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World Trade Centres before they collapsed.




Shah Rukh, Santosh Sivan stranded in NY

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 

"Santosh and Shah Rukh (Khan) were about to take off for Toronto when 
the airports in New York closed down," a festival spokesperson told 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 

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. 

Arthur J Pais in Toronto


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