In India, we are familiar with the awards chukker and the politics behind many of them, but without explaining the context, he startled everyone here, including his adoring fans. Buzz is that he has four bodyguards in Dubai; not an avatar we are familiar with, but that's what stardom brings, we guess.
A little earlier, Sonam Kapoor had sashayed on the red carpet in an elegant white jacket casually thrown over an all-white gown.
The 14th DIFF festival boasts 140 films from 51 nations. There is a strong Indian and South Asian presence here.
Anup Singh's Song of Scorpions, Dipesh Jain's In the Shadows and Piyush Panjuani's 5 Rupyah (5 rupees), are the Indian films that are screening here. Iranian master Majid Majidi's Beyond the Clouds, shot in Bombay, is also a highlight of the programme.
Anup Singh's Song of Scorpions stars Irrfan Khan and the ethereal Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly, Paterson, My Sweet Pepper Land). The story is a typically Anup idea: a scorpion bite is fatal, unless a "scorpion singer" can 'read' the scorpion's song in the victim's pulse, and sing an antidote song that will neutralise the poison. Frankly, we don't mind this conceit, because it has the superb Khan and Farahani — with Waheeda Rehman — along with lush cinematography in the deserts of Rajasthan.
Dipesh Jain's In the Shadows stars the talented Manoj Bajpayee, Shahana Goswami, Ranvir Shorey, Neeraj Kabi and the wonderful discovery, Om Singh. It is a compelling psychological drama set in old Delhi, of a disturbed man who keeps hearing voices, and how this connects with his childhood experiences. It is an Indo-UK-German coproduction, made by Jain, who is based in Los Angeles. Bajpayee is outstanding as a man who has withdrawn into his own world, and the young Om Singh brings an unexpected depth to his character.
We don't get to see enough of Shabana Azmi on screen (apart from her activism), so Piyush Panjuani's 5 Rupyah, a children's film, is welcome. Set in the Himalayas, it is an adaptation of Munshi Premchand's short story Idgah, about a small boy Hamid's (Yohaan Panjuani) Id gift to his grandmother.
Majid Majidi's Beyond the Clouds features Ishaan Khattar (previously known as Shahid Kapoor's half-brother) and Malavika Mohanan. It is a moving story about the power of forgiveness: can one be compassionate towards the family of the person who destroyed your own family? With Majidi directing, we know where the answer is headed. With music by AR Rahman, the film has been shot in Mumbai — cows ambling on the streets, laundry flapping at a dhobi ghat, and all. It is an Iranian Slumdog, but elevated by Majidi-style redemption.