Tag: mumbai film festival

Last Day at MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2018

The final day of the 20th MAMI festival was the best of the week-long pilgrimage for me. I managed to watch three films – taking the total counter to 13 (a personal record) – one of which was the much-anticipated closing film by Steve McQueen. I was camped up at Regal Cinema, Colaba all day where I found a friend in fellow cinephile Mahesh Bariya and ended the fest with a lavish dinner at the historic Leopold Cafe.

Here’s a rundown of the three films and some experiences of day 7 of the 2018 edition.


Day 7 at MAMI 2018

I was supposed to catch Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post at Regal in the morning but thanks to my sleep cycle, I missed it. So, I planned my train travel for the 2 PM show of Gaspar Noe’s Climax.

I had originally planned all my show at PVR Kurla because I had wanted to catch Ivan Ayr’s Soni – people were raving about it – but because they added a special screening of Climax and because I wanted to try my luck for the closing film, I headed to Colaba instead.

Not many people know this but if you don’t get to booking for a show online, you can still book it from the MAMI ticket counter. A screening at Regal can be booked from the counter of PVR at Juhu – and this is what I am going to do in 2019. As it is, you cannot totally depend on BookMyShow, and I don’t think I can ever forgive it for making me miss Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s Shoplifters. ūüôĀ

Three Back to Back Films at Regal

The first film on day 7 was Gaspar Noe’s upbeat and full-of-energy French dance thriller, Climax, in which dancers come together to rehearse at an old building only to find that their drinks have been spiked with LSD. It’s an overwhelming experience that might make you try the drug. But, don’t do it.

Tejas Nair at MAMI

That’s me right after the closing film. At Regal Cinema, Colaba.

Next up was Debra Grenik’s English-language drama Leave No Trace, which was too dull and uneventful for me. Mine seems to be the unpopular opinion, so I think I will just mention that I had some good food from a nearby restaurant before the screening. Which, in turn, made me a bit sleepy during the show. No complaints, though, because next up was the closing film.

It was sort of a mixed feeling to watch Steve McQueen’s Widows¬†because it was the final show of the 2018 edition of MAMI. Although I watch at least one film per day outside of MAMI, it still gave me the feels. Widows is a great thriller and a cool watch if you like heist dramas. My review here.

I even managed to snap a photo in front of the MAMI standee so that I can show it to my grandchildren if that’s possible or if they are ever born.

No National Anthem at Regal

The best thing about watching a film in MAMI at Regal was that they don’t play the national anthem before the screening. You just sit back, relax, and enjoy the movie without any government-infused interruptions, and that makes me happier. I am going to be watching more films at Regal now at every edition of MAMI.

The same thing is followed by Bandra’s Le Reve where I caught The Gentle Indifference of the World on day 6. Without the national anthem. It just feels so good that you don’t have to put up with patriotism when you just want to enjoy cinema in its purest form. I salute MAMI and its partners for that.


MAMI 2018 Personal Statistics

Here are some numbers that describe my overall experience at MAMI this year, starting from day o:

  • 7 – days experienced
  • 13 – total films watched
  • 13 – film reviews written on IMDb
  • 11 – films watched with pre-booked seats
  • 1400 – approximate minutes of total cinema viewing time
  • 6 – venues visited
  • 90 – approximate minutes spent standing in queues
  • 3 – Q&A sessions attended
  • 4 – times depended on McDonald’s for food
  • 2 – films watched sitting on the first row from the screen
  • 2 – workdays missed

It was a hell of an experience this year. I got to catch both the opening and closing films, which in itself makes the 2018 edition the most successful for me. I had a great time and I hope to have a better one next year.

The dates for the 2019 edition are out: 17 to 24 October! And I am already applying for leaves at work. TN.

Days 4, 5, and 6 at MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2018

After having enjoyed three films on day 3, I came back to my normal on days 4 and 5. Because I was working, I could only catch one movie per day. This time one at PVR Kurla and the other at PVR Mulund. I can say I really missed the hustle bustle of PVR ICON and PVR ECX.

