Panaji (Goa), Nov 26 (IANS) Not too long ago patients hobbled around here, plastered and in bandages, and sick children shed many a tear. Today the International Film Festival of India's (IFFI) dreams are being nurtured in the very same place.
The 38th edition of IFFI, being held in Goa for the fourth successive year, got off to a colourful start Friday and its venue - on a riverside promenade on the western side of Goa's capital Panaji - was a hospital a few years ago.
The 'Old GMC (Goa Medical College) complex', as it is still referred to, was built on the main road along the Mandovi river in 1927.
Former civil servant and conservation expert Percival Noronha notes that the period look of this building is evident from its Roman, Neo-classical and Gothic style, semi-circular arched windows, wooden ceilings, cast iron railings, and ornamental tiles with rose motifs.
It also has long corridors, balustrades, pilasters, mouldings, ornamental grills, occluses, stained glass windows of Gothic style windowpanes, porches and pillars resembling the Doric Order.
Today, the building has got a costly re-do. To restore two more old buildings -which also house the media centre - the Goa government spent an estimated Rs.140 million this year.
Being restored just prior to this IFFI was a place now called the Maquinez Palace. This complex was built as a countryside resort by the Portuguese noble family of the Count of Maquinez, on the banks of the Mandovi river.
Entertainment Society of Goa's press spokesperson Ethel da Costa, told IANS that there was a total shortage of historical information about this place.
The Maquinez Palace was spacious and had a chapel of its own, still visible and sitting incongruously alongside the film festival that celebrates beauty, sex, glamour and politics. Built in 1720, the chapel is devoted to Our Lady of Sorrows.
The palace functioned till Pangim (as the city was then known) grew through the early 1800s. It was taken over by the Portuguese government to house the Escola Medico, one of the early medical schools in South Asia, in 1842.
Over time, this building came to be in a state of disrepair, and was 'devoid of any specific function', as the government itself concedes in an official press note.
Currently, the 18th century palace has been restored with lightening, sanitary and drainage facilities, and even a shivery-cold air-conditioning system.
Goa, with its strange mix of colonial infrastructure, has had some strange locations for its projects.
Its fledging university was housed in an unfinished hospital in the 1980s, while till recently the state secretariat and legislative assembly were housed in a scenic colonial building that was the palace of Adil Shah of Bijapur in pre-colonial times.
This year IFFI movies are being shown on the Baina beach - earlier a red-light district - and also in distant places like the mining-dominated town of Bicholim.
More cine theatres have been roped in to screen IFFI films this year, while late-night buses have also been arranged in otherwise public transport-scarce Goa.
Goa's website for the event is at iffigoa.org. With the uncertainty over whether IFFI will continue in Goa itself - once packaged as the festival's 'permanent venue' - the state government is also stretching to retain its claim to host the event, even if it comes at not a small price to the exchequer.