Day 2 of MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2018

It is on day 2 of the 2018 MAMI festival that I realized that if I watch at least one movie per day, I will be standing a record seven times for the national anthem in a single week. If I consider this fact the way the government thinks forced patriotism works then I will be a pukka patriot by day 7 or maybe even before that. Interesting, isn’t it?

After some issues with the booking on day 0 and a good day 1 at the fest with the golden chance of watching the opening film, I took it a notch up and caught two films on day 2. I was at Andheri’s PVR ICON the whole day and had to miss Aditya Sengupta’s Jonaki because BookMyShow did not want me to embrace old-age nudity. Friends tell me that I am lucky I missed it because it was a snoozefest. Can anyone else corroborate that?


Day 2 of MAMI 2018

The day started with Rahul Riji Nair’s terrific Malayalam-language drama, Ottamuri Velicham, followed by an interesting Q&A session with the director himself. I liked the film very much and also reviewed it later on IMDb. But it upsets me to know that it will not have a theatrical release in India as the makers rightly believe that there may not be enough viewers interested in the topic of marital rape and it might then become difficult to cover even the distribution costs. (They are planning a digital release, though.) Such is the story of most India Gold films featured at the festival over the past decade. Ruchika Oberoi’s Island City (2016) and Konkona Sen Sharma’s A Death in the Gunj (2017) are just two examples.

Which is also why I am glad to have caught it at MAMI. For a film about marital rape, there is no nudity or vulgarity, but the makers still had a problem certifying it. Reason: The CBFC and the Animal Welfare Board of India had issues with the picturisation of animals (wild boars and a hen) in the film. Animals! Which has to be the most ridiculous thing I heard on day 2 at MAMI. Perhaps the most ridiculous thing of all time in the history of cinema.

Ottamuri Velicham at MAMI

A poster of Ottamuri Velicham. / © First Print Studios

The Q&A Session of Ottamuri Velicham

Another fascinating point about this screening was that it was shown along with the tobacco warnings (the poorly-produced Rahul “The Wall” Dravid advertisement). I was a bit miffed because that is the second thing that annoys me about watching films in theaters in India. (The other is this.) But then the session moderator clarified why. She said that the festival is not allowed to show the uncensored version once the film has been censored. And it was, last year itself when it also won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Film.

Director Nair spoke at length about the struggles of making his debut and also shared stories about it, which took up most of my time before I rushed to the next screening.

Surprise Screening: Ruben Brandt, Collector

If there is one type of film that I am not interested in then it’s animation. And yet I found my way into the PVR auditorium that played Milorad Krstic’s Ruben Brandt, Collector, a Hungarian English-language animated comedy-drama. I was honestly impressed by the film, which is an exercise in paying attention to details. Review here.

The disadvantage of being in the standby line and having to sit on a seat in the first row is that by the end of the show you lose all energy and neck power to continue with the fest. I headed home by Mumbai Metro and enjoyed myself a nice buffet dinner with friends.

Pro Tip

It is wise to carry a water bottle and a few energy bars with you all the time if you plan to catch at least two movies in a day. You won’t get time to have lunch or dinner (let alone a proper one) so Snickers can be your friend then. Bags are checked before you enter the theaters, so make sure your bag has secret pockets. Or else end up being robbed by the theater’s cafeteria because hunger and cinema don’t go well together.

Heading to Day 3

I have planned four films for day 3, but I don’t think I will be able to catch the morning show. Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma and Devashish Makhija’s Bhonsle are on top of the list (latter, especially because Manoj Bajpayee is gonna be there). Here’s to an even better third day at the lovely Mumbai Film Festival. TN.

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Day 1 of MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2018

Day 1 of MAMI film festival started with going to work but ended with an easy, evening show of Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota at Andheri’s PVR ICON. It was the opening film and its first show, so naturally, the multiplex verandas were overcrowded.

I enjoyed the film very much but I could sense a mixed response from the crowd. You can read my capsule review here.


Day 1 of MAMI 2018

Now that the most common question is answered, let’s move on to some other tidbits surrounding events that made up the first day of the festival this year.

