MUSCAT ó Top stars from Hollywood, Bollywood and the Arab world assembled under one roof in a rare get-together as the seventh edition of the Muscat International Film Festival (MIFF) got off to a spectacular start on Saturday.
Scintillating performances by Lebanese singing sensation Nancy Ajram, percussion maestro Sivamani and rope dancer Isha Sharvani from India and Omani singer Saleh Zadjali, kept the packed audience glued to their seats till the end.
Meanwhile, organisers of the eight-day event, the Oman Film Society (OFS), said Bollywood actors Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor had called off their participation in MIFF citing ‘security reasons’.
Dr Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Harasi, Chairman of the Public Authority for Radio and Television, presided over the opening ceremony in the presence of several other dignitaries including ministers, top government officials and heads of diplomatic missions.
Welcoming them, Dr Khalid Al Zadjali, chairman of the festival and OFS, said the annual MIFF had played a key role in developing the film culture in the country.
“A film festival is the first step in a 1,000-mile journey. But I believe the dawn of Omani cinema is fast approaching as we now have the basic infrastructure in place. It may not happen tomorrow, but when you know how to get there that day will come soon enough,” he added.
Cinema, he observed, was a gathering point of civilisation, culture and ideas, adding: “Through it we achieve a lot, in the field of human rights, child rights women rights and freedom of thought.”
Nancy Ajram regaled the audience with three of her widely popular numbers, while percussionist Sivamani electrified the atmosphere with his unique skills, at times assisted by an Omani musician on the bagpipe. Salah Al Zadjali, the much admired local singer, drew rounds and rounds of applause with his Arabic-Hindi songs.
Rope dancer Isha Sharvani, ably assisted by her troupe, presented a breathtaking demonstration of her acrobatic skills. Other attractions of the evening included a folklore troupe from the Batinah region and stand-up comedian from Korea Wonho Chong, speaking to the audience in both Arabic and English.
Zadjali, the MIFF Chairman, felicitated members of the jury panel led by chairperson Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore.
Several renowned film personalities from around the world were honoured for their contribution to cinema. They included Oscar winning Hollywood actor Forest Whitaker; Omani actor Shaikh Abdullah Al Hosni; Egyptian star Nadia Al Jundi; Moroccan actor Amidou; and Indian actors Nandita Das and Victor Banerjee.