally good and the rest were average. Some popular movies had very long queues. The longest queue was for the movie ‘Thithi, the Kannada movie directed by Mr. Ram Reddy which won four international awards recently and also bagged the best film at BIFFES. Court, Wild Tales, Devara Naadalli, Blanka, Corn Island, Forbidden voices, and Bhuvan Shome were some of the movies that I liked but Thithi, Blanka and Corn Island are my favorites. The most disappointing movie was Aparna Sen’s Arshinagar, a present day adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.
The movies that I really wanted to watch but couldn’t were Shackle, Lamb and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s biopic Gabo. Bhuvan Shome directed by Mrinal Sen is the first movie that I watched at PVR Gold class sitting on a large cushiony – couch. Since the seats are very limited at gold class, only the first 30 – 35 get to watch the movie, but due to poor management by the volunteers, a couple of old men and a foreign woman walked into the hall while it was already full. The youngsters offered their seats to the old men and the foreign woman and didn’t mind sitting down on the steps to watch the movie. Apart from the movies, the film festival also hosted workshops by Resul Pookutty, Mani Ratnam, and Suhasini. There were also several discussions with directors every afternoon. I couldn’t attend any of them but my friends did, and from what I heard they seemed to have been informative workshops.
The food at the mall was charged at unreasonably high prices, because of which I had to skip lunch on most days. We had to undergo a security check every time we re-entered the hall where they searched our bags and this got very annoying.
BIFFES ended on 4th of February and now I have a better and more original idea about BIFFES contrary to what I had imagined. The film festival gave me an opportunity to watch many movies at a ‘reasonable price’. I could also watch a couple of premiere shows of films which had not yet been released in theatres. The 5 days of experience at BIFFES redefined my notion about cinema. I remember what Naveen had told me about Resul Pookutty’s workshop. At his workshop, Resul Pookutty had said, “Cinema is extended space and time”. I think I experienced this at the Bengaluru International Film Festival.