Day 4 was strictly for Leena Yadav’s Rajma Chawal while day 5 had me sitting to watch a weird and one of the most disappointing films for me at MAMI this year, Ali Abbasi’s Border. Day 6 was slightly better with¬†Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s The Gentle Indifference of the World and¬†Shinichiro Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead. A friend described the former as a cherry on the cake this year. It is a brilliant LOL film and is bound to make your jaw pain from all the laughing.

MAMI 2018 screening

The screen just before a movie starts at MAMI 2018.

I also observed a few more things these past three days. Here they are in more detail.

Day 4 at MAMI 2018

It was not surprising to see that the queues outside auditorium 8 at PVR Kurla was the opposite of what I saw in the Andheri theaters. Hardly a few dozens had turned up initially, and so, everyone in the standby line could get in.

As usual, I skipped the PVR cafeteria and grabbed some snacks from the Phoenix Market City food court before the show. Rajma Chawal was screened at 8.15 and so began my first true Bollywood experience at the fest this year.

To be honest, it is not as good as Parched (2016), Yadav’s debut feature produced by Ajay Devgn. This Hindi-language drama here has its moments with Rishi Kapoor and Amyra Dastur being the only saving grace, but overall it’s still a cliched story about the father-son relationship. My short review here. If you still want to catch it, it will be out on Netflix sometime in November.

An Issue with the National Anthem, You Say?

Going back home on day 3 was when I read the news about director Vishal Bhardwaj criticizing the Films Division of India (FDI) for producing an erroneous version of the Indian national anthem. He tweeted that the song goes off-tune sometime in the middle, which apparently hurts the ear (I get it) and the soul (I don’t). I stopped following that news thereafter so I don’t know if the ministry rectified it.

I don’t really pay much attention to the song in the first place, but I did so on day 5…

Day 5 at MAMI 2018

I think I was the only one paying extra close attention to the national anthem that day at PVR Mulund. Honestly, I couldn’t pick up the error. But those who have replied to Bhardwaj’s tweet seem to be able to. Maybe they rectified it.

But what is more disappointing is that I had to sustain Ali Abbasi’s Swedish drama¬†Border that day for close to 100 minutes. Perhaps the only film I rated 3 stars out of 10¬†(spoilers!) this year, it almost put me to sleep. Although I get the theme and what director Abbasi wanted to convey, Border did not give me a pleasant experience. Which again is not a wrong thing because not all films can give you pleasure. Look what The Gentle Indifference of the World did to me…

Day 6 at MAMI 2018

I was at Le Reve, Bandra on day 6 of the fest. A plush theater with some great paintings on the walls. I think¬†Yerzhanov’s Kazakhstani dull drama was equally beautiful but not my type. To describe it in one word: ridiculous. It felt like the makers did not know what to do with the narrative, so they hired a 4-year old to complete it. Maybe that’s what happened. My review on IMDb here.

The second film of day 6 was at PVR Mulund and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Director Ueda’s Japanese horror-comedy¬†One Cut of the Dead is a brilliant zombie experience that only gets better as you move ahead in the narration. I was blown away.

A Lot of People Talking

At the last screening, for the first time, I asked someone to keep quiet. They were sitting right in front of me and discussing the film while it was being projected. I mean, what kind of a monster does one have to be to discuss a film while it’s playing? It was a group of three college students, I believe, who were just randomly commentating the film. As if they wanted to break down the film’s logic.

I truly believe that there should be a no-talking policy at MAMI. Anyone who is caught talking should be thrown out of the hall after one warning. Let them talk all they want outside the hall.

 

The total film counter is at ten right now. I hope to catch at least 3 more films on day 7, the final day, but I’m not sure about the closing film. If I can somehow manage to get a seat, I can confidently say that MAMI 2018 has been the best for me in all these years. TN.

