Marrakech 2006: Indians stay away
The sixth edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival had too many misses for an Indian like me. And, for the Moroccans as well. They were devastated when they heard that Kajol and Ajay Devgan could not make it: a special homage was planned for them, and several of Ajay’s movies were screened, including Ram Gopal Varma’s “Company”, Mani Ratnam’s “Yuva”, and Rituparno Ghosh’s “Raincoat”.
I remember the evening they screened Vishal Bharadwaj’s “Omkara” (with the director alone in attendance), when a group of Moroccan girls dressed in saris had come all the way from Rabat. They were absolutely disappointed. “We even learnt Hindi to talk to Kajol and Ajay”, they rued. And where did they pick up the language. “Oh, by watching Hindi cinema”, gushed one of the girls. Such is the craze for Bollywood fare in Morocco.
“Omkara” was also shown in a huge open air courtyard in the old part of the city, and I found the crowds going crazy over the songs. It was a full moon night, and with the tens of little shops, all lit up, providing the backdrop, one might not have been far away from the ethnicity of India’s Uttar Pradesh, where Bharadwaj shot his work.
A local Arab journalist told me that most cinemas in Morocco screened Hindi films, and they were much more popular than Hollywood dramas.
Surprises never seemed to cease. An immigration officer at the Casablanca airport asked me why Kajol could not come. When I told him that her baby was not quite well, he looked a little upset. “Oh, she is married, is she? ” he quipped.
The Marrakech Festival, held this year from December 1 to 9 in the city of architectural splendour (Marrakech is touristy, while Rabat is the capital and Casablanca the financial hub), failed to get Bollywood stars as planned. It was even supposed to honour Amitabh Bachchan.
However, the Festival made up for this absence by showing 20 Indian movies that included Kunal Kohli’s “Fanhaa”, Farhan Akhtar’s “Dil Chahta Hai” and “Lakshya”, Ashutosh Gowariker’s “Swades”, Pradeep Sarkar’s “Parineeta”, Karan Johar’s “Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna”, Ghosh’s “Choker Bali” and Ratnam’s “Kandukondain Kandukondain”.
Admittedly, Marrakech focused on Bollywood/Hindi films, and just about cursory attention was paid to cinema from other parts of India that is often richer and far more novel that what Mumbai/Bombay produces.
I hope that Marrakech will continue to feature an Indian section in its Festival, and that next year, it will look at Bengali and Tamil cinema, both of which have something different to offer in terms of technique, talent and plots.
(Posted on this website on December 10 2006)