MUMBAI – Nathalie Baye, Bruce Beresford and Asghar Farhadi each drew warm applause at the opening ceremony of the Mumbai Film Festival on Thursday. But the standing ovations were reserved for Greco-French director Costa Gavras (“Z,” “Missing”) and local polymath Kamal Hassan, respectively recipients of the festival’s international and Indian lifetime achievement awards.
The festival also drew significant political and industrial heat with the attendance of Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and billionaire industrialist Anil Dhirubhai Ambani, whose Reliance Entertainment group is the festival’s chief financial backer.
Shyam Benegal, veteran film-maker and the festival’s chairman, made a plea from the stage for more financial support from the state – a plea which Chavan appeared to respond positively to – but mostly the red carpet bash was about getting the eight day event off to a glitzy, glad-handing and gleeful start.
Also on stage were Canada-based Indian film maker Deepa Mehta (“Fire,” “Water”), Japanese director and actor Masato Harada, Sonakshi Sinha (“Dabangg”), a fast-rising starlet from a Bollywood dynasty, Afghan director Siddiq Barmak and Australia’s Jill Bilcock, a regular editor on the films of Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge”) and Shekhar Kapur (“Elizabeth”.
Francois Richier, France’s ambassador to India, produced the evening’s biggest surprise, by announcing that his country had awarded (but not yet presented) Benegal with the civilian honor, Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Hassan, who has been involved with over 200 films as actor, director, producer and screenwriter, proved the evening’s most diplomatic. “I’ve never had a method,” he said. “But I’ve had many great teachers. Many of them have been film festivals.”