IFFK in transition, mainstream filmmaker clique rides high

Published Dec 7, 2013, 4:46 pm IST
Updated Mar 18, 2019, 10:30 pm IST
Former Minister Ganesh’s shadow casts a spell.

Thiruvananthapuram: A huge cutout of former minister K.B. Ganesh Kumar, erected in front of the Kairali Complex on the day the last IFFK began and larger than any superstar billboard ever placed on the complex premises, was removed on December 6, on the eve of the 18th IFFK.

Ganesh Kumar himself was removed from the cabinet long before Chalachithra Academy officials began work on the 18th IFFK.  But the former minister continues to loom large over the conduct of the festival. 


The Open Forum’, which once gave IFFK its distinct identity, has been buried. Film societies, which had thrown up greats like Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Aravindan and promising filmmakers like Vipin Vijay and K.R. Manoj, have been spurned. The mainstream film industry has slyly taken over the running of the festival. Corporate sponsorship, which only two years ago was considered sacrilege for a festival of Third World cinema, is suddenly welcome.  

Ganesh Kumar is IFFK’s first, as of now only, self-proclaimed despot. Last year, at the 17th IFFK, he became the first minister to erect a giant cutout of himself in front of the main venue of the IFFK. After the 16th IFFK, the first one he lorded over, Ganesh banned the ‘Open Forum’ and booted out film societies from the organizing committee of the festival.


He was especially rattled by the ‘delegate insurrection’ triggered by the Academy’s move to keep Sherry’s debut film Adimadhyantham from the competition section in 2011.

During the closing ceremony of the 2011 edition, he declared: “The passes will be distributed to only those who come to watch films and not to those who come to make a mess of the festival.”

Ganesh Kumar’s biggest achievement was the time-bound upgrading of Government theatres. But he spiked this commendable administrative acumen with his ‘mainstream’ understanding of cinema.


This was evident in his handpicking Australian filmmaker Bruce Beresford as the jury chairman of 16th IFFK. Beresford, who made the delightful Oscar-winning Driving Miss Daisy, revelled in his Hollywood sensibility.

The culture shock was evident during a public interaction between Beresford and Shaji N. Karun during the festival. Beresford said: “The only thing I ask myself when I direct a film is this: How can I tell a story as simple as possible.” He even described cinema in distinctively Hollywood terms:  “Gripping”. “Fast”. “Smooth”. “Story-boarding”.


Shaji N. Karun, a man who makes slow contemplative films and clearly aghast at what he just heard, softly commented that spirituality could be explored through films. Now it was Beresford’s turn to look shocked, he almost looked offended. When he was asked by the moderator how spirituality could be made tangible in films, Beresford laughed as though it was the funniest question ever hurled at him.

“We are seriously worried that IFFK is gradually getting commercialized, just like the Goa fest,” said K.R. Mohanan, a former Chalachithra Academy chairman. He is worried that a “clique” of mainstream filmmakers has sidelined the governing council of the Academy and taken over the running of the festival.


Nonetheless, even detractors feel, that Ganesh will never have allowed the anarchy that now rules the Academy. “Now we have two power centres at the Academy, one led by the mainstream filmmakers and the other led by Bina Paul (the festival director),” a former official said.

Location: Kerala