Cinema, a religion in our country: Devendra Fadnavis

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Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday inaugurated the 17th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, calling it a tribute to the industry which provides employment to millions of people.

“I consider it a honour to be given the privilege to open the festival. Cinema and cricket are like two religions in our country. I congratulate the team behind this film festival, which is a great tribute to the industry which provides employment to approximately 1.4 million people,” he said, wishing that the fest grows bigger in size each year and assuring his government’s continuous support in the coming years.

“This fest has brought filmmakers from across the globe under one roof. I’d like them to come and make their films in the city,” he said.

In 2014, the fest was revived after it hit a financial crunch, thanks to the passion and commitment of a few who made timely contributions.

Talking on the occasion, festival director Anupama Chopra said, “despite fighting all odds to keep the festival afloat, the response was overwhelming last year. It helped us re-energize and reinvent this year. After a year of work, it’s overwhelming for us to have our opening at the iconic Gateway of India.”

Well-known Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai received the International Excellence in Cinema Award, while veteran screenwriters Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar received the same award for the work in Indian cinema.

Accepting his award, Gitai said he was “very moved”.

“I love coming to India. Indian culture has inspired and touched me. If not for my trips here, I wouldn’t have had the privilege of knowing more about Indian film legends such as Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak,” he added.

Two of Gitai’s films “Disengagement” and “Promised Land” will be screened at the festival, which will go on till November 5.

Recalling his initial years with Salim Khan, his writer partner Akhtar said this year is very special for them.

“It’s special because it’s exactly 50 years since I met Salim saab in 1965. We could do some great work because of the immense support we had from people around us, like stars such as Amitabh Bachchan and directors like Ramesh Sippy,” he said.

Salim Khan couldn’t attend the event due to bad health. His son Sohail Khan received the award on his behalf.

The MAMI Tribute to Indian Cinema was awarded to film producer Chetan Anand for the enduring impact he left on Indian Cinema.

The festival’s International Tribute to Cinema was presented to French actor-director Agnes Varda.

Adding glamour to the event were Bollywood stars Hrithik Roshan, Anil Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan, Katrina Kaif, Alia Bhatt, Radhika Apte and Dia Mirza among many more.

With her cheeky humour, actress Kalki Koechlin played a wonderful host for the evening.