Tag: Mumbai

The Definitive Guide to the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival

MAMI festival guide for first timers

Everyone talks about the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) but no one talks about how to do it right. There’s a lot of information out there, most of which is pushed out by MAMI itself but it’s all scattered around on social media and other boring places that no one visits anymore like Facebook.

So, as a festival regular since 2015, allow me to provide you with everything that you need to know about inarguably the biggest cinema extravaganza of India. I will cover almost everything:

  • Why you need to visit
  • Registration through BookMyShow (i.e. getting the festival season pass)
  • Booking seats through BookMyShow (most critical)
    • The art of queuing up if you fail to pre-book
    • The art of queuing up to get the best seats in the hall
  • Selecting what films to watch
  • Strategy and planning
    • Finances, travel (how to shuttle between venues), and accommodation (where to stay)
  • Film festival etiquette (i.e. what is expected of you)
  • How to stay hydrated and nourished between the screenings (critical)

This is a no-nonsense and comprehensive guide. It is going to be long but I also promise you it will be worth it and will make your MAMI experience a lot better because things do tend to get chaotic. Both first-timers and fellow haunters, take note.

Let me start with an important question.

Why Should You Attend the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival?

I was a having a conversation with a friend recently who looked a little perplexed when I told her that you cannot even murmur during a screening in a film festival setting for the fear of admonishment from fellow viewers. It stunned her that talking to a person, or worse, on the phone, while a film is playing is frowned upon. It simply did because she is accustomed to the mainstream movie-watching experience, that barbaric way of watching a movie, while also eating food, browsing Twitter, and commentating the proceedings of the film playing on the screen. It’s not her fault and the MAMI film festival is just not for them. Or maybe it is, as a new way to engage with cinema.

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota crew
(L-R) Gulshan Devaiah, Abhimanyu Dassani, Vasan Bala, and Ronnie Screwvala during the introduction of their film Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota at the 2018 edition.

The festival is for anyone who has ever been enchanted by a piece of cinema. Whether it is a short film they saw on YouTube or an obscure film they watched when on a holiday in Germany or a Bollywood masala film. The MAMI MFF has everything for everybody.

It is not just a festival that screens films from around the world. It’s about the community that comes together and celebrates for a whole week while disregarding everything else, even family. Folks like me apply for leaves at work and spend entire days at the festival. And they keep coming back every year because once you experience it self-control becomes an imaginary ability.

Finding an obscure film that was never on your watchlist and enjoying it, bumping into that small-time actor you saw in an indie film and loved but can’t recognize but you still go ahead and say hi, standing in a long queue and kicking up a conversation with a fellow cinephile, experiencing the cinema the way it should be (without censorship and disclaimers), watching the cast and crew speak about their film with more passion than they usually speak in interviews, finding your new favourite director or writer or music producer, watching actors and directors talk about their art and sharing tips, getting busy with film screenings with no time to even post about it on film Twitter, devouring a burger in less than two minutes because you are already late for the screening, and going back home at the end of the day thinking and dreaming about the visual magic you just saw earlier in the day – the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival is everything that you have never experienced about cinema.

A Brief Introduction to MAMI

So you have finally managed to take some time off and decided to experience it. Or is it your cinephile friend who has been raving about it for the whole year and has now cajoled you to participate? Or are you a (film) student who’s just found out about it and can’t wait to see what a festival feels like? The MAMI Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) is no doubt worth every resource you spend on it. Whether it’s some time off work to enjoy the festival in all its glory by attending all seven days and catching all the buzz-worthy films. Or the finances that you need for the registration, transportation, and in some cases, accommodation. Or the emotional energy that you will need to expend if you are to become a faithful festival participant who’s out there to enjoy cinema the way it should be. It’s an experience that will enrapture you and make you come back every year. MAMI promises you that and I can confirm it.

Whatever may be your motivation to attend the MAMI fest and whatever you may have heard from past delegates, I confirm that every part of it is true. Experiencing the festival is a feeling that gives you instant pleasure and the film screening may not even have begun.

Here are a few things about the MAMI MFF if you are a first-timer:

It’s a national-level film festival that aims to celebrate cinema. It is the biggest film event in India and features tens and tens of films – from arthouse dramas to international buzz-worthy titles to Indian genre-benders. If films are the highlight, the sessions and celebrity interviews add the glamour and technicality to it. The madness that you observe at the venues feeds your desire to belong. You will find everyone from filmmakers to film students to journalists to technicians who have all gathered to do just one thing: enjoy cinema.

india gold 2019 mami mff
India Gold is one of the top categories of MFF / credit MAMI

The films at the fest are classified based on their origin and type. Some of these are competitive, meaning awards will be given out for the best film as adjudged by the jury. Here are all the categories of films at MAMI MFF (these are colour-coded in the schedule):

  • Opening Film
  • India Gold – contemporary Indian fiction and documentary features
  • International Competition – films by debut international filmmakers
  • Dimensions Mumbai – films by emerging Indian filmmakers
  • Discovering India – films with Indian cast or about India
  • Half Ticket – children’s cinema
  • After Dark – films in the horror and thriller genres and subgenres
  • World Cinema – films from around the world
  • Special Presentations – gives a tribute to a country or a type of films
  • India Story – films with India as the backdrop
  • Spotlight – mainstream Indian cinema (premieres)
  • Marathi Talkies – Marathi-language films
  • Restored Classics – classic films from India and around the world
  • Movie Mela – talks by celebrities from India and the world

A few more defining features of the festival:

  • Films are not censored and do not have idiotic disclaimers that are otherwise mandatory for theatrical release
  • All non-English films have subtitles
  • National anthem is often not played
  • Everyone is equal when they are attending a screening
  • You can participate in Q&A sessions and ask anything to the cast and crew of a film (look for this info in the schedule)
    • But avoid criticizing the film if you participate in the Q&A
  • Most delegates are people who are extremely serious about the fest, so you can expect to find people that are very much like you.

Now that you are hopefully hyped up, here’s everything you need to do the MAMI MFF the right way. The definitive guide with strategies, tips, and tricks from yours truly who has been a fervent follower of the event as well as the film festivals sphere of India since 2015.

Let’s start with the registration.

How to Register for MAMI MFF

Once you have made the decision to attend the fest, the next step is to register on BookMyShow (BMS). There’s no last date for registration so there’s no need to hurry, especially those who want to see the lineup and the schedule before they make up their mind. All these details are out just a week before the festival.

Therefore, the right time to register is a week or two before the festival start date. But make sure you plan the seven days out at least a month ago if you are a working professional or student or coming from outside the city. Applying for leaves and managing accommodation beforehand can always be helpful and cost-effective.

(For the 2019 edition, the entire lineup of 190 feature films (out of 220 total titles) and the catalogue were out by October first week, followed by the schedule on 10 October. The festival officially begins with the Movie Mela on 13 October, followed by a gala on 17 October. Movie screenings start from 18 October.)