Day 3 of MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2018

Day 3 was the best day I had so far at the MAMI fest 2018. After having caught only one film and two films on day 1 and day 2 respectively, I finally managed to watch three titles. Thank goodness it was a Sunday.

I watched Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, Devashish Makhija’s Bhonsle, and Unnikrishnan Aavala’s Udalaazham on day 3 and you already know which one is my favorite.


Day 3 at MAMI 2018

I had to rush to the screening of Roma at PVR ICON in Andheri thanks to the mega block in central line of Mumbai local. The Metro was a helping hand, but I believe the fastest I have run to catch a film all year was for Cuaron’s masterpiece set in monochrome.

But all that running didn’t help much because all the good seats were already taken. I walked down to the second row from the screen – worst so far – and looked forward to spraining my neck later that night. It did sprain a little.

Walking Out from Roma to Udalaazham

Romaone of the best I watched at MAMI this year – ended at 3 o’clock and I rushed to another auditorium in the same theater. Udalaazham had already started at 2.30, so I missed the opening. But by the end, I managed to understand what director Aavala wanted to convey. Not a fan, but here’s the review.

While the Spanish-language period drama ran houseful, I saw a few people walk out of the Malayalam-language drama. Both talked about human nature and tendencies, but I think maybe a film on homosexuality doesn’t interest many. The hall was more than half empty.

Note – The menace of talkative people and smartphone addicts was in full strength for all the three films, which upset me very much. Where do these people come from? And why do they claim to be film fanatics?

Watching Bhonsle with Manoj Bajpayee

The third film for the day was the Hindi-language crime drama, Bhonsle. It started off very well, but I sensed that director Makhija resorted to his Ajji (2017) elements to move the narrative further while pulling some inventive stuff like a climax shot on an iPhone. The Q&A after the screening was more interesting than the film. My review here.

Bhonsle screening at MAMI

Manoj Bajpayee and Devashish Makhija at the screening of Bhonsle on day 3 of MAMI 2018. / © Urban Asian

Manoj Bajpayee and the director were hosted by Vasan Bala. It was a pleasure to see the thespian actor talk from a one-meter distance because I was sitting on the first row – life-time as well as MAMI record. The discussion was insightful, mostly because Bajpayee revealed more than he should have (I think), often making his answers anecdotal. It was not surprising to hear that it took more than 4 years to produce Bhonsle as the production got delayed due to a cash crunch.

For people who don’t know, this film is a follow-up to the 2016 short story called “Tandav” which involves the same director and actor.

It was disheartening when he later spoke about the struggle that he foresees in distributing the film theatrically in India. I remember how badly Ajji had done at the box office earlier this year, and I have the same fear for Bhonsle. Maybe we have to find a way to save these story-driven films. Maybe Netflix is the answer. I don’t know.

Kudos to the BookMyShow Ground Team

Since day 1 I have been seeing a lot of people slate and attack the on-ground staff of BookMyShow for a variety of reasons. Two of the most common are listed below.

  • Guarding the reserved seats inside the auditorium and not letting the “elitists who always sit on the top row” get their seat where they are often found doing something else
  • Not letting pre-booked ticket-holders go in after the buffer period (15 minutes prior to the show’s start).

The only thing I have to tell them is this: guys, they are just doing their job. And it has been always like this. All you can do is to line up on time (as soon as possible; I know you are racing against time) and take what comes to you. There is no point in barking at the on-ground staff. Moreover, MAMI is never going to disown BookMyShow. So, our best bet is to ignore the shortcomings and enjoy the fest.

Instead of looking at these minor issues, we must come together and congratulate them for their hard work. These people – probably hired from event management organizations – toil round the clock so that we can watch movies day in and day out. And this year, the screenings have been very punctual, you cannot deny that. And I appreciate it.

 

With that appreciation, I would like to close this summary of day 3. The next two days won’t be hectic for me because I plan to catch one film per day. Here’s to a better rest of the festival. TN.

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.

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.