IIFA set to promote films in other Indian languages

The scene has been set for the global success of the activities of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) to be extended to Indian films in other languages besides Hindi.

"Aayitha Ezhuthu" by famed south Indian director Mani Ratnam became the first Tamil film to be showcased by IIFA since it started five years ago.

The film was shown together with Ratnam's Hindi version of the film "Yuva" at the IIFA premiere here Thursday evening.

The screenings were part of the IIFAA weekend that started here Thursday and will culminate with the IIFA Awards on Saturday evening.

"IIFA is the International Indian Film Academy. Hindi cinema is very much a part of Indian cinema, same as Tamil cinema, Bengali, Gujarati or any other cinema," said Sabbas Joseph of Wizcraft, the coordinator of IIFA.

"Hindi cinema is by far the most popular. It probably gives us the threshold or a foothold on the world map straight away and was the first cinema that we chose to promote across the world.

"It has always been the intention of IIFA and the IIFA advisory board to extend the experience that we are giving the world with regard to Hindi cinema to the other languages of cinema coming out of India."

Joseph said IIFA would like to include films in other languages in future not just as premieres at the annual IIFA Weekend but also as part of the media briefings or at other IIFA platforms.

"In this way, we will create much more of a oneness and an integration of Indian cinema. That's what we would like to represent at the end of the day."

The cast of the two new films by Ratnam had great fun working on the projects, judging by the camaraderie between them at a media conference here.

"Yuva", starring Ajay Devgan, Abhishek Bachchan, Vivek Oberoi, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukherjee, and Esha Deol, as well as "Aayitha Ezhuthu", starring Madhavan, Siddarth, Surya, Esha Deol, Trisha and Mira Jasmine, were screened for international guests and the media at the Lido Cinema here.

All the actors and actresses, except Devgan and the Tamil actresses, engaged in friendly banter between themselves and sang Ratnam's praises rather than handling questions from the media at the briefing.

Ratnam, who made "Yuva" in Hindi first and then "Aayitha Ezhuthu" immediately afterwards in Tamil with the same theme, rejected suggestions that there was too much violence in the films.

"If this was not topical, we would not be making the film," Ratnam said.

"There is this character who has come from the street, who is struggling for survival and who believes that the world has done nothing for him and he will take whatever comes his way. He has an attitude that would be violent and we just tried to be honest with (his character)."

The backslapping began when Vivek Oberoi described what it was like working with Ratnam: "I'm sitting next to, in my opinion, one of the greatest cinematic talents in this country."

Oberoi jokingly remarked that the opportunity to work with Ratnam was "worth breaking a leg for". He injured a leg during the shooting of the film and was out of action for some time.

"I had an unfortunate accident, but I think I took the adage 'break a leg' too seriously!"

Abhishek Bachchan added his bit: "Truthfully, I'm just dumbfounded right now after seeing the film for the first time. Whatever your intention was with the film Mani, it really worked. I'm really proud that I was part of this show."

Said Rani Mukherjee: "I always wanted to be part of a Mani Ratnam film and with "Yuva" I get the opportunity to tell my children and grandchildren that I was part of a Mani Ratnam film."

Esha Deol said: "When I shot with him the first day I thought he'd think that I was overacting. I was very, very sacred the first two days when I was shooting, but I know that he believed in me. I'm begging you to take me in your next movie."

Kareena Kapoor added about her role in the film: "Being part of a Mani Ratnam film, there will be a new side (to me) and the audience will get to see something they have not seen before.

Maintaining his humility in the face of all the accolades from the younger actors and actresses, Ratnam moved quickly to end the session as Mukherjee decided to start congratulating Bachchan as "one of the best actors I've worked with".

But not before Bachchan, obviously irked by a question about whether "Yuva" would deliver for his career what his other films had not so far, found his colleagues coming to his defence very quickly.