Film fest in Shimla to be Himachal’s moment of glory, and trial too

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By: Satyakam Bharti

Living with its image of a laid-back holiday destination for long, Shimla, the so-called sleepy little Queen of Hills, is finally waking up to the glamour and glitter of outside world. And it may become true of the whole state if the opportunity at hand is well utilized. According to reports, the historic Gaiety Theatre in Shimla will be hosting the Indian panorama of this year’s International Film Festival in May.

This would be the first time a film festival, or actually a part of it, will be organized in the state, which in itself is quite an honour considering that earlier only metropolitan cities have hosted the event, except for exotic holiday destinations like Goa.

For a town that for decades basked in the glory of being called the summer capital of India, the following winter of wilderness has extended a bit too long after independence as Shimla has hardly ever been under the spotlight except in the memory of holidaymakers. The 1972 ‘Simla Agreement’ appears to be the only noticeable event post independence that has its imprints on national consciousness. Perhaps that explains why local people go ga-ga whenever a film crew from Bollywood lands up in the state, because hardly anything noticeable happens here, except for the local dreary summer festivals and of course self-proclaimed international cultural events. Institutions like the Indian Institute of Advance Studies and the Roerich Art Gallery do come up with events of national scale, but they hardly gets noticed because the local media itself fails in its purpose here.

A film festival has the right kind of glamour quotient to feed media, and therefore the Shimla event can provide the right kind of platform to get the town under the spotlight. All that the government needs to do is to employ its publicity mechanism in full steam to create the right atmosphere before the fest actually happens. Though it is expected that leading film personalities, including actors, directors and producers would be attending the event, the government should also make sure that Bollywood personalities with Himachal connection – the like of Preity Zinta, Anupam Kher, Kangna Ranaut, etc – make it to Shimla for sure. Besides, pre-events like local documentary film festival or theatre event could also be held to build the tempo.

The government has been declaring grand plans for tourism promotion from time to time, but it should understand that attracting holidaymakers and adventure-seekers is not the only way to do so. There’s business beyond that, and to tap that there’s no harm making customers do some window shopping.