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With Love, From Cape Town: The South African Film Festival Inauguration Report

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IMG_0848_converted_1Nothing goes wrong on some days.

An auto-driver whose ringtone was this. Who wouldn’t take a rupee over the meter. There was no traffic on the roads – it was raining and the city was still celebrating Deepavali.

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We entered the Russian Centre of Science and Culture for the inauguration of the South African Film Festival. Actor and entrepreneur Shylaja Chetlur had just lit the lamp. And when she walked over to the microphone, we realised – happily – that there were no more guests to wait for.

Shylaja’s short speech was followed by a few others, just as crisp. The stenographer in us heaved a sigh of relief. The auditorium was sparsely filled. But those who were in attendance were cinephiles and some first-timers. We spotted many friendly nods and smiles.

It was a good day; and an announcement from Shylaja proved that nothing could go wrong. “We are going to watch Invictus after the inauguration,” she said.

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The South African Film Festival is being conducted in India for the first time. Indo Cine Appreciation Foundation, in association with the South African High Commission, is organising the three-day festival, which began on October 23.

Shylaja Chetlur, in her brief speech, said, “We often say that Slumdog Millionaire portrays the real India. But I don’t completely agree. I am looking forward to watching all three films that are going to be screened at the festival, and hope they would depict the real lives of South Africans.”

M Mogal, Deputy High Commissioner, South African High Commission declared that he was “proud to present the festival”. “I consider this a platform to showcase the technical expertise and art of South Africa. I also invite the Indian filmmakers to shoot more films in South Africa. We can help with monetary concessions.”

He then went on to explain the lives of people in South Africa. “We work hard, and we love partying. I can also show you some of our dance moves,” laughed Mr Mogal, and then quickly composed himself.

“No,” he said quite seriously, “perhaps not now”.

When Mr Mogal wrapped up his speech, he handed a gifted to Mr Sivan Kannan (President of Indo Cine Appreciation Foundation). An excited Sivan Kannan rummaged in the bag and pulled out a bottle of wine. “Two things come to mind when I think of South Africa. Wine and Cricket!” he exclaimed, “Now I have got the first one.”

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Mr Mogal, who was watching the proceedings, came up with another lively suggestion. “We can dance now,” he said.

At that moment though, Invictus was screened and the gentlemen shelved their plans.

And, as we embarked on an emotional ride with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, we chanced a look at our neighbour to see how he was faring.

Nothing there.

He was sound asleep.

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