Leh: The second edition of the Ladakh International Film Festival was inaugurated by veteran lyricist Gulzar, who is showcasing his debut film `Mere Apne` during the three-day event here.
The festival kicked off with Gulzar, Chief Executive Commissioner Leh Rigzin Spalbar and Rigzin Jora, Minister of Urban Development Jammu and Kashmir lighting the lamp at the Sindhu Sanskriti Kala Kendra.
As many as 120 films including feature, short and documentary films will be screened during the festival.
"I congratulate the organisers for arranging this festival at the highest location to begin with in the beautiful valley.
I am happy and honor to present my debut film `Mere Apne` here. I was nervous while making this film and is nervous even today as I am presenting the film here in front of you all today," Gulzar, 79, said.
"I would have come here for honeymoon but now there is no second chance," he joked.
Other dignitaries present on the occasion were patron Vishal Bharadwaj, Rekha Bharadwaj, filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, actress-filmmaker Aparna Sen, who is the Chairperson of the Jury this season, National-award wining Marathi actress Usha Jadhav and others.
"I have taken the charge from Shyam Benegal as he couldn`t make it here. I am thankful to be part of this festival and support in my way. This year is very special because of Gulzar saab, there is retrospective on him, he is my mentor and father. I am waiting to see his first film `Mere Apne`," Vishal said.
Filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra who has beenvisiting Ladakh over two decades, seems to be excited to be part of this festival.
"Ladakh is very close to me I discovered this place while I was trekking to Manali. It was an eye opener to see this beauty. I even came here for my honey moon. This festival will set the path for future and encourage people to come here. I am sure it will have snow balling effect specially because of Gulzar saab. It was his first film `Mere Apne` that inspired me to make `Rang De Basanti`," Mehra said.
Noted actress-filmmaker Aparna Sen feels the festival looks promising and is honored to be part of it.
"Last night despite being tired we all were watching films and all of them were interesting. It is good to meet various film personalities from across the world. This is my first trip here and i am sure this is going to be memorable. I wish great success," she added.
Vishal`s wife and national award winning singer Rekha said she appreciates good cinema and suggested that people must read literature and focus on Hindi language.
Earlier, speaking at the opening ceremony of second edition of LIFF here, J&K minister Rigzin Jora thanked Bollywood filmmakers for boosting tourism in Ladakh.
"Films like `3 Idiots` promote tourism. Even `Bhaag Milkha Bhaag` training part was shot here. We are thankful to Bollywood to give boost to Ladakh. The buzz about Ladakh is rising and we hope more and more filmmakers come here to shoot," he said.
The Urban Development minister hopes the three day festival will help showcase Ladakh internationally and attract more tourists to this beautiful place.
"Tourism is the only source of income for us here now, earlier it was Army, they were the biggest employer. We are happy tourism is growing. It is not easy organizing things here due to constraints of distance and logistics," he said.
Preservation of ecology and natural beauty of this area is responsibility of all, Jora said.
"People here have to constantly fight with nature and politicians fight with the state and Delhi government for funds and other help."
He, however, was a little sad over the media coverage of the Chinese incursion which he says brought down tourism.
"Even the Uttarakhand tragedy... I think this year was a dampener for us," he added.
While Chief Executive Commissioner Leh Rigzin Spalbar said he was quite surprised when the organizers came up with the idea of this festival.
"We did not have the required infrastructure for it but with the help from Army we managed to come up with this auditorium (Sindhu Sanskriti Kala Kendra) otherwise this place would have been deserted. We felt it was a golden opportunity and grabbed it."