The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Film Festival began with a grand star-studded opening ceremony and a colourful cultural evening highlighting the diversity of India, at NCPA in Mumbai Saturday.

With popular film personalities of Indian cinema as well as SCO countries in attendance, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Youth Affairs and Sports Shri Anurag Singh Thakur and Minister of State (External Affairs and Culture) Smt. Meenakshi Lekhi inaugurated the SCO Film Festival. 

The Guest of Honour in the opening ceremony Ms. Hema Malini and other eminent film personalities like Akshay Kumar, Tiger Shroff, Hema Malini, Sajid Nadiadwala, Esha Gupta, Poonam Dhillon, Eli Avram, Hrishita Bhatt and Jacky Bhagnani were felicitated on the occasion.

The seven Jury Members of SCO Film Festival –China’s film director Ms. Ning Ying; Musician from Kazakhstan Mr. Dimash Kudaibergen; Filmmaker and Film Critic from Kyrgyzstan Ms. Gulbara Tolomushova; Russian Film Producer and Journalist Mr. Ivan Kudryavtsev; Film Producer, Actor and Author from Tajikistan Mr. Mehmedsaid Shohiyon; Uzbekistan’s actor Mr. Matyakub Sadullayevich Matchanov and Chairperson of the jury and acclaimed Indian film-maker Rahul Rawail were also felicitated. 

While delivering the welcome address, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting said, “SCO Film Festival presents unique opportunities and incredible possibilities for filmmakers to network, pitch, collaborate and experience the best from the world of cinema”. 

Union I & B Minister stated that the SCO Film Festival is being organized to mark India’s Presidency at SCO and India’s goal of organising the festival is to showcase the diversity of films and various styles of filmmaking from the SCO region. “We also aim to build cinematic partnerships, have exchange of programmes, nurture young filmmaking talent and act as a bridge between the cultures of this unique region”, added the Union Minister.

Minister Anurag Thakur said, with a spirit to unite and promote the art of cinema and build cinematic partnerships, the SCO and NFDC aim at making the SCO film festival a collective cinematic experience for the Indian and International film fraternity, budding filmmakers and cinema lovers across the SCO region. 

Union I & B Minister further informed that accelerating networking and pitching for Indian Cinema will be at the core of SCO Film Festival. He said, “Under India’s Chairmanship of the SCO, this festival is all set to be a melting pot of myriad vibrant cultures, the spectacle of aesthetic sensibilities and sheer cinematic excellence”. We must utilise this platform to deliberate and dwell upon pertinent concerns of contemporary times such that they accurately reflect the realities of the present century and our people, through cinema, he further said.

Cinema in SCO Region

Union Minister Anurag Thakur said, “The SCO region is a confluence of diverse civilizations and a cradle of rich traditions of art and culture. This has been reflected in the cinemas made in SCO countries, which has been globally appreciated and awarded”. “We must come together and co-create films that reflect our civilization, culture and cooperation over the years”, he urged to the SCO members.

The Union Information & Broadcasting Minister recalled that Prime Minister Modi had remarked at the inauguration of the National Museum of Indian Cinema here in Mumbai in 2019 that, films and society are a reflection of each other. And what one sees in films is happening in society and what is happening in society is seen in films

Speaking about cinema, the Union Minister said, Cinema captures and chisels the conflux of a country's rich culture, legacy, heritage, hopes and dreams, aspirations, ambitions and timeless tales of a nation in transition. “Cinema truly captures the essence of communities, cultures, contradictions and reflects our collective conscience in so many cinematic ways”, he added 

Indian Cinema 

“We are geared up to make India the world’s content and post-production hub - fuelled by the passion and talent of our brilliant film-making minds!”, said I & B Minister as he remarked that in merely over a century, Indian cinema has transcended boundaries and is not only seen as an art but a powerful medium to connect and influence people and cultures across the world. "We are the world’s largest producer of films, constantly updating and innovating and increasingly the preferred choice for Animation- VFX for some of the worlds most loved movies", he stated.

Union Minister Anurag Thakur said, India has the largest community of creative minds, tech talent, skilled manpower, cost efficiency and world-class post-production facilities to cater the film industries worldwide. He said, "Our ‘creative economy’ is taking advantage of the OTT platforms; the Modi government policies are also forward-looking and keeping pace with the needs of the industry."

India has officially designated audio-visual services as one of 12 'champion service sectors’ and the AVGC task force comprising of industry leaders have shared a roadmap for transforming this sector. Further, at the Cannes Film Festival last year, India announced two schemes to encourage filmmakers and content creators to come shoot in India. These are the Incentive Scheme for Audio-Visual Co-production and Incentive Scheme Shooting of foreign films in India. I & B Minister urged the SCO Member countries to explore these schemes. “These can truly unleash the potential of the SCO region”, he said.

“Indian movies are a rage across SCO countries and have played a great role in people-to-people connections”, said I & B Minister as he thanked the SCO delegates for the love shown towards Indian cinema in the SCO countries. He noted that Indian cinema has been extremely popular across the Central Asian region. 

He recalled that in 1957, Mother India became an international hit and actor-director Raj Kapoor was lovingly mobbed on the streets of Moscow and Beijing. Raj Kapoor's ‘Awaara’, was one of the first Bollywood movies to be screened in the erstwhile Soviet Union. 

"Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Nargis had millions of fans in several of these countries. In the 1970s, and 1980s, Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan had provoked cross-border hysteria with his numerous hits and punchy dialogues! Mithun Chakraborty’s popularity and dance moves in the SCO region is fondly remembered and remains unmatched!", He stated 

He added, "Baahuballi’s action-packed sequences were immensely popular and garnered many fans across the SCO region along with Ajay Devgan starrer ‘Drishyam’ which is widely appreciated for its acting, plot and storyline!"

The Union Minister also informed that recently in a SCO Youth delegation which he hosted in New Delhi, delegates sang various Indian songs and were dancing to the beats of some popular songs from the era of Raj Kapoor and Mithun Chakraborty. “That is the power of cinema and film industry!” At the popular Meloman chain of music and CD stores across Kazakhstan, there is a special corner for Indian movies, he added.

MoS (External Affairs and Culture) Smt. Meenakshi Lekhi said, what we are establishing through this film festival is actually our friendship in the region through SCO, which is a multilateral body and speaks volumes about friendship amongst the neighbours has to be. On 17th September 2022, India assumed the chairmanship of SCO states.

This film festival is one of the events as part of SCO celebrations. “All our friends from this region get to be represented in this festival of storytelling, narrative-building, bringing hearts close to each other because there can be no unity until and unless we all understand each other and stand by each other”, she said. Referring to the ancient Indian text 'Natyashastra' which defined theatre, Smt. Lekhi said, India has a great tradition of storytelling.

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