Gulzar opens Ladakh film fest, Omar Abdullah absent

Leh: Noted lyricist-writer-filmmaker Gulzar Friday lit the lamp to open the second edition of the Ladakh International Film Festival (LIFF) here in Jammu and Kashmir Friday in the presence of other film icons, ministry dignitaries and officials.

However, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who was slated to be present here, couldn`t make it.

Jammu and Kashmir urban development minister Nawang Rigzin Jora, Leh Chief Executive Councillor Rigzin Spalbar, and Abdali, Afghanistan`s ambassador to India, were present along with LIFF jury chair Aparna Sen, patrons Vishal Bhardwaj, Rekha Bhardwaj, filmmaker Rakesysh Omprakash Mehra, and National Award winning Marathi actress Usha Jadhav among others here.

"Our chief minister was supposed to be here in the morning, but he couldn`t come because the collateral damage from the concert (Zubin Mehta`s recent concert) still preoccupies him. There is curfew in a few districts," Jora said in his keynote address.

The opening ceremony was held at the Sindhu Sanskriti Auditorium nestled between barren mountains in the virgin beauty of Leh. The otherwise quiet environment was bustling with police officials, film enthusiasts, festival patrons, guests and government officials.

Gulzar, whose works will be showcased in a retrospective curated by talented filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, was in awe of the destination, and said he hopes that the "highest altitude film festival" also serves movies which are of "high standards".

He said he was happy to be "in such a beautiful destination in such a beautiful valley and among such beautiful people". His directorial venture ‘Mere Apne’ is due to be screened at the fest, and Gulzar said he was as nervous about its screening as he was when the movie was first due for release.

LIFF was launched in 2012. The three-day festival is likely to screen around 120 short films, feature films and documentaries. A major highlight is the green carpet premiere of international documentary filmmaker Teri McLuhan`s ‘Frontier Gandhi’.