Traffic between the venue (Infiniti mall) and Andheri station is slow, but I reached a lot earlier than I had thought. Although I reached one hour before the show, the area in front of auditoriums 2, 3, and 4 were ridiculously crowded with poorly managed queues and random people asking you to excuse them every second minute. It was easy to spot the queue I was supposed to be in because it was the longest and the loudest.

Going into Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota

Much to my disappointment, I got to sit in the fifth row from the screen. Since at least half a dozen of the back rows were reserved for the better and more important people, loyalists like us were ushered to the front side. Many people complained but gave in because we always do.

There even was a brawl some fifteen minutes before the start of the show. A group of cinephiles started shouting, clearly noticing the discrimination, which led to a group of MAMI organizers shouting back. We were in for entertainment at the fest even before the opening film’s credits roll began. How exciting is that!

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota crew

(L-R) Gulshan Devaiah, Abhimannyu Dassani, Vasan Bala, and Ronnie Screwvala during the introduction of their film.

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota was introduced by Ronnie Screwvala (producer) followed by the director himself, in the presence of lead actors, Abhimannyu Dassani and Gulshan Devaiah. Saw a bit of a sexist remark there when they talked about Radhika Madan’s absence. Very much in contrast to a whiteboard placed outside the auditorium that had the title – #MeToo @ MAMI – on it. :/ The film began minutes later to a thunderous welcome from a full house.

Since I was coming in directly from work, I had thought of grabbing some energy bars during the intermission. Only to realize later that one of the pros of being a film festival usual is that you get to see movies like they should be seen – the entire length in one go and without intermissions. (Watching Bollywood movies in Indian theaters does that to you.)

On the other hand, the downside is that you have to attend and stand for the national anthem. Any thought of skipping it, like I often try to do, will mean that you forfeit your booked seat.

The Q&A After the Opening Film

The other upshot of film festivals is that you also get to meet and interact with the main cast and crew of most of the films you watch. As I mentioned above, the top guns of the film were present at the screening with Miss Madan joining us soon afterwards.

After some interesting questions from film critic Baradwaj Rangan, the mic turned to the audience and I was slightly blown away by the type of questions some people asked. From the usual questions to ones about the screen size and colour grading, it was like a cherry on top of the entire event. There are still some things about cinema I am learning right now after having attended the Young Critics Lab last year. Devaiah’s antics were in full show at the session even as director Bala tried to answer the questions diligently.

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota still

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota has terrific action sequences. / © MAMI

It was not surprising to see that even Bala mentioned something that implied piracy of his own film (his debut venture, Peddlers (2012)) when someone asked how they could get their hands on it now that they were impressed by Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. (Last year the festival, American director Ava DuVernay also made a similar remark about piracy.) It was clever of Bala to make that remark, but an even cleverer one was pulled by Screwvala, who at the end of the session, politely asked the hall to give a short standing ovation to the crew. Looks like the Indian audience is not as warm or receiving as the West, he quipped.

If you are going to be in Andheri this week and will get a rickshaw, make sure you fire up Google Maps and see that the driver is not fleecing you. Enjoy the rest of the festival and keep in touch here at nair tejas dot com. Find out the day 0 stuff here.

Heading to Day 2

I had planned to watch two films on day 2 – Rahul Riji Nair’s Light in the Room (Malayalam) and Aditya Sengupta’s Jonaki (Bengali) – but BookMyShow told me I could only watch one. Here’s to a better second day at MAMI 2018. TN.

MAMI fest bag

Finally picked up my MAMI bag. A souvenir to cherish.

 

MAMI 2018 kit

The MAMI 2018 catalogue has some great write-ups and descriptions.

 

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Day 0 of MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2018

The 2018 edition of MAMI Mumbai Film Festival started on a low note for cinephiles, some of whom, like me, woke up unusually early to book the tickets for day one i.e. 26 October. Although it took me some time, I managed to get a seat for the first show of the opening film, Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. Since I am working tomorrow, I can only catch that one film, and I think that makes this a good start for me.

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota

The coveted BMS pass for the opening film.

I got my badge yesterday from Matterden, Lower Parel. Unfortunately, the stock was out on the festival bags, which upset me a little, but I was promised one today. The reason given was weird but I took it.

