Saket Chaudhary Image Credit: Supplied

The first Pakistan International Film Festival (PIFF) 2018 concluded in Karachi on Saturday with an awards ceremony, that saw film and TV celebrities in attendance.

But what grabbed headlines was the inclusion of its illustrious Indian guests: acclaimed actress-director Nandita Das; award-winning filmmaker and music composer Vishal Bharadwaj; his wife, Rekha Bharadwaj; Baahubali director SS Rajamouli; Hindi Medium’s Saket Chaudhry; and actor Vinay Pathak.

Screenwriter Anjum Rajabali, director Onir, and the writer-director of Jolly LLB (both parts), Subhash Kapoor, were also among other notable guests from India.

Organised in collaboration with the federal ministry of information, the cultural department of Sindh government, Hum TV, and Dawn Media Group, the festival was composed of several panel discussions on pertinent topics such as ‘Film Diplomacy & Cross Border Collaboration,’ ‘Genre Busters: From Script to Screen and Beyond,’ and more.

The Indian luminaries were invited to participate in these sessions, some of which also featured Pakistani stars like Sajal Aly, Hareem Farooq, noted film director Asim Raza, musician turned filmmaker Adnan Sarwar, and veteran columnist Asif Noorani.

Most sessions had the panellists decry the self-imposed ban on Pakistani artists in India.

On the opening day, Aly spoke fervently about how she missed out on promoting her Bollywood film, Mom. “I was extremely sad, because I couldn’t be a part of the promotions, not even in Dubai or anywhere else in the world.

“Why, when we want to own a project that we’re a part of, why aren’t we allowed to do so?”

At another session saw Vishal Bharadwaj talk about the love and respect the common Pakistanis had given him every time he stepped out of his hotel.

The festival also arranged special screenings of Cake, which is currently screening in the UAE. The cast of the film attended the screening, including Aaminah Shaikh, Sanam Saeed and Adnan Malik.

Other films showcased at the festival were Mehreen Jabbar’s Lala Begum, Sirajul Haq’s Moomal Rano, starring Saba Qamar and Ahsan Khan; the Irrfan Khan-starrer, Swiss-French production, The Song of Scorpions; Onir’s latest, Kuch Bheege Alfaaz; The Wishing Tree, which features Shabana Azmi as the protagonist; and Zaraab, the first Balochi language film to be premiered in Pakistan.

Lala Begum won Best Feature on the awards night of the festival.