If you didn’t get the whole picture from the title of the post, then you should read the event announcement on Samyukta Media website. I prefer not to repeat all about it here.

I wanted to go to Puri, to attend the BYOFF for the last 5 years, ever since Swagat told me about it. Swagat was part of the first BYOFF which makes him one of the unofficial founding members of BYOFF. I say unofficial because essentially BYOFF is a participatory, volunteer driven film festival and no body in particular owns it.

Swagat have been always telling me that the BYOFF participants, independent film makers and artists across the country, are not so much into social media. So we always wanted to do a media convergence workshop here. Every year we would plan it but would not make it. This year I was finally able to make it to Puri but Swagat could not because he wasn’t keeping well.

So this happened to be my sole backpacking trip to Puri for BYOFF and Social Media Baithak.

Alphabets of the Bhadaas Dho Slogan being painted by volunteers
Alphabets of the Bhadaas Dho Slogan being painted by volunteers

Almost all Bengalis have made a trip to Puri once in their life time. I too have been to Puri once in my childhood with my parents. The word panda is the first things that comes to mind from my experience even though I was merely a toddler when I gained that experience. Pandas are people who will escort you, guide you, extort you if you are a tourist in Puri. On the whole not someone you will be very pleased to meet.

And there I was, going to the land of pandas all alone with no plan. I mean I didn’t really know anyone here besides the unofficial-organizers of BYOFF with who I had exchanged few mails and phone calls. I didn’t advance book any hotel and instead decided to try out the budget hotels once I reach. I also didn’t book my return tickets. For my parents that sounded like a perfect attempt to elope with a boyfriend, except that they know I don’t have any, boyfriend that is, and they will really be glad if I did elope as long as I came back married.Photo0280

I did not elope. I have now come back from BYOFF overwhelmed with feelings and emotions and I am not sure if I can do justice to them all. I have been loved enormously by the friends I met there, just when I had given up on it, laughter stayed on for all 5 days and I am still smiling every now and then remembering the fun times.

So much happened during these 5 days, so many films, artists, music, poetry, conversations, food, drinks, smokes, feelings, emotions. And lets face it, a thin stroke of hard-to-ignore sexual undercurrent. After all we were mostly a bunch of young and restless artists. Artists are romantics, its hard to escape that sensuality.

Art installation at BYOFF 2011
Art installation at BYOFF 2011

Not that I am here to give out scoops for the tabloids, but you know that giggling away of your friend at a lame joke you made, that accidental brush of somebody’s hair against your shoulder, they meant something, were leading somewhere. Each nights gushing with audio visual delights by the sea beach, sometimes on the screen, at other times a live smooth voice crooning while another playing a live drum, cold sands under your feet, a drink in your hand, even the stone sculpture on Konark temple would want to come alive and make love.

Ok, now hold your imagination right there, we were all very sober and nothing of that shame-shame stuff happened, we are the Indians. (of course pun is intended, huh)

I did meet someone though, well actually quite a few of them. I even wrote a poem for one of them (published here earlier). Alas, I still couldn’t properly answer the first question mom asked me when I came back, “Did you meet someone?” Mom always asks me this silly question whenever I am back from such trips.

“No, mom I didn’t meet someone, I met many and its hard to make a choice, too many options is what is ruining the new generation.”

Photo0247On a rough estimate BYOFF was attended by around 300-400 film lovers. Over 100s of films were screened. Because of the overwhelming participation, they had to put up an additional screen on Day 2. The complete schedule of BYOFF is here. For me the highlights of BYOFF were the screening of the films Gandu, Videokaaran, all Pankaj Advani films; the screening of films made / associated by my friends, Shupriyo, Ankur, Tarini, Chetan; the Social Media Baithak which I conducted twice; the kind words and blessings I got from Mr and Mrs Singh (Gurpal’s parents) for it, the awesome Piyush Mishra song that Chetan and group sang, the staying awake on the sea beach all through the night, the super cool banana aunty, the graffiti, the bhadaas dho banners, and much more.

A lot of the above wouldn’t make sense to those who haven’t been to the BYOFF. So, keep following the next parts of this series to read more.

Photo0242 BYOFF is not just a place to showcase films, its a place where you can lose yourself and absorb others. On the first day I was tweeting about the films and related experience. Second day onwards I couldn’t do that anymore. I felt like the world outside the BYOFF venue and the Puri beach was slowly evaporating, I lost track of time and day, I begin to forget who I was outside, I didn’t remember my pending work, didn’t remember the emails to reply, missed calls to return. I lost a little bit of me, and became a little bit of what BYOFF was…free.Photo0240

BYOFF runs on donation money, it has survived this long without any corporate/organizational sponsorship purely because of the undying love and dedication some people have for the concept. But for its sustainability it is important to figure out a structure. Perhaps the original team behind this great concept is already at work but meanwhile each one of us could contribute to this unique film festival.

If you want to put some money in the BYOFF piggy bank please find the details here.

I am officially a BYOFFian now. I already know I am going to be a regular, and who knows, may be someday I will take my own films to it.

Here are some pictures.

<End of part 1>

<Coming up – Day to day Travelogue of the trip>