MAMI film festival 2018 badge

My delegate pass for 2018’s MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.

Starting Problem

The booking was supposed to start on the BookMyShow website at 8 AM sharp. However, due to the massive appeal of the festival and a large number of people logging in at the same time, the website crashed. And it crashed again and again until it was back on its feet at 11.30 AM. It’s both fun and disappointing to read the tweets at the #JioMAMIwithStar hashtag on Twitter.

Most delegates complained about BookMyShow’s substandard server capabilities and blamed this year’s lower entry fee (INR 500) for the booking glitch. I actually don’t agree because I have witnessed this every single year since 2015. The fact that I got an internet boost specifically for this month must have had a role to play in my ticket-booking success.

Functions

According to MAMI’s Twitter, day-long functions took/are taking place in at least two different venues in Mumbai. The formal inauguration of the festival will be followed by the firsts screenings tomorrow at 10 AM across different venues.

The opening film will be first shown at 7.30 PM at PVR ICON in Versova, which will also include an introduction and a Q&A session with the crew before and after the screening respectively. A bit stoked about this because this is the first time I am getting a seat for the opening film. I had missed Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh in 2015 and Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz in 2017. I had skipped the whole fest in 2016 where I hear that Konkona Sen Sharma’s A Deah in the Gunj was received with much pomp by revellers.

Plan for Day One

I will be taking the local train and Mumbai Metro to get to PVR ICON to watch the opening film. Following which I intend to summarize the experiences of the day at midnight. Here’s to a fun-filled and entertaining film festival this year. TN.

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota still

A still from the opening film, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. / © MAMI

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MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2018 – Preview and Plan

It’s finally that time of the year. When I look for cheeky excuses so that I can take a few days off from work to experience cinema the way it should be. Without kids, without anti-smoking disclaimers, and without censorship. It is when I put everything else on low priority and make love with cinema. Yes, it is the 20th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival starting from this Friday, 25 October 2018.

And I’m all too excited.

mumbai film festival 2018

The 2018 line-up is one of the best in a long time despite not having Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born. / © MAMI

Rewind to the Previous Editions

2015 was when I first attended the MAMI film festival and it was a dream come true. Dear friend Rohith Ravindranath of The Review Monk reached out to me and asked if I could cover the festival for their Bollywood film review aggregation website.

I had no experience in anything remotely close to what was expected of me but I said yes. The day I received my festival bag was when I fell in love with the festival. (People who know me also know how fascinated I am by merchandise and stationery.) I honestly didn’t do a great job then (even jinxing an interview with filmmaker Ruchika Oberoi who had a premiere of her debut feature, anthology drama, Island City that year), but I did produce a few articles that I am still proud of. For instance, here’s my take on Satyajit Ray’s “The Apu Trilogy”, a restored version of which I got to see that year. All three films on the big screen! Yup!

I had to skip the 2016 edition.

MAMI Mumbai film festival 2017

My bag and other stuff from the 2017 edition.

But, 2017 was a great year because I got to attend the Young Critics Lab, one of the most exciting experiences in my life. I learned a lot about film criticism and writing, and on the way, caught Indian premieres of some great indie films like Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Sexy Durga and Devashish Makhija’s Ajji. 2017 was also the year I interacted with people who are honestly passionate about cinema.

And I am hoping the same happens this year as I count down to Friday.

2018 Mumbai Film Festival – A Quick Preview

Although the official dates of the festival this year are 25 October 2018 to 1 November 2018, the actual film screenings do not start until the 26th. Which means you still have two days to register. Don’t think twice!

According to the Academy, more than 200 films will be screened at the venues across Mumbai. I have a few favorites and must-watch films that I will talk about later. But, for now, let’s see why the Jio MAMI film festival is better in its 20th anniversary. Here’s a sneak peek:

The ticket price this year is just INR 500 (around $7) and if you are a student you can go in for free. There are a few terms associated with that free student pass, though, so make sure you read them carefully at BookMyShow or the official MAMI site. Looks like the Academy is doing everything it can to attract the crowd, which honestly it does not need. The number of people who flocked Regal Cinema in 2017 to watch Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz was astronomical. I even heard that people were sitting on the floor to catch the opening film; the craze eventually transferred to the rest of the festival as well.

