It’s a Mumbai I have never seen, as filmmakers and enthusiasts from nooks and crannies of India converge onto screens across Mumbai for the 11th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.
What started as a star-studded, red-carpet affair has emerged, over the last week, as a cornucopia of some excellent Indian & world cinema, animated cinematic conversations, film premieres and cocktails and some serious celebrity spotting.
I can’t show the movies, but if you missed all the action, here’s a lowdown of the 11th Mumbai Film Festival (MFF):
The festival started on a high note with Shashi Kapoor receiving, in person, the life-time achievement award conferred by MAMI. Tinsel town’s most famous faces came out in large numbers for the Indian premiere of Steven Soderberg’s The Informant, and milled around when the opening ceremony started late.
Besides showcasing the best and latest of world cinema, MFF provided a platform to regional Indian cinema, notably two Konkani films – AB Corp’s Vihir (The Well) and NFDC’s The Man Beyond The Bridge. Both films are doing rounds of the international film festival circuit, will be released theatrically in India and had their very own press-cons at MFF. Vihir‘s director Umersh Kulkarni thought out loud, “It depends on how you judge the success of a film – by the number of people who watch the film or how deeply the film affects those who watch it.”
The National Film Development Corporation was for years the lodestar for independent cinema in India, and funded and produced classics like Pather Panchali and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. But the corporation remained largely inactive in the recent past. In a conversation with Bollywood Hungama, NFDC Managing Director Neena Gupta cleared the air, “We produced eight films in the past year. NFDC has a cultural mandate to promote diverse and good cinema and will continue doing so, notwithstanding the commercial considerations.” In good news for cinema fans, the corp. is also doing film restoration work on its huge catalogue and might come out with DVDs, very soon.
A film festival in Mumbai cannot be celebrity-free, but MFF gave movie-lovers an opportunity to catch up with their favorite actors/writers and have some serious cinematic discussions. Spotted were Prem Soni, Kamlesh Pandey, Mohan Agashe, Rema Lagoo, Anu Agarwal, among others.
Antichrist was unarguably the most scandalous film in the festival because of a surfeit of on-screen sex, violence and gore. All of the film’s shows ran full theatre, with people crowding the stairs. Other films which were well received by the audience were Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank and Shahram Alidi’s Whispers with the Wind.
Many in the audience felt that being able to watch legendary Greek film maker Theo Angelopoulos’ retrospective on the big screen was quite a fortune, as the 35mm prints of his films are very rare. Angelopoulos’ films are really enjoyable because of their memorable characters and the unique visual treatment.
Native student talent was found in action at MFF in the form of an acting diploma film from FTII, Amit Dutta’s The Man’s Woman And Other Stories, three short films put together, shot on a shoe-string budget. The film proves that quality cinema can be made in India on very low budgets. Moreover, the fest also had a competition of short films made by college students of Mumbai, an encouraging step for budding film makers.
There’s always a good audience and a not-so-good audience. Some people were really serious about what they had come to watch, others were not really exposed to films. In one of most engaging moments of the film, suddenly you would hear people laughing; reacting the way the film maker would not have wanted them to react. They were not watching the film for what it is, but just like that. Point in case: Antchrist is a very sensitive film, the sex and gore really shakes you up and makes you wonder. But if you do not watch it in that perspective and just as on-screen erotica or gore, then it just shows you are an amateur viewer.
Yet the fact that people came to watch such films, is a big deal, because that means they are forcing themselves to watch something they have not been exposed to before. A step towards the better or as an avid film student told me, “a week full of films for a thousand bucks, is a sweet deal!”