HYDERABAD: The fate of the 21st International Children’s Film Festival India (ICFFI) to be held from 14-20 November in Hyderabad hangs in the balance as the permanent host, the Telangana state government, has thrown up its hands on organising the fete. This development has given a blow to children and children film buffs and movie makers in the country who eagerly await this biennial event.

Children’s films movement activists and children’s movie champions were shocked over the flimsy grounds on which the TRS-led Telangana government has refused to host the international film festival in Hyderabad this year. Recent rains and the protracted conduct of elections were mentioned as reasons for cancellation of the festival, but critics feel there could be other issues behind the move.

This default on schedule of a prestigious international festival held by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI) will not only dent the image of the country before the international film fraternity, but also affect the “Brand Hyderabad” city as its permanent host of the festival. The CFSI is likely to re-think on Hyderabad being the ICFFI’s permanent venue in future. Festival icon Golden Elephant is in trouble.

Shocked over the last minute non-cooperation from the Telangana government, the CFSI, an autonomous body of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India, has announced alternative dates, from 9-15 December, as this year’s edition of the festival, but it is still doubtful over smooth conduct of the event.

The Telangana State Film Development Corporation (TSFDC) that looks after holding of the children’s film festival every year communicated its helplessness to the CFSI last week, stating that it was not in a position to host the fete in Hyderabad from 14 November this year. Hyderabad has been the permanent venue of the ICFFI since 1997.

In a letter dated 30 October, TSFDC chairman Rammohan Rao told the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CFSI that “given the circumstances this year, including protracted period of staggered elections and long spell of rains etc; which left the entire officials’ machinery busy, the state government is not in a position to host the 21st International Children’s Film Festival this year”. His letter was in response to two letters sent by CFSI’s CEO on 9 and 21 October, seeking details of arrangements to be made for the festival. Sources in the TSFDC told this newspaper that the matter was taken to the notice of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) and the final call was taken by him.

Senior officials who are in the know of things at the Chief Minister’s level said that the ongoing RTC strike and lack of funds with the exchequer were the main reasons behind the government deciding not to host the ICFFI this year. “We know that to host the event, we have to make necessary transport arrangements for the children and provide funds to the tune of around Rs 10 crore,” a source said.

Though, the CFSI would contribute more than an equal amount of funds to the conduct of the festival, but the Telangana government is not willing to part with any funds for this festival. Moreover, the festival organisers would insist on transport of around two lakh children, mostly from schools, to the festival theatres and venues.

Apparently, the government, which is unable to run enough bus services to meet the public demand for the last one month, is not in a position to provide around 200 buses for the festival organisers and guests, besides school children. Similarly, the government which cut Rs 42,000 crore in budgetary allocations is not ready to make any extra allocation to TSFDC for this event. The TRS government’s inability to host the 21st edition of the ICFFI has come in for sharp criticism from different quarters. “Balala Hakkula Sangham” (children’s rights forum) president Achyuta Rao lashed out at the government for going back on the state’s promise to host the film festival.

“Last year, around 2.4 lakh children, mostly students from government schools, had watched around 200 movies from all over the world. This year too, children are waiting for world-class movies; children from several others states come here to watch the movies. Unfortunately, the TRS government has thought that this is a wasteful expenditure,” P.V. Rammohan Naidu, a children’s film maker, said.

In 1995, when the ICFFI was held in Hyderabad, then Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had announced that the city can be the permanent venue for the festival and offered some government land and funds to construct a complex for the CFSI. Subsequently, he allocated two acres of lands on the city outskirts at Guttala Begumpet, but the construction of the complex remained only on papers.

Children’s film lovers also pointed out the lukewarm response of Chief Minister KCR to the ICFFI in the last two editions—in2015 and 2017. On both the occasions, the Chief Minister hadn’t turned up for the inaugural or valedictory ceremonies despite best efforts of the CFSI brass. They find it difficult to take any help from the Telangana government for the conduct of the ICFFI in the coming years too.

 

 

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