Panaji: The glitz, glamour and star euphoria of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) was replaced by masks, sanitisers and limited attendance at the inaugural ceremony of the 51st edition of the movie gala here.
The coronavirus pandemic put a dent to IFFI last year, with the festival being pushed by two months from its regular November show.
The festival screens national and international films and hosts artistes from across the world, engaging in masterclasses and discussions throughout its nine-day run.
This year, the festival is having its first "hybrid mode" edition, where delegates can participate and watch films and events virtually.
While previous editions of the festival's opening hosted a cluster of stars, including Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth, Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Karan Johar, the 51st edition was a low-key affair.
The ongoing pandemic guidelines ensured that not more than 250 people were present at Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium, where the ceremony took place.
Noted Kannada film star Sudeep, actors Tisca Chopra, Manoj Joshi and filmmaker Priyadarshan were among those who attended the event from the film fraternity.
Bollywood stars like Ranveer Singh, Madhuri Dixit, Anil Kapoor, Vicky Kaushal, Vidya Balan, Anupam Kher, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Aparshakti Khurrana virtually sent their best wishes for the festival.
Balan said the fact that IFFI has been held amid the pandemic proves the old film industry saying: "the show must go on."
"I am so glad that despite the pandemic and the trials the year has put us through, IFFI has been held with all safety precautions put in place. IFFI is an opportunity to watch the best of films.
"Even though I won't be there physically, I will be watching films on its OTT platform from the comfort of my home," the 42-year-old actor said in a video message.
Malayalam star Mohan Lal, in a video, said it has become "abundantly clear" that the internet is changing the way people experience and consume movies.
"I am sure the Goa film festival will explore, reinvent or reframe the film festival experience itself...This, perhaps, will be the new norm of interacting with film festivals, especially with the film-makers, actors and technicians from around the globe," he said.
Sudeep, who was the chief guest at the ceremony, said cinema has an incredible binding power which resonates with people across the world.
"Cinema is something that takes you around the world, gives you knowledge, gets you closer to the culture of the world. Let cinema be the new pandemic," the 47-year-old actor said.
The event was also attened by Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India, Mohammad Imran.
Bangladesh is the focus country at the 51st edition of the festival. The Country of Focus is a special segment that recognises the cinematic excellence and contributions of the country.
At the inaugural ceremony, Javadekar announced that the two countries are coming together to make a film titled "Bangabandhu".
Apart from this, the minister also inaugurated the NFDC Film Bazar, which will be held virtually.
Multiple Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award at the ceremony.
Storaro, 80, is acclaimed for his work in films such as the 1970 drama "The Conformist", filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" and ''The Last Emperor", helmed by Bernardo Bertolucci.
The cinematographer, however, was not present at the event and instead thanked IFFI for the honour through a video message.
"This is an incredible honour. The visual journey I did, I couldn't have done alone. I owe a lot to my collaborators and great directors like Bernardo Bertolucci, Francis Coppola, Carlos Oliveira and Woody Allen. They led me in a specific way, to use my language of light," he said in the video.
Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg's "Another Round, starring actor Mads Mikkelsen, opened the festival.
The film, which is Denmark's official entry for Oscars 2020, revolves around four weary high school teachers experimenting with the liberating effects of alcohol.
Vinterberg, who also could not be present at the opening, said the starting point of the film was a "pure celebration of alcohol, but it grew into a celebration of life."
A total of 224 films will be screened under different sections at the 51st edition, 15 of which will will compete for the Golden Peacock award.
The jury members of the festival include Argentina's Pablo Cesar, Prasanna Vithanage from Sri Lanka, Abu Bakr Shawky (Austria), Priyadarshan and Rubaiyat Hossain (Bangladesh).
Only Priyadarshan, however, was present at the ocassion.
The festival will also give homage to actors Irrfan Khan, Sushant Singh Rajput, Rishi Kapoor and Hollywood star Chadwick Boseman among 28 other artistes from the world cinema by showcasing their films.
"Saand Ki Aankh", directed by Tushar Hiranandani and featuring Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar, will be the opening movie for the Panorama section at the festival.
The festival is conducted jointly by the Directorate of Film Festivals (under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) and the state Government of Goa.