IFEFA 2014 a total debacle

aftab bipasha


No shows of IFEFA 2014 – Aftab Shivdasani who was in Sydney but absent at IFEFA and Bipasha Basu who decided to come a day after the show after the festival ended according to the organisers

What a disorganised mess!! What a  disappointment that something so shabby and poorly organised festival of films such as IFEFA  that was announced for hometown Sydney could unfolded into nothing much as one event after the other got cancelled. Sydney does not deserve such treatment. Having attended many festivals this has been the most disorganised mess ever witnessed. Are the celebrities at fault or is it the organisers who mislead people by advertising Bollywood personalities such as Bipasha Basu, Aftab Shivdasani, Zarine Khan and many more whose huge life size pictures were flanked all around the town on mobile billboards. People bought Meet & Greet events with stars some costing 200 bucks a ticket to see them and have a photo or a selfie taken with them.  Some of the celebrities did turn up such as Esha Gupta who looked gorgeous on the opening night along with many others whose name no one knew. Opening night was  attended by around 150 people all dressed in dazzling clothes to suit a Bollywood event that one expected and the red carpet too.

Actor Aftab Shivdasani did land in Sydney but did not even bother to show up. There he was holed up in a hotel that he did not want and refused to budge from his car as he sat there sizzling with his wife and manager.  He was angry and felt utterly frustrated with the organisers. It was appalling to see how the whole thing was conducted which was rather a sham and spoiled the name of Sydney for good and its ability to ever hold a film festival. Aftab was deeply annoyed, abandoned and jetlagged and was totally disappointed with the unprofessionalism of the IFEFA organisers what to talk of all those films and events that were to happen during the 10-day IFEFA event.  Rafi night, film screenings, Gulshan Grover, Bipasha Basu who was the major drawcard were all a no show. Why organise or announce such an event if one is not experienced enough to deal with the stars, their demands and thus mislead the public. And on part of the Sydney community it should take such events with a grain of salt and not trust till tried and tested event organisers take part.

Says Neeru Saluja, TIDU’s Bollywood reporter, “It was a total debacle from the start. The media was not informed and the scheduled events never took place. There were no media releases and on opening night the movie ”˜Ragini IPS’ was not even screened which was a surprise to me. Gulshan Grover and Sunil Shetty and many more who were advertised never showed up. My question to organisers is when we were approached by the them to promote the event to the community why were we not informed of the cancellations. It made us look very bad as we were totally in the dark and did not know what to answer back to the community.”

Says Vikrant Kishore, a filmmaker and a lecturer at Newcastle university who was approached to be on the jury for the films at the IFEFA festival, “When I heard about the initiative of a Film festival being organized in Sydney, I was more than happy to support it and be a part of it. The Indian Film & Entertainment Festival (IFEFA) was launched with much fanfare and promise in a glittering event in the NSW parliament. I believe any initiative that connects Australian Indians with India, especially with its most loved passion ”“ Indian Cinema”¦ needs to be supported, appreciated and encouraged.”

Says Kishore, “In a meeting with Amarinder Bajwa, the organizer of the event, I agreed to get IFEFA a tie-up with the prestigious Navi Mumbai International Film Festival (NMIFF). After a trail of emails and formality of a tie-up, the organizer of NMIFF gladly helped by sending 20 films from Mumbai, with the condition that IFEFA will give credit to NMIFF and also put all the details of the films and the association with their festival on IFEFA’s website.”

“All the details regarding the films were sent much in advance by NMIFF, but IFEFA failed to put the details on their website. My telephonic follow up regarding putting the NMIFF details on the site, always met with the answer, “it will be done soon, you do not need to worry.”

The IFEFA began with a whole lot of issues and hurdles on 7th November but at least it took off. Some of the glaring mistakes were out in the open, the biggest being the film festival starting without any films being screened and some of the invited Bollywood guests giving it a miss. The supporters and the audience in the hope that the festival will make it up in the next few days overlooked all these initial issues.

Adds Kishore, “The problem of IFEFA was aggravated due to the fact that the person they had asked to get the films from Mumbai, his baggage was misplaced by the airlines. All the NMIFF films were in that baggage, but I was not informed officially about that, nor any intimation email sent to NMIFF regarding that. Though the baggage was found and handed over after a few days, there was no attempt by the organizers to inform the community or the NMIFF of any plan of rescheduling the film screenings.”

“The festival thereafter, just fell like a pack of cards; Aaftab Shivdasani did come to Australia for IFEFA, but refused to take part in any of the events. Why was that? Probably the festival organizers will have a better answer. Similarly, Bollywood actress Zarine Khan was nowhere to be seen for the meet and greet organized at the Hard Rock caf锦 apparently her programme got cancelled at the last moment. Bipasha Basu had happily announced her trip to Australia on her twitter account, but within days even Basu’s event was cancelled and so was Prakash Raj’s event. It seemed like the IFEFA’s facebook page after screaming about the presence of many Bollywood stars, were in a rush to cancel each event.”