MAMI uses BMS for its registration and ticketing needs. This means all your fest registration, seat bookings, venue selection, and technical issues (if any) will be handled by those folks. They also have ground support staff who, together with PVR and MAMI officials (PR team too), manage the entire festival.

There are two ways to register: through BookMyShow (recommended) and on-ground registration (opens only a week before the festival start). The latter is for last-minute-planners, someone like my father. (He won’t read this.)

Registering through BookMyShow

Instructions have been simplified, keeping in mind the confusion that usually originates during the registration. Please excuse the verbosity. (Check the abridged FAQs section below before registering.)

  • Go to bookmy.show/mami
  • Log in if you already have a BMS account (optional)
  • Click on the button ‘Register’
  • A dialog of four categories will appear on the same window. Select one
    • ‘Delegate’ is the most common and recommended type and provides access to all screenings and sessions. The ‘Student’ pass is free but has venue and screening limitations so I won’t recommend it (since the 2019 fee is just INR 500 ($7)[1]The registration fee for MAMI MFF has been INR 500 ($7) since the 2017 edition in an attempt to bring in the masses. Before that, it was INR 1,500 ($21) per pass.). ‘Press Accreditation’ is free and only for journalist and writers with press ID numbers and takes at least three weeks for verification. Obviously, don’t go for it if you are not a journalist or a media person. ‘Half Ticket’ is for kids in the age group of 5-17 who will only be eligible to watch Half Ticket movie screenings; their registration is dependent on an adult person’s registration (e.g.: you and your child))
  • Press the button ‘Delegate Pass’ (other categories have similar steps; just follow the dialog prompts)
  • After selecting the category, another dialog will load. Enter your personal details, upload a photograph with a clear face, and select a preferred location for badge pick-up. Recheck details and then click on the button ‘Proceed’
    • Choose the venue wisely and near to where you live or work so that you can pick it up easily. Check the venue map below
  • Click on ‘Proceed to Pay’ on the next window
  • Choose your preferred mode of payment and greenlight the transaction
  • Upon successful confirmation you will receive an email as well as a text message mentioning your MAMI festival ID (16-digit alphanumeric which starts with MASEGN). Save it on your phone’s notepad and keep it handy.

Note – Here’s a 2018 guide by BMS that lists the same process. It’s a bit more detailed.

Once you have registered, the only thing you need is the email or SMS that mentions the festival ID and a government-issued identity card (driving licence, aadhaar card, passbook).

(For the 2019 edition, the Movie Mela bookings have already begun. Visit the MAMI page on BMS and book a seat right away. Instead of ‘Register’ click on ‘Login’ (on the above link) and input your festival ID to access the booking interface. Choose the session you want to book and click on the time (e.g.: 12:00 PM). A new pop-up will ask you to confirm booking; click on it and your seat will be confirmed. See below.)

mami bms booking
A screenshot of the booking interface / credit BMS

Essential FAQs (Or Things to Know)

No need to read the entire sections of FAQs and T&Cs over at BMS. These are the things you need to know during registration and seat booking:

  • You can book only four screenings per day online. For Movie Mela, the limit is two
    • More seats can be booked through on-ground booking (this is how some people average five to six movies a day). For example, if you have booked all four films and think you can squeeze one more, you can register for it at the box office counter of the theatre
  • Your badge ID is like a key during the fest; it will be scanned at the entrance of each screening to verify your seat. In case you lose it, you will lose all your bookings and will have to reregister
  • The free student pass has limitations in the form of venues and screenings. If you are a student and want to enjoy the fest in its entirety, go with a paid Student pass.

How Do I Get a Gold Pass

Some people get gold passes for the MAMI fest. It is exclusively for the cast and crew of films that will be screened, MAMI officials and their friends, organizers, foreign delegates, and the who’s who of the Indian film industry. It allows direct entry to the auditoriums without having to stand in queues. Plus, the last four to six rows are reserved for them for all film screenings. It is also rumored that gold pass delegates do not have to book seats. They can just enter.

There is no way to get a gold pass.[2]In 2019, there was a way. At the Movie Mela, festival director Anupama Chopra announced that MAMI will be giving out one gold pass for a lucky delegate who shows extraordinary creativity and love for the festival by tweeting during that event. I’m not sure what the judging criteria was or if that promise was honoured. And if you somehow did, you don’t much need this guide.

Collecting the Delegate Badge and Festival Kit

Keep following MAMI on Facebook or Twitter and wait for the announcement for badge pickup. It usually happens a week before the start date. Also a good idea to keep tabs on the hashtag #JioMAMIwithStar2019.

Go to your selected venue and show the festival ID and an identity card at the MAMI counter (usually near or inside the theatre’s ticket counter). Unfortunately, you have to go there by yourself to pick them up; no substitutes. You should receive the following:

  • Delegate badge (festival ID card)
  • Festival catalogue
  • Festival bag (tote bag)
  • Schedule pamphlet
MAMI fest bag
The 2018 MAMI bag
MAMI Mumbai film festival 2017
My bag and other stuff from the 2017 edition

It is possible that the bag may go out of stock in your selected venue; don’t worry, you can pick it up from any other venue but make sure you go on the first few days of the announcement. If you don’t get it, keep the BMS coupon (a plastic token) handy which you will need to furnish later for the bag.

(For the 2019 edition, the badge announcement was made on 10 October. Bag and catalogue will be available by 14 October.)

How to Book MAMI Movie Tickets

This is perhaps the most critical aspect. Any misstep or lapse from you side will cost you from taking in the complete MAMI experience.

Ticket booking for the film screenings start a day prior to the day of the screenings. This means you have to book tickets on the 17th for the shows playing on the 18th. It starts at 8 AM sharp on BookMyShow so you need to be ready at least five minutes before with the list of four films that you want to book seats for. All sessions, interviews, and talks are considered ‘films’.

Booking a seat for a screening at MAMI is like booking a tatkal ticket on IRCTC.[3]Thanks to Sujay Kulkarni for the analogy. You can never be too sure that you will get a confirmed seat as tickets for the popular films sell out in less than a minute. The same is the case for opening film. So many people logging in and browsing the site at the same time also lead it to load slowly, or worse, crash. And by the time you refresh and the site recovers from it, the show is sold out. Panic!

The Right Way

Although the seat booking is problematic and akin to a non-destructive warzone, it is not totally impossible to get what you want as I found out in 2018 when I managed to book a seat for the opening film. It was a dream come true. I was keeping a tab on that hashtag throughout to see what the situation was as a lot of people resort to tweeting their upsets.

And if you are like me, you don’t want to skip the opening film, the first screening of which usually comes with an introduction by the cast and crew as well as a questions-and-answers session that just makes up for all the trouble you go to to get a ticket.