Also check out the beautiful and content-rich catalogue for the 2018 edition here. Even if you miss the festival, a good read of this will give you enough cinematic fodder to appreciate the art.

Films to Watch Out

The opening film is India’s highly entertaining answer to Deadpool, Vasan Bala’s Hindi-language superhero film, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (The Man Who Feels No Pain), which a lot of people seem to be very excited about. (I am int the moderate level, to be honest.) It will have its premiere at 7.30 PM at PVR ICON in Andheri on the 26th. And I hope to catch it.

Map of MAMI fest venues

The venue map / © MAMI

There are a massive 64 films in the World Cinema section of the festival, and I think it is the biggest haul we have ever seen. Many of these 64 are regarded as must-watch films at the 2018 edition. But, still, I have made my own list based on the hype, reviews from other film festivals around the world, and pure cinematic artistry.

A list of all the screenings can be found here. The entire personal list of 50 must-watch films can be found at my IMDb profile here. Out of these 50, the following 10 are already available on VOD. So, I think it will be wise to focus on the ones that are not. Some others like Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and Paul Dano’s Wildlife will be out in the next few weeks.

List of Films at 2018 MAMI that are on VOD

  1. Burning
  2. Cold War
  3. First Reformed
  4. Mandy
  5. Transit
  6. Leave No Trace
  7. Sorry to Bother You
  8. Madeline’s Madeline
  9. Thunder Road
  10. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

I might still try to catch Josephine Decker’s Madeline’s Madeline and Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace on the big screen because they really are of my type.

Top 10 Must-Watch Films at the Festival

The following 10 are based on personal tastes and expectations. So, there is a high chance you may not agree with it, especially because I have given Jean-Luc Godard’s The Image Book the snub.

  1. Light in the Room
  2. Jonaki
  3. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  4. Roma
  5. Shoplifters
  6. Rajma Chawal
  7. Udalaazham
  8. In the Aisles
  9. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
  10. An Elephant Sitting Still

I don’t know if I will be able to catch all of these because getting tickets is a real struggle. You are supposed to get up before 8 AM the previous day and book for shows you are interested in. 9 out of 10 times, either the BookMyShow site crashes, or my internet speed turns slow, or the show itself is sold out before I can blink an eye. (Which makes me wonder what do other film festivals around the world do if they are not busy.)

The 7-Day Plan

I will be collecting my badge on Wednesday, 24 October 2018. After which I intend to follow a schedule that works for me. Here is a snapshot of how I plan to experience the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival in 2018. Pardon the atrocious handwriting and brevity.

You may view or download the full schedule here.

MAMI Mumbai film festival 2018 personal plan

A bird’s eye view of my plan. Comments on the handwriting will not be entertained. (Click to enlarge on a new tab.)

The axes are time and date. I plan to cover the entire festival on October 28, October 31, and November 1. Rest of the days, work comes between me and cinema. Which will actually pay for the commute. Because getting from one venue to another (if you are not in Andheri) can be really tedious. It’s the Mumbai film festival, not the DIFF.

Based on this schedule, I will be mostly hanging at PVR ICON and PVR ECX in Andheri. If you wanna say hello or maybe even catch a film together, email me.

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota still

A still from the opening film, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. / © MAMI

The first day will be only for Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. The second day will be more fun with Light in the Room and Jonaki at PVR ECX. Or else, a three-movie marathon at Regal Cinema, Colaba.

The third day – Sunday – will be exciting. I wish to catch The Heiresses, Roma (or Udalaazham), Bhonsle (or Ash is Purest White or House of My Fathers or Wildlife), and Shoplifters (or The Day I Lost My Shadow).

Forth day will be again dedicated for either Rajma Chawal (or Light in the Room (if I miss it the first time) or Too Late to Die Young). Same goes for the fifth day when I hopefully will catch Border at PVR Mulund, followed by Climax at PVR Juhu.

The last two days look exciting as well, which I will hopefully end with Steve McQueen’s Widows.

