Nandita Das, Mahesh Bhatt grace second-last day of KaraFilm Festival

The second-last day of the KaraFilm Festival finally put a smile on the organisers’ faces as the two of Kara’s “oldest supporters,” Mahesh Bhatt and Nandita Das, finally managed to make it to the festival. In addition, the day was highly promising with the festival drawing its biggest crowd yet.

Das (who came on Friday for Ramchand Pakistani’s premiere as well) and Bhatt (who arrived on Saturday) were welcome signs and a massive statement of commitment from the neighbours across the border.

Bhatt and Das, during a small press conference held at the Arts Council said that the High Commission had knowledge of their association with Kara, and that it was very easy for them to get a visa, with Bhatt’s visa arriving within an hour.

Bhatt said that he had been coming to the past four Kara’s and the government’s on both sides knew this, as well as the nature of Kara itself. The festival provides a great forum to interact with like-minded people from different parts of the world, they said, adding that in troubled times, the exchange of people and artistes becomes important because they are part of the peace process.

Bhatt was of the opinion that the moderate voice in these tense times should be accorded more importance. The incident involving a Pakistani comedian was much regretted by the Indian public, he said, adding that the trend at the moment was such that any production involving Pakistanis was being put off as the distributors and exhibitors would object.

Hasan Zaidi, the chief organiser of Kara, said that the reason some Indian films could not be shown at the festival was because distributor refused to release their films. Das’ film Firaaq, which was screened on Saturday, was brought over by her own efforts and was yet to be released in Indian cinemas.

Das said that had it not been for Kara, she would not have met Mehreen Jabbar and never would have become part of Ramchand Pakistani. For now, she hoped that a good script from Pakistan would find its way to her so she could work on this side of the border as well.

Among the screenings on Saturday was “Right to Life,” a documentary on the problem of the lack of proper facilities, funds, and personnel, which affect birthing mothers.

The story follows one of the most prominent gynaecologists of Karachi, and perhaps even of Pakistan, Dr Shershah Syed. Attended by a host of midwives, nurses, doctors and students who filled up the hall to capacity, the documentary showed how primitive Pakistan is in the health sector.

If nothing else, the main obstacle is the government, who, while knowing how something should be done, does not do it right just to pocket a few coins for itself. The lack of funds, a flawed national policy and the government’s attitude towards healthcare means that there is rarely enough for everyone.

Earlier in the morning, children were treated to the animated film Kungfu Panda, where a panda must learn the ancient art of kungfu to protect not only himself but his village as well.

A host of children came to watch the premiere showing, including groups from various schools. Among them were also children from the Garage School project, and the Adamjee Orphanage.

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