There are two things if you want to increase your chances of getting a seat:

  1. A high-speed internet connection
  2. A solid, well-thought-out watchlist

It doesn’t matter whether you use a desktop or the BMS mobile app to access and login to the MAMI portal. But in my experience if you access it through a browser on a desktop you can easily search the films you want to book. But then BMS will take a bit longer to load on the website. Use what works best for you.

Log in to the portal at least by 7.55 AM and keep browsing. The key is to be active enough so that you can be ready at the strike of eight to look for the films and hit ‘confirm’. Pre-selecting the categories will help as the portal will then load only those categories that your films fall in.

bookmyshow mami booking
These are the categories on BMS desktop / credit BMS

When the time comes, quickly select the date, search for the films, and start booking. All of this should happen within a span of 30 seconds so you need to be ready with alternatives too. For example, if you can’t book the first screening of the opening film, try booking the next one. Having a good idea about the venues, alternative screenings, and worst-case options will definitely help.

You can book all the four screenings at one go. Even if the website/app crashes, log in again and search for the shows until they show up as ‘sold out’. If the shows that you want are sold out, look for alternative films. But I would not suggest booking alternatives just for the heck of it because that will limit the opportunity for other people who might be honestly interested in those films.

Alternative Ways to Book Tickets

In essence, there are a total of three ways to book screenings at MAMI:

  1. Through BookMyShow at 8 AM the previous day of the screening
  2. Through on-ground support the previous day of the screening (as early in the day as possible)
  3. Through the walk-in line (hours before the show)

Say you want to book a ticket for a 5 PM show on 20 October at Audi 2 of PVR ECX. The first and most recommended way to do that is to log on to BMS on 19 October at 8 AM and book a seat online (see above section for steps). Assuming the show gets sold out, your next bet is to physically go to the venue (i.e. PVR ECX) on the same day (19 October) as soon as possible and book a ticket for that show through the offline counter (theatre’s box office). You can also book for other shows at the same venue through this method at one go but only for the next day (20 October). This is mostly difficult if you stay far away from the venue.

Your next and final chance is to get in the walk-in/rush line on the day of the screening. Since some people who have prebooked tend to skip the screenings (or they are just running late), there are extra seats available. For the 5 PM show, depending on the film’s popularity, go and stand in the walk-in queue outside Audi 2 as soon as you can. It can be from 4 PM or 2 PM or even 12 PM. Do not be surprised if when you go at 2 PM and you see the queue is already strong with 50-odd people just like you who were without luck the previous morning. This usually means you have to skip the film before that show i.e. for the 5 PM show if you have to stand in line from 2 PM, you won’t be able to catch any show in that time slot. (Think if that show will be really worth it.)

Unfortunately, you will have to repeat this for each show that you want. If the shows are at the same venue, you can book for all of them at one go. But if even the on-ground tickets are sold out, you will have to queue up for all three separately, which could mean standing outside different auditoriums. It’s not recommended. What is recommended instead is to take chance and go for some other lesser-known film. I remember not getting a seat for a film called Jonaki in 2018 even though I stood in the walk-in line for 30+ minutes. So, I went for an animation film called Ruben Brandt, Collector in the same venue and was fairly delighted. I was lucky because Jonaki was a snoozefest as my friend described it later.

Remember that a certain percentage of seats are always reserved for on-ground registration and walk-in line. For example, if an auditorium has 100 seats, 50 are open for online booking, 30 for on-ground and walk-in, and 20 for gold class delegates and/or cast/crew (numbers and percentages are assumptive but close).

If you fail to book tickets through BMS for day one, persevere and try harder for day two. The rush typically dies down as the days pass.

Important Note for Couples or Groups of Friends

There is no way to ensure that two or more of you will be able to book the same screening. In most cases, one will be able to and by the time others log in, that show will be sold out.

Hence, I would strongly recommend to attend the festival as a solo delegate. In other words, if you are a group or a couple, have differing watchlist strategies. After all, everyone has different taste in cinema.

Having a partner or friend is definitely exciting as you can share opinions and eat and drink together but MAMI is brutal in that way. Plus, the idea of meeting strangers who share the same vocation as you will be fun. It is.

This does not mean you cannot give it a try. Luck plays an important role is all I will say.

In the unfortunate event where you are not able to book for your desired movie, I would request you to go with an alternative title (online) or try your luck (on-ground). The point about serendipity by Sujay Kulkarni writing for Vice.com is true; “chancing upon a random film that you didn’t even consider while strategising your watchlist and being blown away by it is such a satisfying feeling that in the moment you might even start believing in fate.”

But, hey, let’s not go into the festival with a pessimistic attitude. That’s what strategy is for. Here are some tips.

How to Plan the MAMI MFF – Watchlist Strategy

There are two ways to enjoy the MAMI MFF: one where you have a good idea about what films you need to watch and the other where you go in and try your luck. It is obvious in the second way that you won’t need prior seat reservation. So, let’s call it ‘the leisure way’. The former requires thorough planning and that’s what this section is about.

The easiest thing to do is to create a short list of must-watch movies. Either scribble the names on your phone’s notepad or a piece of paper or head over to Letterboxd or IMDb that will also help you track and log. IMDb list helps because you also get the Metacritic rating which is, objectively, the only way to judge a movie’s critical claim these days. Maybe even Rotten Tomatoes.

Pro Tip – An average festivalgoer can catch about 21 to 28 films (three to four per day for seven days). Creating a list of a dozen or so must-watch films and secondary options, a total of which counts to about 30 to 35, will be ideal. Having options for when you cannot catch a movie you wanted to always helps. And I can assure you catching all the films in your list is not going to be easy. You will know.

The list should also depend on your schedule. Are you going to attend the entire festival? Or only a select few days. Does your doctor needs you to have food at a specific time? Keep that in mind while planning. Average about three to four films per day and then choose accordingly. As noted above, you can book maximum four screenings online and more can be booked through on-ground registration only.

How to Choose Films

You can either depend on ‘must-watch films’ lists that circulate in online media days before the festival or do your own research. Here’s how I do it.

I first go through the entire list of films (for the 2019 edition, check it out on the catalogue here). If there are films that I have heard before (a critic raving about it or an Oscar hopeful) I immediately add it to a list that I maintain on IMDb (the 2019 one is here). Then I look for Indian films specifically because some of these titles usually don’t have theatrical releases. Such festivals then are the only way to watch them.

I usually skip popular Indian and international titles because they are anyway going to be released theatrically or online. I look for obscure and rare ones instead. In some cases, if a film looks like it should be watched on the big screen, I add that too. Restored classics, Indian regional-language films, and world cinema titles get more love from me.

I also check out what titles are available on VOD or for streaming online and then skip them (something I did in 2018). The idea is to watch as many rare films that won’t be easily available in future.

Once you have the rough list ready the next step is to take a look at the schedule and plan when and where you will be watching the movies. All movies are screened at PVR theatres and other single-screen theatres across Mumbai and most venues have multiple auditoriums. Therefore, it makes sense to choose one or two venues that are closer to each other than shuttle between all of them.

