Saturday, May 18, 2024

Ashok Cashyap on the good, bad and ugly side of organising Biffes

Ashok Cashyap

Ashok Cashyap
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Ashok Cashyap, the Chairman of the Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy, is a very unassuming personality. Walk into the venue where he helmed Biffes 2023 (Bengaluru International Film Festival) and you will see Ashok hopping from one screen to another, personally checking on the guests, interacting with the crowd or facilitating a masterclass.

The cinematographer/director talks to MetroPlus about the behind-the-screen workings that put together Biffes this year. He talks about the good, bad and the ugly of organising the fest.

Edited excerpts

Biffes is almost coming to an end. What went on behind the screens to put this fest together?

We were in a dilemma as we were not sure if Biffes would take off this year as we were not prepared for the March 3 date; an important date as Kannada cinema was born on that day. It was almost February by the time we got government approval and finances for the fest were released. As we could not kickstart the fest on March 3, we chose March 23. We launched the Biffes logo for this year on the day Puneeth Rajkumar Road was inaugurated. A month ago, it seemed like a herculean task to get everything ready — release of the finances, film selections and acquisitions. Once we locked the date, all of us worked day and night to pull off the festival in such a short span of time — 27 days. That was when I connected with artistic director Narahari Rao and requested him to take charge of the film section; they dove right in, playing a huge role in making Biffes a success.

What were you looking for in jury members?

I have been a jury member at many festivals and interacted with renowned filmmakers and writers. Their credentials were extraordinary and they had worked with DFFI (Directorate of Film Festivals of India, Ministry of information and broadcasting). So we invited them to be on the jury for Biffes. We have people from across the globe — Iran, USA, Nepal, winners of Cannes Film Awards — to name a few and they are here to watch and judge films in the competition sections. Their presence here has only elevated the value of Biffes.

We observed that most masterclasses this year had a lot to do with role of technology, and even the Metaverse…

India is growing in a huge way when it comes to technology. It is not like we have taken technology created by others and are using it; this technology was created by Indians and we want to help our people discover its power in filmmaking. We are humbled to have greats like cinematographers Ravi K Chandran and Senthil Kumar share their working experiences in filmmaking at our festival. This masterclass was moderated by cinematographer Bhaskar and others.

Also, this year is legendary cinematographer VK Murthy’s centenary. So as a cinematographer, I — with my colleagues — used this platform to pay tribute to him. Normally, cinematographers have a low-profile life, but we decided to change that with Biffes and celebrated VK Murthy and his works. Apart from having legends like Govind Nihalani and celebrating cinema, Biffes was also a platform for emotional moments.

Do you feel extensive use of technology in filmmaking will lead to a loss of jobs?

Definitely no. Technology has made way for many livelihoods. Earlier one had to learn the craft and work under someone for years and the use of film cameras was also limited to only the cinematographer. Now, with the influx of digital media, everyone has access to a camera and can explore their talents as well as find virtual platforms to showcase their creations across the globe. All these are consumer-friendly. Earlier people said once OTT came cinema would die, but here we are, seeing footfall in the thousands. Everything has a place and a time to thrive, and technology will only make filmmaking easier.

There is always an ugly side to a success story. What would be one of the hardest moments you faced during Biffes?

There will always be elements that try to disrupt your morale and bring you disrepute. Instead of collectively working towards celebrating cinema, they use this as a platform to promote personal vendetta. My only request to such people was to come and watch films and support us. Even people who could afford a pass barged into our office; they fought, threatened my staff and even overturned furniture only because they didn’t get a free pass! Still, look at the bright side: this year, we opened registration for delegate passes online. Over 2000 people paid for their passes. I salute these citizens, who paid to watch films; they made Biffes a success. Their contribution is immense and such film enthusiasts are the ones who keep the spirit alive.

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