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When guard stopped CM Manohar Parrikar at the gate: Nostalgia reverberates as IFFI enters 20th year in Goa

PANAJI: As the International Film Festival of India enters its 20th year in Goa, a wave of nostalgia filled those associated with the first edition of IFFI in the state who also recalled the incident when former chief minister Manohar Parrikar was stopped from entering the venue.

IFFI, founded in 1952, travelled to the coastal state from New Delhi in 2004. The venue for the festival was developed where the old Goa Medical College (GMC) complex once stood. The festival's 54th edition, 20th in Goa, will be inaugurated on November 20.

"We had only six months to put the entire infrastructure and we had to start from scratch. We literally started working from a tent," recalled Sanjith Rodrigues, then chief executive officer of the Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG), a special-purpose vehicle created by the state to host IFFI.

Rodrigues recalled how the timelines were on paper and they had to execute them without any delay. "The challenge was huge. It also poured very heavily during that year," he said.

A truckers' strike compounded their worries, said Rodrigues. "We had to keep monitoring whether the construction material would arrive on time or not," he said.

Then chief minister Parrikar kept the façade of the (GMC) complex and other buildings of architectural importance intact, while the rest of the dilapidated structure was razed to build a multiplex to screen the films.

Siddharth Kunkolienkar, a close aide of Parrikar and former Panaji MLA, said when they entered the dilapidated structure of GMC, they encountered snakes and other animals. He recalled how the multiplex was constructed in flat 180 days and also two new bridges that were ready in the same timeline.

Senior journalist Waman Prabhu claimed it seemed impossible that Goa would be able to host IFFI in 2004. "There were apprehensions that it might be shifted to Mumbai or some other venue. But Parrikar ensured that the infrastructure work was completed within time," he said.

The Dayanand Bandodkar Road along River Mandovi which runs in front of the IFFI venue had to be widened. Prabhu remembered how the entire building of the River Navigation Department was razed overnight to allow the widening of the road.

Kunkolienkar said the first edition of IFFI was a major event for the state.

"It was a first time experience for everyone. I remember an instance when a CRPF jawan stopped CM Manohar Parrikar from entering the IFFI premises after he arrived in a private Maruti 800 car and had no identity card," he reminisced.

A technocrat-turned-politician, Parrikar was an immensely popular figure in the coastal state and enjoyed a man-next-door image. The four-time CM later went on to become the country's defence minister. Parrikar, who battled a pancreatic ailment, died in 2019 at the age of 63.

"While Parrikar tried to convince the jawan that he was the chief minister, the latter refused to allow him inside. The episode ended when the CM's official car reached and his personal security officer told the jawan that he was the chief minister of the state," added Kunkolienkar.

As many as 270 movies will be screened during IFFI's latest edition, which will be inaugurated on November 20 at an indoor stadium in Bambolim near here.


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