What Kishore finds ironical is the awards that were announced, says he, “Even without having any film screenings, the IFEFA organisers went ahead and gave awards to the few filmmakers who were present in the festival. The Facebook pages of these filmmakers are full of the pictures with the awards they received at the IFEFA. But can IFEFA organisers tell the public when were these films screened? Were the jury members that they had announced on their webpage a part of the decision making?”

“Well as a so-called jury member for IFEFA, I never saw a single film! I was never invited for a jury gathering or for any discussions regarding the awards!” says Kishore.

He has few questions to ask of the IFEFA organiser, “Now when I see that the IFEFA organisers have already announced the second edition of the festival to be held in November 2015 on their Facebook page, I would really like to seek answers from IFEFA organisers to the following questions:


  1. Why were no films screened during the opening of the festival?
  2. What happened to the films that were sent by NMIFF? Why were they not scheduled for screening?
  3. Why did IFEFA not stand by its commitment to provide NMIFF a webpage and details of all the films?
  4. How were the IFEFA awards decided? Who were the jury members involved the decision-making?


“As a film academic and a filmmaker, I feel it is important to raise these questions so that the Indian film festival organizers in Australia should understand their responsibility when they organize any film event. Film festivals are not to be taken for granted, and simply parading of a few Bollywood stars is not enough.

If a Film Festival has been unable to screen films then they have to answer why? And if the festival organizers have failed to keep their commitments to the filmmakers, actors, volunteers and the community at large then they have to explain the reason first, instead of going ahead with the announcement of another edition of the film festival.

As much as it is my responsibility to raise these questions as a jury member and as a part of both the community and film fraternity supporting such endeavors; so are the organisers of IFEFA responsible to answer these questions so that the fraternity and the community can support such events and festivals in the future.”

amarinder bajwa


Amarinder Bajwa  

TIDU contacted Amarinder Bajwa, a former UIA president, and one of the main organiser of IFEFA, him having announced already the festival to be held next year in November 2015, obviously one is game enough to ask Amarinder what happened?, why announce something when you can’t deliver?, says he, “Bipasha, even after promising us wanted to come to Sydney one day after the festival would have been over. I could not agree to that as tickets were already sold of her events. It would have made a lot of mess. Rafi’s show did not happen because of some family troubles that arose suddenly. Aftab tried to make extra demands which we could not fulfill. I have Gulshan Grover’s emails with me where he had said that he will make an appearance as I know him personally and he was anyway coming to work in Anupam’s movie ”˜UnIndian’.”

“I really apologise to all those who were inconvenienced. You can check with Dry Tickets that everyone has been refunded their ticket money and that too within a week.”

“I am not a filmi person and I must say I was misled by some of the people who came on board and suggested I must have these commercial stars. I appreciate art and culture and made a big mistake by including these big stars. My vision was to hold a film festival of not just Bollywood films but South Asian films as well. But everything went in the wrong direction. These stars made so many demands and I spent hours and nights on end talking to them on phone. If I had relented to their demands I would have lost more than $100,000. I do not run a charity here. Aftab is only a small star of a few movies but his demands were too big and he was very manipulative. I called off the event with him saying ”˜mate you don’t do like that here’. I still have so many bills pending though I must say many stars came on their own initiative and spent their own money to travel here.”

Says Amarinder, “I promise that IFEFA 2015 will be different and will concentrate on films from south Asian region including India. I plan to keep it away from the glamour and Bollywood. It has been a very bad experience for me personally and do not wish this kind of stress that I have experienced on anyone. Name of IFEFA will stay and we will make sure that we have a new team and who knows I may work from the sidelines.”

Amarinder adds, “Many concerts including Hollywood stars and singers have gotten cancelled. So what if IFEFA also had some of the events that did. We wanted to present a film festival and celebrate this form of art and I’m sorry that it all went bad.”

Sure as TIDU remembers many such concerts and events in the past that have been cancelled and left concert-goers high and dry. Remember the year 1989 when Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla went back without performing in Melbourne only because the terms and conditions were not fulfilled by Pankaj, a young organiser from New Zealand who had raised $60,000 in those days by mortgaging his home. And then Amrita ”˜Mard’ Singh, first wife of actor Saif Khan, went back really angry as she swore ”˜ma behan’ at Bunty Singh who had organised a concert with her haggling at the back of the stage at $3,500 per appearance. Then came Pooja Bhatt who did take part in a show but left many a hole in people’s pockets doing all her shopping for expensive brand clothes using all her charm as well as fan’s credit cards.

Are Amarinder Bajwa or Maxine Salma wrong to have embarked on an ambitious film festival or did the stars take them for a ride or were these two novices in organising Bollywood events having organised some local small time events. Are they naïve too when they award films which were not even screened or even a jury that never saw them. During UIA years actor Sunny Deol event was also announced and then cancelled, when you ask, answers Amarinder, “That was not me. It was someone else.”

Are we here to listen to many excuses or do we have the money, the experience, the ethics and the Sydney community gullible enough to stand up and call the organisers quit when there were so many gaping mistakes that happened with IFEFA 2014.

Wake up Sydney to see IFEFA already announced for November 2015. Only time may tell.

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