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Wow! Someone who says there is more to Goa than its beaches!” a colleague teased me when he found out I was trying to reach Goa’s Maquinez Palace in Panjim in time for the 43rd International Film Festival of India.

I rightfully did not want to miss the opportunity of seeing how Goans, filmmakers and delegates from throughout the world celebrated 100 years of Indian cinema this 2012. Apart from the international film category, the festival incorporated all-time Bollywood hits as well as several carefully selected films from all over the country, showcasing India’s diversity. From all the films selected for the programme, the following are a few of my favorite picks:

Samhita by Sunil Sukthankar: Two eras come together to question whether we are truly writing the script of our own life or giving in to the various pressures surrounding us.

Munich in India by Konstantin Fritz: A German painter lived in India in the 1930s and filmed his life there. His grandson follows his grandfather’s steps creating a portrait of yesterday and today’s India.

Dreaming of Taj Mahal by Nirmal Chander: A moving documentary on the true story of a Pakistani driver whose ultimate dream is to get an Indian visa to visit the Taj Mahal.

Lessons in Forgetting by Unni Vijayan: Based on Anita Nair’s book with the same title, the film tells the story of Meera, a middle-aged woman.  

Ithramathram by Dr. K. Gopinathan: A Malayalam film. The unexpected death of a thirty-eight-year-old woman called Sumitra leaves her husband and daughter completely lost and helpless. Reflections on an individual’s death become a wondrous evocation of the colour, zest and zeal of the entire village life and entire network of collective human destiny.

Digant by Dnyanesh Moghe: A Konkani film in which the divide between urban and village life is explored through the nomadic “Gowli” community in Goa.

Garm Hava by M S Sathyu: The original 1973 film has been digitalized and restored to please current young audiences.

The festival offered viewers the occasion to rewatch box office or acclaimed hits on the big screen such as Pyaasa, Sholay, Lagaan, Mughal-e-Azam, The Namesake or Lage Raho Munna Bhai. Apart from films and open forums with international and national filmmakers and actors (such as Tabu and Irrfan Khan), there were also drama and music celebrations throughout Goa under the Chitrashatabdi – 100 Years of Indian Cinema programme, such as the November 27 performance by Sukhwinder Singh and a Footsteps of Bollywood event the following day. Bollywood stars Zeenat Aman and Bipasha Basu also walked the ramp at two different fashion events in Goa during the festival while Akshay Kumar graced the festival's opening ceremony.

Aside from the festivities, a stay in Panjim also granted authentic Portuguese-style surroundings, a laid back city atmosphere and fantastic cuisine – who invented the sinful bebinca? The stay was indeed in itself uma festa maravilhosa! (a wonderful celebration!)

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