Stars at IFFM 2022 as festival returns to cinemas

And once again, Melbourne's Indian community welcomes Bollywood stars at IFFM 2022 after the event went virtual for two years

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“It’s so nice to see everyone in person and not over zoom,” began Mitu Bhowmick Lange, Festival Director of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne IFFM, when addressing the media, guests and other dignitaries at the media conference that kicked off this year’s edition.

Lange’s words captured the feeling of gratitude that everyone present was undoubtedly feeling. After having a disrupted run and being forced to go virtual, the 2022 edition of the IFFM was back in a format we’ve grown accustomed to over the years, bringing back the stars and special guests from the subcontinent on Australian shores.

Some of the guests in attendance were the legendary cricketer Kapil Dev, filmmakers Kabir Khan, Shoojit Sircar, Anurag Kashyap, Nikkhil Advani and Saim Sadiq, actors Abhishek Bachchan, Shefali Shah, Tapsee Pannu, Tamannaah and Vani Kapoor, as well as film critic Rajeev Masand, among others.

stars at IFFM 2022
IFFM guests interact with media: Abhishek Bachchan, Tamannaah Bhatia, Nikkhil Advani, Taapsee Pannu, Anurag Kashyap and Sona Mohapatra (Source: IANS)

This was the first time since 2019, the year when Shah Rukh Khan was the special guest headlining the festival, that we were once again seeing film industry talent from the subcontinent engage and interact in person with Indian cinema lovers and cinephiles in Australia.

Celebrating its 13th year, the theme for this year’s festival is REVIVAL, which felt apt given as film critic and regular guest Rajeev Masand put it, the “two dark years” we lost to COVID-19. However, the lessons we learnt from those two years have been implemented in 2022. The festival has adopted a hybrid format, opting to go back to cinemas but still continuing to offer a large selection of movies to stream online Australia-wide for free. Streaming such a big selection of films offers an incredible opportunity for everyone who couldn’t make it to Melbourne to still engage with the festival and access films from the subcontinent. The hybrid nature of the festival also acknowledges the reality that we’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to COVID-19 and there are many cinema lovers who still may want to play it safe when it comes to watching movies in a crowded theatre.

A man of few words, Kapil Dev was asked to give a special address to begin proceedings at the media meet. He cracked a charming joke that won over the crowd in an instant, “Good morning, I’m not an opening batsman. I’m a middle order player so I thought I’d get a chance to speak after a few others.”

Those gathered waited to hear the suave Abhishek Bachchan speak too.  “My almost entire family has represented India here and I’m very proud of it,” he said.  “I’m looking forward to being part of all the celebrations and I thank the government and Mitu for having me here.”

Abhishek Bachchan speaks at IFFM Melbourne
A third Bachchan attends IFFM as special guest (Source: IANS)

The crowds got a chance to see both special guests again as they unfurled the beloved Tiranga at Fed Square, alongside a host of dignitaries including the Premier of Victoria Dan Andrews and the High Commissioner of India Manpreet Vohra.

Kapil Dev and Abhishek Bachchan hoisting the Indian flag at Melbourne
IFFM Director Mitu Bhowmick Lange guides the hoisting of the Indian Tricolour at Fed Square (Source: Facebook / IFFM)

The legendary cricketer also wowed at the Awards Night, where he took home the rather unlikely Lifetime Achievement Award, but won the crowds again one final time.

As part of its program, the festival is showcasing more than 120 films in 29 languages, spread over features, documentaries and shorts. The massive success of the festival has prompted the Victorian Government to boost its funding, providing $3 million over the next three years. Additionally, the Government will also provide $1.4 million over the next two years for the ‘My Melbourne’ screen initiative that will be delivered in partnership with the festival.

For the most part though, like every year, Melbourne fans were happy to catch sightings of Bollywood stars at IFFM 2022 – many of them the industry’s current favourites.

Shefali Shah and Rithvik Dhanjani at Melbourne
Shefali Shah and Rithvik Dhanjani (Source: IANS)
Tamannaah Bhatia and Taapsee Pannu at Melbourne
Tamannaah Bhatia and Taapsee Pannu (Source: IANS)
Shoojit Sircar and Vaani Kapoor at Melbourne 2022
Shoojit Sircar and Vaani Kapoor (Source: IANS)

The Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2022 runs from August 12 – 20 in cinemas across Victoria and streams Australia-wide for free on iffm.com.au from August 13 – 30.

There’s till plenty of time to catch some stars at IFFM 2022: send us your pics.

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