The Indian Film Project Festival: Insightful, nostalgic and lots of fun!

Aishwarya Srinivasan
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Indian Film Project

The Indian Film Project Festival happened this weekend and from unique panels to artistic stalls, it’s everything a cinephile could ask for!

As I made my way into Mehboob Studios on a Saturday afternoon, I could instantly feel the energy there. It screamt cinema in every way possible. Every single person came with the intention of taking something away. Everyone was looking around, exploring what they should see next. Some were getting their bands at the registration desk, some were figuring out which panel they should catch on which stage and some were just chilling at the arena. I waltz into the world of Indian Film Project after my security check was done. Asking people here and there, I somehow found my way to stage one where I was excited to witness Konkona Sen Sharma and see everyone that I’m used to seeing on-screen so up close. 

The previous session with Radika Madan and Nimrat Kaur was just getting over. I was so mesmerized by their makeup and outfit, they looked royal and that was my first celebrity encounter of the day. It was finally time for 'The Best Parts: Holding up the Mirror to Lust’. Of course we’ve all watched Lust Stories 2 and Konkona’s ‘Mirror’ really stood out for so many of us because of its unconventional concept. To shed light on the making and how she went about things, Konkana had an honest chat with Genesia Alves who hosted her panel so seamlessly. Since it was also my favorite film in Lust Stories 2, I was really intrigued to know all the behind the scene stories. When Konkana entered, I don’t know why Iktara started playing in my mind. Genesia and Konkona started talking about lust and sex like any two best friends would. They spoke about how sex is considered an ‘obstacle’ in religion in order to attain utmost spirituality. Or how most women in our country don’t orgasm, some don’t even know about masturbation until much later in life. 

Also Read: The IFP Festival 2023: 10 intriguing panel discussions we're looking forward to

The most interesting part for me though was when she was talking about her filmmaking and how she went about things with Lust Stories 2. She told everyone that when she was approached to write a story for Lust Stories 2, she stumbled upon an incident a friend narrated to her where her house help was having sex in her house. She laughed and said ‘that’s it, I'm using this for my film’ and that’s how her part in Lust Stories 2 was born. Another brilliant observation she lets us into is her storytelling through her camera angles. Most of the film, Ishita is watching Seema and her husband have sex through the mirror but it is only when Seema is aware and okay with the fact that she is being watched that the camera is allowed inside the bedroom. It was her way of giving consent! She also talked about how we should know the lives of our house help better and retrospect on what we expect from them. Every single word that she said resonated with me so much and left me motivated to speak as confidently as her. 

Then came Richa Chaddha and Ali Fazal! While they were asking each other questions, it felt as if two people totally in love were talking and we, the audience, were just third wheeling! They spoke about their journeys and uncertainties of this industry. One could give a major hit but not get work tomorrow or be a part of a really bad film but still be picked for another project. A fascinating fact that she shared was how she uses a different fragrance for each character that she plays. She said that make up, hair and costume is someone else’s headache but sense of smell is the only physical way that we can get into the character.

My last session of day 1 ended with the two powerhouses of talent - Gulshan Devaiah and Jim Sarbh. The two prolific actors spoke about the line between Acting and Overacting! Gulshan spoke about how at the end of the day, he reminds himself that acting is his job and he has to get stuff done. He talks about how the mood of an actor plays an important role in that. If he is in a good mood, he’d be more patient, if not, it might probably be the opposite. Jim shed light on what he feels about ‘method acting’. While it’s a great way to get into a character, if not executed well, can look rude or tamper your co-stars' process in building a camaraderie with you. 

Day 2 was more on the fun side with fun panels, more important conversations and questions answered. When I entered, Imran Khan’s panel was still going on and nostalgia hit me and the audience on another level. I was instantly taken back to his Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Ek Main aur Ek Tu and I Hate Luv Storys era the minute I heard his voice. It was so endearing to see how many fans were showering him with love and asking him to come back on-screen. In a sea of childlike men, he showed us what positive masculinity can look like in movies and I could feel everyone missing that energy. It felt like he himself was so happy to still see so much anticipation and love for him and I hope we get to see the Imran we missed on-screen.

Then came the cult classic crew of Go Goa Gone. The crowd went crazy! There was whistling, people shouting dialogues from the movie and of course asking them the infamous question ‘when will the sequel come out?’. The more than funny cast and crew of the film reminisced their shoot days on the film and how they moved heaven and hell to make this film happen in the first place. If you’re going to put Vir Das and Kunal Kemmu in a room together, there’s obviously going to be so much laughter around. It felt so good to listen to them discussing a movie that was way ahead of its times, one that remains relevant in today’s socio-political circumstances as well!

While most of the cast and crew bid us goodbye, Vir Das stayed for another panel with one of my favorite actresses aka Shefali Shah. The two ‘outsiders’ spoke about how they worked hard and made a name for themselves in this industry. Shefali Shah spoke about how after Monsoon Weddings and Satya she pretty much disappeared but came back years later with Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do. She expressed how she regrets playing a mother very early on in her career which stereotyped her into perpetually playing that role but now she portrays bold women of today. Vir, on the other hand, spoke about how he landed Delhi Belly by spending every last penny he had on shooting a stand up video of himself and sending it to production houses. Their words motivated so many young minds in the audience including me and Vir’s statement on not doing what everyone else is doing but thinking out of the box and getting noticed about something that has never been offered before really stuck with me. Or when Shefali Shah said that she feels nervous each time she is in front of the camera and the fact that she is working on her low self esteem hit really close to home. 

Out of all the artsy stalls and aesthetic pictures hung up outside, the one thing that warmed my heart was the board that said ‘recommend a book or movie you’d want people to watch’. I was reading the diverse options that so many people had recommended from different genres and felt like at the end of the day, one thing that all of us here have in common is the love and need to watch good cinema.

Good cinema needs to find its time to shine and Indian Film Project is a hub for anyone and everyone who has a hunger to learn and absorb information about the various aspects of filmmaking! These two days gave me more insight into what really goes on in the world of films than any theory in a film school would and I intend to channel all the learnings I took from here to only inspire myself and reach new heights!

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vir das konkona sen sharma Jim Sarbh Richa Chadha Ali Fazal Gulshan Devaiah Kunal Kemmu Shefali Shah imran khan IFP festival indian film project go goa gone genesia alves