I will be completely skipping the discussions, interviews, and short films this year because I want to focus only on feature films. The talk with Sean Baker and Darren Aronofsky look good, so there’s a chance that if I don’t get a seat for the films I might take a look here.

Note: The New Medium III i.e. multi-screen cinema, where content will be projected on three screens at the same time looks interesting. If you are interested, do check out the schedule.

Heading to the Festival

I will try to post daily updates here but I am not sure how feasible that will be with all the traveling and work stuff taking up my time. If you are interested, there’s an active thread up on Reddit that I started to see what other film enthusiasts have to say about the festival. Alternatively, follow r/bollywood there to get more updates.

I am quite excited this year because things are going as per plan so far this time. If I am able to catch even a dozen films, I will be content. And preparing for a better 2019…

Note: Featured image courtesy of Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image (MAMI).

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Argument Against the Item Song in Kayamkulam Kochunni

I watched Rosshan Andrrews’s Kayamkulam Kochunni last day and I liked it. You can read my review here.

But there is one thing that I did not like: an item song titled ‘Nrithageethikalennum’ featuring Canadian model Nora Fatehi. The song itself is all right and adds to the masala and setting of the film, but the problem I have is with its sheer existence and the picturization. It has been categorically made to appeal to the male gaze, both in and out of the screen.

Even as the Indian film industry scrambles to think through and look at doing away with it, here we are using it to do what it has always been used to: drive more men into the theaters. I know that you may have your doubts with this article – coming from a male himself – but I am going to make my points anyway.

The Argument

I understand why director Andrrews may have resorted to putting an item number into his magnum opus, which is now the most expensive Malayalam film (INR 45 crores). He (and his producer Gokulam Gopalan) wants his money back and more. And for that people need to be barge in in the initial weeks. For those uninterested in history, flesh show compensates. At least that’s what I like to believe. It’s like falling to another low in box office business.

I also understand that the item number is a storyboard requirement. The makers want to show how cabaret was a common source of entertainment for English officers. And by showing that, also describe their sexist and condescending nature, mostly against Indians. I get it.

But what I don’t get is why. If showing what the British Raj enjoyed watching in the late 1800s in India was so important for the narrative, then why not also show other aspects of their lifestyle? Why does it have to be an isolated topic – an entire song that goes on for 4 minutes with a woman dancing and seducing? Finally, why make the central character validate it? I would understand if that was part of character development, but in this Malayalam film, it isn’t. Showing that the character was interested in cabaret has absolutely no impact on the rest of the story.

Lastly, the way the item number has been choreographed also points to the ultimate intention of the makers. If you observe the video song closely, the camera focuses on those body parts of Miss Fatehi that are devoid of habiliments or those that are naturally bound to evoke the feeling of sexual desire in a person (mostly male).

Cinematic Liberty and Style

I am convinced that the item number in Kayamkulam Kochunni (2018) was only placed to appeal to those who fancy it. And that’s a majority in a sex-starved country like India.

I am also convinced that this is what filmmakers consider as a catalyst to ensure box office success. But, I think it is high time that filmmakers – mostly in southern India – respect the current culture and social landscape and push the concept of item numbers into oblivion. The film industry is currently experiencing one of the most significant movements in a long time – the #MeTooIndia movement – and it is probably also the right time to shed elements that have dictated Indian cinema for ages. Item number, being one, and the idea of not passing the Bechdel test, being the next target.

It is up to each filmmaker to decide whether they want to add an item song in their film or not. The day when they don’t even think about it is when we will move towards being an industry that is culturally and socially sensitive. Otherwise, all this courageous activism is going to bite the dust in a few months, manhandled and subdued by the oppressive.


PS – I still remember the time I edited an article for The Review Monk during the 2015 edition of MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. I was summarizing an interview of a panel of women in Bollywood and had misheard the term “male gaze” as “male gays”. The lovely Ruhi Sinha corrected me later that day and here I am today. I hadn’t heard the term before that. How childish of me.

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  • about me

    Tejas Nair is a freelance copywriter based in Mumbai, India. He writes about cinema, literature, current affairs, culture, and society. He manages search-based digital campaigns for Publicis. more »