Notes About Screening Venues

In 2019, the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival has eight screening venues. Instead of a list I created this handy Google Maps snippet. You can save it on your Maps if you’d like.

There are five PVR theatres and three single-screen venues namely Le Reve, Matterden (Deepak Talkies, Carnival Cinemas), and Regal. Following are more details about number of auditoriums and seating capacity.

  • PVR ICON – four auditoriums – Audi 1 (236), Audi 2 (220), Audis 3 and 4 (312)
  • PVR ECX – five auditoriums – all with 216 seats each
  • PVR Juhu – two auditoriums – Audi 1 (276), Audi 2 (300)
  • PVR Kurla – one auditorium – Audi 8 (207)
  • PVR ICON LP – one auditorium – Audi 5 (252)
  • Le Reve Bandra – one hall with 259 seats
  • Matterden – one hall with 373 seats (stall + balcony)
  • Regal – one hall with 1,166 seats (stall + balcony)

As you can see it is sensible to plan your movies at the three theatres in Andheri and Juhu. This is also the prime spot for festival regulars and celebrities, the opening film with introduction, and other sassy sessions and events. So, naturally that makes PVR ICON, PVR ECX, and PVR Juhu the most sought-after venues. This has been the case since MAMI tied up with PVR earlier this decade. (A little bit about MAMI’s history here.)

But there’s a catch in selecting those three venues. Everyone thinks alike and when that happens your chances of getting a seat at these venues drop drastically, also because the seating capacity is not that impressive. This is one of the things you will find out when you sit down to book tickets at eight in the morning: shows at these three venues get sold out faster.

And that’s why I suggest choosing other less popular venues like Regal Cinemas in Colaba, SPI Cinemas (Le Reve) in Bandra, or PVR Kurla. I would recommend choosing Regal because it has the highest seating capacity (about 1,166) compared to the few hundreds in PVR halls (207 to 312). (In 2019, Martin Scorcese’s The Irishaman will screen twice at Regal. MAMI chose that venue for the same reason above.) In 2018, I was able to book the closing film (Steve McQueen’s Widows) because I chose Regal as the venue.

Matterden has limited screenings and usually hosts Half Ticket films and other non-popular events. The one at Kurla and Lower Parel are also not big enough as they only have one screen each for the festival.

But if you like the glamour and craze that comes as part of the festival and want to experience it first-hand, aim higher and go for one of those coveted venues. PVR ICON and PVR ECX in Andheri are a stone’s throw apart so you can alternate between them on foot. The celebrities and film folks usually hang out at these two SoBo venues.

How to Create the Viewing List – Steps

  • Refine the list; for every must-watch film, have an alternative
  • Compare daily schedule (download the digital copy from the MAMI website) with your films and create a rough plan
    • Scan the schedule for a day and then earmark the screenings that you want to catch
    • Noting them down on another piece of paper will help so that you can detect if there are any overlaps
  • Create time slots and assign one film per slot
    • 10 AM to 12 PM, 12 PM to 2 PM, 2 PM to 5 PM, 5 PM to 8 PM, and 8 PM to midnight
    • Although these are five slots, in most cases, you will only be able to assign four films across them
  • Take note of the travel time if you choose different venues. Google Maps will help but make sure you adjust an extra 15 to 30 minutes every time you are moving between towns (Andheri to Lower Parel, for instance). (Use the timings (arrive by/depart at) feature for a rough idea)
  • Once you have a film per slot for that day, look for alternatives. For example, if you cannot catch the opening film at 7.30 PM, which one can you go for so that you can be present at the same venue for the 9 PM show? Think like this and you will automatically prepare a solid plan. If required, look for a third alternative as well because things can get real messy if the first two options are both well-known films
  • Repeat for all the days that you will attend
  • Go over each day and make changes because sometimes you can avoid overlaps if you shift screenings. For example, a film that screens at 8 PM on day one might be screening at 10 AM some other day. MAMI has multiple screenings for most films so see which ones work best for you
    • Keep an eye on social media as MAMI also tends to change the schedule abruptly. In 2017, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s S Durga was added later whereas in 2018, an extra screening of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters was added due to popular demand
  • Keep updating as you complete screenings. If you couldn’t catch a film on day one, try to squeeze it or replace it with another in the following days.

Keep this watchlist with you at all times so that you can edit it while on the go. Take a final look every night so that you can be sure what movies you want to book the next morning.

Note – The opening film is supposed to be invite-only but it usually is available for general delegates as well. Also, as the title would suggest it is not the first film to be screened at the fest; instead it serves as a formal, inaugural event where the organizers talk a little about the MFF, introduce it and speak on why it was chosen as the opening film, and the cast and crew engage with the audience. Essentially, it sets the mood for the whole fest.

Here’s my rough plan for the 2018 edition. Daywise and timewise scheduling based on my watchlist and festival screening timings.

Mumbai film festival personal plan
A bird’s eye view of my 2018 plan. Comments on the handwriting are not expected. (Click to open on another tab)

Choosing one venue (if you do, consider PVR ECX with five auditoriums) and sticking to the films being screened there will make your life these seven days easier. Traveling in Mumbai is easy if you have prior experience but it still can get tedious and overwhelming when you are handling four to five films with very little time in between. Who has time for public transport then?

Tips on Travelling

But you are still going to need to plan your travel, at least to get to the first venue from your place of stay (house or hotel).

Most screenings start at or after 10 AM so there’s enough time to plan the morning commute. If you live near to any of the venues I would suggest choosing that one as your main hangout area. But if you want to be adventurous, be my guest and consider these tips:

  • Uber and Ola and other cab aggregators will mostly have surge pricing in and around the venues due to the high demand. Therefore, go with auto rickshaws or black-and-yellow taxicabs. Make sure you ask for the ride fare before getting in to avoid getting fleeced (or ensure the electronic meters are up and running)
  • PVR ICON and PVR ECX in Andheri are the venues that are nearest to each other. Walking distance is about 300 metres between them
  • For long-distance travel, always prefer either the local suburban train and Metro or BEST buses
    • Both local trains and BEST buses will be crowded during peak timings (8 AM to 11 AM and evening 5 PM to 8 PM). So plan your travels accordingly, especially if you do not have any experience. The crowds can get uncontrollable
    • Metros are crowded too but the air condition helps and the frequency is higher
  • None of the venues are close to the railway stations so your best bet is to get down at the nearest railway station and take a cab/rickshaw
  • If you are shuttling between Andheri and Juhu, prefer cabs
  • Having your own vehicle will help but Mumbai traffic will still play spoilsport with your plans if you are going to drive by yourself. This is why trains and Metro are recommended
  • Before going in for the final screening for the day, check the last train/Metro timings to ensure you will have public transit help to get back where you stay
    • In worst cases, take an Uber/Ola and avoid pool rides. If you are a woman, sit right behind the driver so that they cannot ogle at you from the front mirror.

