Amid the raging Padmavati controversy as well as the row over exclusion of two films from a section of the 48th IFFI, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, through a mixture of symbolism and subtlety, spoke of cinema as a balm of love for dissent and a catalyst for unity, at the inauguration of the movie Jamboree.
Shah Rukh spoke in the presence of Union Ministry for Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani at the inaugural ceremony of the 48th International Film Festival of India, which kicked off near Panaji.
"There is a word in Sanskrit 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam'. It means bringing the world together as a family. I believe no matter what your language is, no matter what country your story comes from, and no matter what your ideology is, story-telling and listening should be a familial experience which binds us together.
"It makes relationships stronger, even in the face of dissent and discussion as it usually happens in a family, instead of tearing us apart," he said.
"I truly believe that films are made with the collaboration of hundreds of people coming together, working relentlessly for an idea they believe in and they love and they want to share it with the world. This idea becomes the film which we all watch, and sometimes we feel very happy watching it," said the actor, underlining the significance of love in the process of filmmaking.
"Sometimes, we dance along with the film. At other times, we get angry, disturbed or agitated. That exactly is the magic of storytelling, a magic which has the power to touch all our senses and in doing so, actually binding us together. The essence of storytelling is incomplete if there is no story listener. And I believe that storytellers and story listeners are, or at least should be, like a family," he said.
Shah Rukh's subtle take on dissent came in wake of none-too-subtle comments by Padmavati actor Shahid Kapoor, who while speaking to the media on the sidelines of the event, came out strongly against protests groups lobbying to get the film banned.
"It will be a precedent which I am not proud of if the film finds it difficult to release. I believe that the film will release. I believe that this process is difficult and like I said, I went through a similar process with Udta Punjab," Shahid said when asked to comment on the Padmavati controversy.
"Any kind of conversation which is violent in nature is not very nice, is not in good taste and it is absolutely uncalled for an unfortunate," Shahid added.
This year, IFFI has been at the centre of a controversy as two movies - S Durga and Nude -- were excluded from a jury-suggested list for the Indian Panorama section, when it was cleared by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
The festival's inauguration also saw the presence of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, actress Sridevi and head of the competition's international jury Muzaffar Ali, among others.
It will screen 10 world premieres, 10 Asian and international premieres and over 64 Indian premieres as part of the official programme and opened with noted Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi's India-set movie Beyond the Clouds.
Majid Majidi said always wanted to tell an Indian story and admires the work done by Satyajit Ray. Majidi feels that he is more famous in India than his country.
"It is a great honour for me to be among the Indian artists and all the Indian big names here. I knew Indian cinema through Satyajit Ray, the famous Indian film director, and it was always my dream to make a film in India," Majidi said before the screening of his maiden India-set project Beyond The Clouds.
The film, which introduces Ishaan Khatter and Malavika Mohanan, was the opening film at the 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI). The fest, which started on 20 November, will go on until November 28. Beyond The Clouds highlights the sister and brother bond in a very heart-warming way.
Talking about the film, he said: "There are many cultural similarities between Iran and India, and I was looking for a chance to make a film here, in India. So, after years it fortunately happened.
"It was a wonderful production team to work with, it was an all Indian crew, so it was a wonderful collaboration between the teams. The film was premiered at the London Film Festival, but for me the real premiere is tonight. I am so excited to see the film, with the Indian audience tonight here."
The focus country in this edition of the festival is Canada and curated cinema from the North American country will be screened in presence of leading Canadian actors and film personalities.
This IFFI edition will also be presenting films from a record number of women filmmakers in addition to a carefully curated section of restored classics from across the globe.
The gala will also pay homage to cinematic master spy James Bond, in a special section, where nine films featuring the various leading actors who have essayed the iconic character, will be screened.
Filmmakers including Atom Egoyan, Shekhar Kapur, Nitesh Tiwari and Farah Khan, as well as Oscar-winning sound designer Craig Mann, will be conducting master classes and panel discussions during the event.