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|September 13, 2001||
Shah Rukh, Santosh Sivan stranded in NY
Arthur J Pais in Toronto
Director Santosh Sivan's Asoka was a no-show at the Toronto International Film Festival Wednesday.
Its press screening, like many others, was postponed as the festival recovers from the aftermaths of the terrorist carnage in New York Tuesday.
"Santosh and Shah Rukh (Khan) were about to take off for Toronto when the airports in New York closed down," a festival spokesperson told rediff.com. The film might be shown Sunday. But by then, most of the critics and acquisition agents might have left the city, as the festival ends officially on Saturday.
The festival was shut down Wednesday soon after word of World Trade Center collapse made headline news.
Across the border, many movie halls downed shutters; Hollywood cancelled most of its events; Emmy Awards and other glittering events were put down on hold.
But to more than 400 reporters and trade representatives watching Mira Nair's bittersweet film Monsoon Wedding at the Varsity theaters in Toronto, there was no inkling of the enormous tragedy.
The screening started at 0830 hrs. The press conference that was to feature Nair and thespian Naseeruddin Shah at 1100 hrs was cancelled, along with half a dozen other events. Over 100 journalists and trade reps were expected to attend the standing-room-only event.
"I feel bad for my artistes," says Nair. "I would have loved them to meet with the press. It is they -- and the writer -- who have made this film memorable."
"Where will this take us?" Naseeruddin Shah said, referring to the New York events. "When will all this end?"
Before the festival was shut down for a day, its director Piers Handling talked to Nair and several other people including the producers and distributors of the films that were to have their galas on Wednesday.
"Everyone agreed that dark screens were appropriate," he said. "We are a part of a social community that we have to remain sensitive to."
He also said that for a few minutes he had wondered if the festival was to be shut down fully. He met with a festival crisis team for several hours.
Many people, including filmmakers and journalists, told him that such an act would mean only one thing: the terrorists had further succeeded in scaring people.
This was the first time ever that the festival had been shut down, though for half a day. Handling said that in the past, security outside certain theatres had been increased because they were showing films about Balkan wars or Israel. There would be a general increase in the security this week, he said.
The festival authorities promptly set up a counseling centre. Many filmmakers, journalists and trade representatives have friends in New York. Many of the attendees who watched the television coverage of the attacks broke down in the pressroom and were consoled by their friends - and festival volunteers.
Several filmmakers, directors, stars and journalists who had planned to fly out of Toronto on Thursday were stranded. The list includes the British actor Richard Harris, teen heartthrob Heather Graham, character artists Harvey Keitel and Naseeruddin Shah.
"I came to Toronto with great enthusiasm," says Harris, who will turn 71 this month, "to introduce My Kingdom."
The film, a retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear, has one of his finest performances. "And now the film seems to fade into total insignificance," he sighs.
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