If you are new to the city, consider downloading the following mobile apps:

  • m-indicator (Android, iOS) – for local train, Metro, and BEST bus timings; fare calculations; BEST bus routes; and live chat (free)
  • Ridlr (Android, iOS) – for BEST bus and Metro tickets (free)
  • UTS (Android, iOS) – for local train tickets (free official Indian Railways app)

More info and discussion about these apps at r/Mumbai on Reddit. Thanks to u/anjan18.

Suffice to say that shuttling between the venues is not recommended. Go with one or two nearby venues and have a peaceful festival experience. The commute time can instead be used to grab a bite at a nearby bistro.

Tips On Accommodation

If you are from outside the city, consider these options:

  • Find a place in Andheri, Versova, or Juhu so that your travel is sorted
    • The Urbanpod is a cool lodging option
    • MAMI has a tie-up with Oyo Rooms so make sure you look for that information in the festival catalogue. Or call up Oyo and just ask for a discount
  • If Andheri is not where your venue is, go with a hotel that is near to your preferred venue/s
  • Book at least a week before to avoid rush and inflated prices
  • Do not prebook meals because you won’t be having them there if you plan to make most of the festival. (In fact, you won’t be having much food at all during the fest. More on why later.)

If you live just outside Mumbai (like Navi Mumbai or Kalyan or Virar), you may also consider getting the above-mentioned accommodation for the duration of the fest.

I live in Navi Mumbai and I usually use local trains and my feet to get to the venues. When you sometimes forget to remove the badge and people stare at you as you cross a sidewalk, it gives you a bit of joy. But don’t spend too time much in that joy because you need to get to the venue before the queue line breaks the wall.

For Outstation Folks

If you are coming from another city in India or another country, here are a few tips on air, rail, and bus travel:

  • Nearest and the only airport is Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) i.e. the Mumbai airport (BOM) which is in Andheri itself
    • If you land here, consider lodging at a hotel that’s both closer to the airport and your chosen venue/s
  • If you are coming by passenger long-distance train, get down at any of these termini. Once you alight, take a rickshaw or a cab to your hotel. You can also choose to take the local train if you need to travel longer (say, from Bandra to Andheri or Churchgate)
    • Bandra (BA/BDTS) – Western line
    • Dadar (D/DR/DDR) – Western/Central line
    • Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (CSMT) – Central/Harbour line
    • Lokmanya Tilak (LTT) – Harbour line
Mumbai suburban railway network / credit someone on the internet (Qopo)
  • If you are coming by bus, get down at Vile Parle in Andheri (Hanuman bus stop). Then take a rickshaw or a cab to your hotel.

Nearest Railway or Metro Station Station from the Venues

  • PVR ICON and PVR ECX – D N Nagar metro station, Jogeshwari railway station (Western line)
  • PVR Juhu – D N Nagar metro station, Andheri railway station (Western line)
  • PVR Kurla – Vidyavihar railway station (Central line), Ghatkopar and Jagruti Nagar metro stations
  • PVR ICON, LP – Lower Parel (Western line) and Currey Road (Central line) railway stations
  • Le Reve – Bandra railway station (Western line)
  • Matterden – Prabhadevi (Western line) and Parel (Central line) railway stations. Prabhadevi is also known as Elphinstone Road
  • Regal – Churchgate (Western line) and CSMT (Central/Harbour lines) railway stations

Note – If you face any issues while travelling, let me know in the comment section below and I will suggest you the best way out.

Tips on Finances

Keep your purse/wallet stuffed with some cash and one or two cards. Although digital payments are in vogue, you never know when you might need some cash so that you can pay the pav bhaji wala you found on the corner of a street. If you have two cards, keep one on your person and the other one in your wallet/purse or tote bag.

Apart from the registration fee, you will need money for the traveling and accommodation. Depending upon the mode of travel, it can be anywhere between INR 100 ($1.5) and INR 3,000 ($43). Expect to shell out at least INR 3,000 ($43) per day for accommodation in decent hotels.

MAMI Etiquette

As a delegate, you are expected to exhibit basic film festival formalities. If this is your first time at one, here’s some useful tips specially tailored for the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. Or go directly to this article and avoid doing everything that it lists.

  • Arrive 20 to 30 minutes before time and queue up outside the auditorium
    • If you need the best seats in the hall, measure the popularity of the film and then go and stand outside the auditorium a few hours earlier. Higher the popularity, earlier the queue begins to form
  • Do not talk to those sitting beside you or on the phone while a film is playing. You may be admonished severely or asked to leave. The ground staff may intervene and it can get embarrassing
  • Do not argue with the ground support staff; they are just doing their job. The reality is that as long as there are VIPs there will be seats reserved for them
    • Instead be polite with the staff
  • Do not make noises while drinking/eating if you choose to do it during a screening
  • If you think you might have to walk out of a film due to some reason, take an aisle seat. This ensures you don’t disturb those sitting around you
  • Avoid using your mobile phone during a screening.

What to Do While at the Venue

You are supposed to reach the venue (the auditorium) at least 15 minutes before the start of the screening. I would recommend making that 30 minutes. There are enough reasons why.

There will be two queues outside the auditoritum – one is for those who have prebooked a screening and the other one is the rush/walk-in line for those who could not or did not prebook. Make sure the queue you have joined is the right one.

The first queue enters the hall at least 10 minutes before the start of the show. Once everyone has entered that line CLOSES and those standing in the walk-in line get the opportunity.

What happens if you arrive AFTER the main line has closed? You forfeit your booking and you have to join the walk-in line. If it’s a popular film, there is no point because you won’t be getting a seat. I would suggest you to not get into a tiff with the ground staff because they can’t do anything. All seats at MAMI screenings are on first-come-first-serve basis. That is why you will see people queuing up from 4 PM for a show that’s supposed to start at 7.30 PM. True story!

What happens if you arrive just 15 minutes before? You will get to join the main queue but it will already be a long one and you will have to sit in the front-row seats. The higher the popularity of the film and the more late you are for it you will get a seat that is closer to the screen.

Note – Unlike EUFF India, MAMI is not that punctual when it comes to screenings. So, expect delays and consider that while planning your days.

A few more things that you can do while at the venue or in the auditorium:

  • Make use of the cafeteria
    • Be aware that cafeteria food can be expensive (e.g.: INR 400 ($6) for a bucket of popcorn and INR 120 ($2) for a mug of soft drink)
  • Go through the catalogue or update your watchlist while standing in a queue
  • Kick up conversation with random persons
  • Look for actors and wonder which film you saw them in; and maybe go and say hi. Don’t stare or unabashedly ask for a selfie if the opportunity is not right
  • Give some rest to your behind by taking a stroll inside or outside the gate. Or give some rest to your feet by sitting down
  • Update your family about your whereabouts.

