Morgane Polanski, daughter of controversial filmmaker Roman Polanski, and Bend It Like Beckham (2002) star Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who were expected to attend the 49th International Film Festival of India in Goa for the world premiere of their movie, The Aspern Papers, the gala’s opening film, have given the event a miss.
The film’s director Julien Landais explained their absence from IFFI at a press conference on Monday.
“Jonathan is stuck in Malibu, and you know the situation in California is not yet good,” Landais said, referring to the destructive California wildfires which have displaced several thousand people and Hollywood celebrities over the past few days.
Asked about the absence of Vikings (2013) actress Morgane, Landais said, “She had to shoot a film in London. They have both apologized for not being here today.”
Morgane Polanski’s visit was much anticipated, given how the winds of the #MeToo movement are currently blowing in India. Her father, an Oscar-winning filmmaker known for Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Macbeth (1971) and Chinatown (1974), pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor in 1977 and fled the United States. More accusations against him have come out in recent times.
The interest in Golden Globe winner Rhys-Meyers’s visit was also natural as he has built a fanbase with his role as football coach Joe in Gurinder Chadha’s 2002 British-Indian family drama Bend It Like Beckham.
He has since featured in films like Match Point (2005) and Mission: Impossible III (2006) as well as a line-up of television entertainers, but one of his upcoming projects is Andy Serkis’s Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle (2018). Rhys-Meyers has lent his voice for the character Hathi, an Indian elephant.
The Aspern Papers tells a story of obsession, grandeur lost and dreams of Byronic adventures and is based on letters which the famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote to Mary Shelley’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont.
Landais, present for IFFI with artistes Nicolas Hau, Barbara Meier, and Lois Robbins, said they were honoured to be in India to present the movie at the prestigious festival.
It is Robbins’s first time in India and she said she was “thrilled” to be in the “beautiful country”.
IFFI director Chaitanya Prasad thanked the film’s cast and crew for coming to the gala and giving it “a great brand value in the international community.
The nine-day festival begins with a 90-minute power-packed programme incorporating the elements and narratives of the rich and diverse kaleidoscope of Indian film heritage and industry.
A colourful opening ceremony will showcase the themes of history, action and romance, marked by performances by mainstream Hindi cinema artistes.
Actor Sonu Sood will do an action-packed set, and Shilpa Rao will sing a romantic number.
The ceremony will be graced by Goa governor Mridula Sinha, Union minister of state for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore; Goa’s public works minister Sudin Madhav Dhavalikar, and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chairman Prasoon Joshi.
Adding glamour to the ceremony will be Akshay Kumar, Karan Johar, Hrishita Bhatt, Madhur Bhandarkar, Subhash Ghai, Arijit Singh and Ramesh Sippy.
Ghai’s visit to IFFI is likely to elicit questions around the #MeToo wave as two women have named the veteran producer-director for sexually harassing them — an accusation he has flatly denied.
A Film Facilitation Office, an initiative by the information and broadcasting ministry, will also be launched at the opener.
IFFI 2018, in the run-up to the golden jubilee of the annual gala, has lined up a bouquet of 212 films from across 68 countries.