Once a screening is completed, you can either wait for the end credits to roll up (it’s courtesy) or rush for the next screening. One problem that you will see here is that you can only get out through the main exit. This means even if your next screening is in the same venue or in the same auditorium you will still have to go through the main exit, walk down the stairs, enter again through the entrance (the mall entrance in case of PVR), get frisked, and stand in a fresh queue outside the auditorium where your next screening will be played.

After the third screening you really begin to wonder and ask yourself: why the hell do I not exercise daily? I concur.

Tips for Film Critics

If you are a film critic or intend to write reviews of the films you will be watching, I recommend lowering your phone’s brightness to the minimum and then jotting down points in a notepad app if you hope to do it during the screening. The better alternative is to take a pen and notepad but I understand if that’s not convenient.

After the screening, you can sit down and expand on the notes. If you have to publish it ASAP do it while standing on the queue for the next screening.

Come what may, do not fire up your laptop or increase your phone’s brightness in the middle of a screening. That’s just bad manners.

Taking Care of Yourself

Attending the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival will be an exhausting experience. There is not going to be any time for food, water, or even much sleep. As you can guess, survival is key if you want to successfully complete the MAMI experience.

The back-to-back films and all the walking and climbing the stairs between the screenings and the standing in the queues and the ‘Bombay travel’ can make you weak. You will dehydrate faster and the lack of food will make you drowsy. First-timers should be extremely aware of this scenario and follow these tips to stay hydrated and nourished throughout the day:

  • Carry a water bottle in your bag (the festival tote bag that you get is also for this purpose) and fill it up regularly. Make sure you take a swig frequently. Avoid plastic mineral water bottles as they will most likely be confiscated by the theatre security[4]There are free water coolers/dispensers in all PVR venues (and assumedly in other theatres as well) so no need to spend money on water.
  • If you plan to attend more than four screenings, carry at least half a dozen energy bars. Snickers do a good job of keeping you healthy. Other alternatives: Apples, oranges, Safari, or any granola snack bar will also do[5]Although outside food is not allowed inside the auditoriums in any of the theatres, I’m sure you have a few tricks up your sleeve on how to do that slyly and bypass the frisking. I’m not saying it is the right thing to do, though, but we all get hungry and theatre food costs a fortune.
    • Stock up on any of these for the whole week beforehand
    • Having your meals at a stipulated time will be difficult. If you are particular about it or suffer from any ailment like diabetes, take that into consideration while planning your strategy (see above)
  • Make sure you have at least two proper meals. For the duration of the festival, let’s assume a cheese burger as a proper meal. All I’m saying is have something heavy in the afternoon and at around 9 PM if that’s possible
  • Carry a jacket although the Mumbai weather is humid enough that you’ll regret it while you are travelling. But listen to me: the auditoriums are all air-conditioned and you are going to need that jacket or a shawl or at least a scarf for your neck.

Things to Carry

I recommend travelling light, so here are the bare essentials:

  • The MAMI festival ID
  • A filled water bottle and your choice of energy food (see above)
  • A comfort layer of cloth i.e. a jacket, shawl, scarf, overshirt
  • Chargers for your phone and laptop
  • A charged-up power bank
  • Earphones
  • Your medication (if any) + the usual Indian basic first-aid like paracetamols, Vicks inhaler and rub, antacid tablets
  • Books or other reading material for you when you are standing in queues and want your rush of literature. Want to borrow any from my library?

If you are high on eating when compared with move-watching, here’s a list of offers provided by eateries around the venues for the 2019 edition. Borrowed from the catalogue.

mami mff 2019 eating offers
A list of offers/discounts provided by eateries around the venues for the 2019 edition / credit MAMI

Other than these, keep an eye on the daily schedule (grab it from the front counter outside the venue) to see more such offers provided by eateries in and around the venues.

Whatever you do, make sure you stay hydrated, eat something, and use the restroom when the time allows. It will ensure a smooth flying through the fest.

I hope this has helped a lot. If you read the whole guide I want to congratulate you. You will be having one hell of an experience at the MAMI film festival. An experience that will stay with you for a very long time. All the best! TN.


MAMI 2019 edition poster
Jio MAMI MFF with Star 2019 poster / credit MAMI

The 21st edition of the Jio MAMI MFF with Star begins 17 October 2019 and will conclude on 24 October 2019. Film screenings (190 films from 53 countries) will start from the 18th which is also when the opening film (Moothon) will be shown. For registration, click here. For more official details, check out the MAMI website.

Featured image courtesy: MAMI

Update: copyedited; added some additional data and one new section ‘Things to Carry’. (14 October 2019)


Did you find this guide useful? If yes, consider buying me books.

footnotes   [ + ]

1. The registration fee for MAMI MFF has been INR 500 ($7) since the 2017 edition in an attempt to bring in the masses. Before that, it was INR 1,500 ($21) per pass.
2. In 2019, there was a way. At the Movie Mela, festival director Anupama Chopra announced that MAMI will be giving out one gold pass for a lucky delegate who shows extraordinary creativity and love for the festival by tweeting during that event. I’m not sure what the judging criteria was or if that promise was honoured.
3. Thanks to Sujay Kulkarni for the analogy.
4. There are free water coolers/dispensers in all PVR venues (and assumedly in other theatres as well) so no need to spend money on water.
5. Although outside food is not allowed inside the auditoriums in any of the theatres, I’m sure you have a few tricks up your sleeve on how to do that slyly and bypass the frisking. I’m not saying it is the right thing to do, though, but we all get hungry and theatre food costs a fortune.

3 Days at the 2019 European Union Film Festival of India

eu film festival 2019 india

Reddit is one of the sites that I frequently visit these days, even more than Letterboxd and Twitter. And it was through the r/Mumbai community there that I came to know about the India edition of the European Union Film Festival (EUFF), a platform that showcases the best European cinema has to offer to the Indian populace and which is organized in several cities across the country every year as part of the ‘Europe in Your City’ programme through a partnership between the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (Directorate of Film Festivals), the Delegation of the European Union, and the consulates of respective European member states in India. It was in its 24th edition in 2019 and hosted 23 films from 23 European countries across eight cities between 24 June and 26 September. I managed to catch some of the films in Mumbai at the prestigious Films Division of India. This is an overview of my experience at and a recommendation of the festival for those who are interested in watching both little-known and popular European movies in a festival setting.

The European Union Film Festival of India

Abbreviated as EUFF India, it is one of the few annual film festivals celebrated in India. Although it is difficult to trace the history of the fest online (its website is new), it is safe to assume that it was started as a way to showcase European art of cinema to the cine enthusiasts of India and thereby bridge the gap between the artists from the two states. There’s no denying that it might even be a diplomatic activity aimed at strengthening the relations between India and the EU.

Films Division for euff 2019
A poster of EUFF India 2019 at the Films Division building

The 2019 edition was the 24th year the EUFF was celebrated across eight Indian cities: Chennai, New Delhi, Goa, Pune, Puducherry, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Mumbai.[1]Interestingly, Mumbai was not in the list for the 2018 edition and it ran in eleven other cities. It was not there in 2017 either. The period of about three months is also reminiscent of how seriously the organizers take the event, using the resources offered by the Government of India for the screenings.

That is why the the entry to the festival is free of cost. Delegates are only supposed to be present at the screenings (the Mumbai screening details is mentioned in the last section here) and enjoy European cinema the best way the artform should be enjoyed in, without censorship and the poor behaviour that is rampant in mainstream theatres.

Special mention to Wishbox Studio for the beautiful EU Film Festival website design and merchandise. As you all know, I am a stationery fanatic and I am not ashamed to admit that I managed to take two cool-looking coasters home.

According to the EUFF website, the annual event is meant to celebrate the vitality and diversity of European cinema and culture. The films are a heady cocktail of romantic comedy, period drama, mockumentary, satire, and socio-political thriller.

My Experience at EUFF India 2019

I, for one, can attest to that fact about the cocktail as I managed to catch 11 of the 23 films that were screened. I attended 3 days of the festival and spent over 9 hours of courageous cinema marathon with 5 back-to-back films on the first day. It was the first time that I did that, an event that I’m told is common for film critics. In a way, I broke my own record of 3 films at the 2018 MAMI MFF, a feat that involved films Widows (2018), Climax (2018), and Leave No Trace (2018). It was exhausting to say the least but when I went to bed that night, it somehow felt good.

euff 2019 india screening
Before the start of the second screening on 21 September

I could not attend the entire festival because of work and some personal commitments. But, it was still fun. I liked the way the screenings were organized, very punctual, and a better crowd that the ones you find at MFF. It was not without its fair share of spectacles either. After the screening of the Austrian film Styx (2018) on 22 September 2019, a squabble broke out between a few viewers which quickly turned into a heated spat in Marathi. A group of elder enthusiasts began accusing a group of youngsters for being a nuisance. The former group got angry when the young men denied any wrongdoing. And it ended with the interference of the officials, even as the audience began preparing for the next screening.

Unlike at MAMI – the only other film festival I have attended so far – there was little time between the screenings. Although most of the titles were between 90 and 100 minutes of running time, it became really difficult to grab a bite between the shows. That is why you always carry some energy bars and a water bottle for a film festival. (Looks like it’s time I devise my own guide as I wait for the 2019 edition of the MFF.) But if you want it right now here’s a nice little guide by Berlin-based travel blogger Adam doling out some great tips to follow while at a film festival.

If finding time for lunch or evening snack is difficult, convincing your body to maintain its posture and not fidget for streaks of 90+ minutes with small intervals between them is where you’ll need a bit of practice and the ability to deviate from your lifestyle (diet and rest preferences). Active film festival attendees around the world (who visit the Big Three or other big ones like Sundance and TIFF) can do this without much effort. I have read stories.

european film festival schedule
The 2019 Mumbai schedule put up at the Films Division building

If you are a disciplined person who eats on time and sleeps on time, then I’m afraid attending film festivals is going to be tough. It is usually very difficult to cajole the fest organizers to push a 2 PM show by an hour because it overlaps with your lunchtime. If you are friends with the organizers and somehow manage to do it, let me know in the comments. I’ll execute your bragging rights.

It should be noted that due to a lack of popularity, none of the screenings I attended were houseful. But that was a relief because in most cases I could enjoy the films in silence with no disturbance from fellow viewers. Most of the audience were discerning and did not engage in activities that are barred from my own imaginary theatre if it is ever built.

Films Watched

I caught the following eleven films at the 2019 EUFF India (in the order of the viewing):

  1. Bubblegum (2017, Bulgaria, dir. Stanislav Todorov)
  2. Tulipani (2017, Netherlands, dir. Mike Van Diem)
  3. The Troupe (2018, Hungary, dir. Pal Sandor)
  4. Diamantino (2018, Portugal, dir. Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt)
  5. The Charmer (2018, Denmark, dir. Milad Alami)
  6. Drifters (2015, Sweden, dir. Peter Gronlund)
  7. Styx (2018, Austria, dir. Woflgang Fischer)
  8. Ashes in the Snow (2018, Lithuania, Marius Markevicius)
  9. #Female Pleasure (2018, Switzerland, dir. Barbara Miller)
  10. Me and Kaminski (Germany, 2015, dir. Wolfgang Becker)
  11. Maria (And Everybody Else) (2016, Spain, dir. Nely Reguera)

As you can see, the festival also focuses on old films that are supposed to be essential viewing from those specific countries. Some of these European states are not prolific producers like India or the USA, which is another point that the original 23-film list conveys. You can see the entire list for the 2019 edition here on IMDb. The sole documentary on atrocities on women in the 21st century was also a good watch. It should be essential viewing for today’s youth.

euff 2019 films brochure
Two of the films I could not catch

My favourite film out of the lot is Diamantino, which is a satire on government propaganda and cloning experiments as seen from the perspective of an innocent, disgraced footballer whose life has an uncanny resemblance to that of Cristiano Ronaldo who is a Portugal national…

I also liked Me and Kaminski, Maria (And Everybody Else), and The Charmer. All great stories with a touch of uniqueness. (And I also kept wondering why there was no film from the UK. The Brexit deal is still not in motion so technically the UK is still a part of the EU. Right?)

Overall, EUFF India was a fun experience for me. I watched more films than I had originally intended to and was able to do it without any hiccups. I also got to explore tony Pedder Road, Cumbala Hills, and Mahalaxmi areas of Mumbai, which I have not been exposed to much. If I could, I would have attended the fest in its entirety, but that is something that I intend to do for MAMI MFF 2019 as well as for the upcoming 10th Jagran Film Festival (starts 26 September 2019) in Mumbai and the 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa (starts 20 November 2019).

Guide for Future Delegates

The entry to the European Union Film Festival is free. Only people above 18 years of age are allowed as the films are not censored. Most of the titles I watched in 2019 had some sort of nudity and sexual content in them with one film (The Charmer) going a bit over the top. It also did not have disclaimers, which is another quality I love about festivals.

All films are with English subtitles.

If you are interested for the 2020 edition and if they run it in your city, keep an eye on their website and social media profiles. They (EU in India) are quite active on both Facebook and Twitter.

Plan your itinerary before and make sure you reach the screenings at least 10 minutes before to get the seat that you want. Other than, it’s just basic film festival etiquette. The location for Mumbai is given below. The most economic way to get to the venue (if its Films Division in future editions also) is to get down at Grant Road station in the Western line of the Mumbai Suburban Railway (local train) and take the #155 Limited BEST bus to Cumbala Hills Post Office. Good luck. TN.

Featured image courtesy: EUFF India

Update: Added bus route option to get to the EUFF venue in Mumbai. (27 September 2019)

footnotes   [ + ]

1. Interestingly, Mumbai was not in the list for the 2018 edition and it ran in eleven other cities. It was not there in 2017 either.

The Right Way to Celebrate Ganeshotsav

This is a short article where I jot down some points that will show what (I think) the right way to celebrate Ganshotsav is. I have a special regard for the elephant god as you can read and find in one of my most popular articles on this website. So, you can rest assured that this is a practical article that does not resort to mockery.

A huge Ganesha idol being taken to a pandal in Navi Mumbai
An example of a procession taking a Ganesha idol to its pandal

Changing some of our ways as we celebrate the festival can go a long way in ensuring that we will be able to do it for more years, similar to how responding positively to the ongoing Save Aarey campaign will do. Here you go:

  • Avoid processions – This is perhaps the biggest issue emanating out of the festival. The concept of bringing in the Ganesha idol (aagman) and saying goodbye to it (visarjan) with fanfare should be minimized either by avoiding them altogether or doing it when the roads are emptier in the night. It should be mandated that all such processions should be carried out post 10 pm to aid in easy movement of both the traffic and the procession. Clogged roads lead to traffic snarls which in turn lead to chaos and even death in some cases due to stampede. It might be assuring to know that in 2015 the Bombay High Court had directed the BMC to restrict the burgeoning of pandals (a term used to describe interchangeably the setup that holds the lord’s idol or the association attached to it) and give permission to only those that have enjoyed a legacy or a long-term existence such as the Lallbaug Raja or the GSB Seva Mandal.[1]BMC approves over 2k Ganpati pandal requests – Richa Pinto, The Times of India, 27 August 2019
  • Avoid firecrackers – There is no reason to let the whole world know that you are celebrating the festival by firing crackers. Lord Ganesha can sense all the love you have for him through your sheer willingness to celebrate the festival. Stop using firecrackers and prevent pollution of the atmosphere
  • Avoid loudspeakers – Vocal chanting (aarti) is one of the key processes to show love and worship to the deity but doing it on loudspeakers just adds to the noise pollution accentuated by the firecrackers (above point) and the music bands (below point), also incorrectly known as banjo groups. Let the pandit chant without the mic and you can follow his lead. No need to make the surrounding people know that you are doing an aarti. The lord has big enough ears to get the point
  • Avoid music bands – I know this is a source of income for some youth but it needs to stop for the greater good. More than the loudspeakers, it is the noise from these percussion-heavy banjo groups that makes existing during Ganshotsav a near impossibility. Add to that the use of amplifiers to blast Bollywood and pop songs in other languages such as Bhojpuri, Punjabi, and Marathi. I’m sure the lord does not think highly of this, let alone the Nashik dhol (Nashik beat) in repeat. The youth can adopt what they do the rest of the year and say goodbye to this noise-polluting practice. Visarjans can also be a silent affair without the use of these percussion instruments. And if you see the need for it, you can chant it using your vocal chords
  • Avoid floral wastage – This is as huge as we think it is small. Floral wastage during the celebrations is so high (and which contributes to poor sewage in and around the city) that in 2019 BMC tied up with NGOs to collect them and convert to manure. That’s a good step but extra work, which can be altogether avoided if you start avoiding use of extra flowers when the need is only for a few
  • Avoid PoP idols – This has been debated for long but has reached no consensus. It is common sense to avoid Plaster of Paris (PoP) idols (because of their non-biodegradable quality) and instead use eco-friendly ones made of clay (which are) but due to lower costs, better strength, and better designs, manufacturers still dole out Ganesha idols made of PoP. The change needs to start with the consumers here
  • Avoid visarjan in water bodies – This is the last point because it is the only one where I have seen some headway happening. Many pandals and homes in and around Navi Mumbai have shifted to artificial visarjan where they immerse the Ganesha idol in a makeshift pond on a terrace or a housing society backyard. This practice does not pollute the water bodies. The plus point is that this practice also avoids the procession as everything happens within the confines of the housing society or the house (in case of private pandals). Examples of this practice are one, a private housing society of Everest Nagar in Ghansoli, and two, a private one organized by Sushobita Nair and her family in Sector 6, Vashi.

I know it is almost the end of Ganesh Chaturthi 2019 but let this be an essential read for the coming years. From a theological perspective, this may not exactly be the right way to celebrate the festival of Ganesha but in this 21st century where we are riddled with environmental issues it is pragmatic to tweak our ways.

If even one of these points is executed by anyone who is involved in celebrating Ganshotsav I think we can make progress. As someone who tries to practice what he preaches, I will try to do the same starting 2020. TN.

Featured image courtesy: Preshit/Creative Commons

footnotes   [ + ]

1. BMC approves over 2k Ganpati pandal requests – Richa Pinto, The Times of India, 27 August 2019

List: All the Films that Opened the Mumbai Film Festival Since 1997

mumbai film festival opening films 2010 to 2019

On 29 August 2019 the Mumbai Film Festival tweeted out a few photos celebrating their decision to choose Geethu Mohandas’s gritty crime drama Moothon as the opening film for its 21st edition scheduled between 17 and 24 October. It is the first time that a Malayalam-language film is opening the festival, which has for the last four years consecutively honored Hindi-language features (with the odd one A Death in the Gunj (2016) a mix of Hindi, English, and Bengali) and majorly English-language ones before that. So, naturally as a Malayalam cinema connoisseur it made me jump up in joy. It also made me want to look back at all the opening films of the festival since its inception. This list is a product of that desire and MAMI’s contributions in decorating brilliant cinema since 1997.

From 1997 when Jaya Bachchan’s comeback film Hazar Chaurasi Ki Ma opened the inaugural edition to 2010 when it selected David Fincher’s Academy Award-winning The Social Network to 2019 when a Malayalam film is about to finally get a seat at the high table. This is a list of all the opening films of the Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) in its two-decade-long history.

mumbai film festival opening films 2010 to 2019
Posters of all opening films from 2010 to 2019 in reverse order / © Letterboxd

Opening Films of Mumbai Film Festival

Listed chronologically along with the name of the director and the primary language of the film. Sourced from a tweet by MAMI (opens in another tab).

EditionYearFilmDirectorLanguage
1st1997Hazaar Chaurasi Ki MaaGovind NihalaniHindi
2nd1999The Sixth SenseM. Night ShyamalanEnglish
3rd2000Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonAng LeeMandarin
4th2001BanditsBarry LevinsonEnglish
5th2002Taking SidesIstván SzabóEnglish
6th2003Warriors of Heaven and EarthPing HeMandarin
7th2005Human TouchPaul CoxEnglish
8th2006The ChorusChristophe BarratierFrench
9th2007Curse of the Golden FlowerYimou ZhangMandarin
10th2008KatynAndrzej WajdaPolish
11th2009The Informant!Steven SoderberghEnglish
12th2010The Social NetworkDavid FincherEnglish
13th2011MoneyballBennett MillerEnglish
14th2012Silver Linings PlaybookDavid O. RussellEnglish
15th2013The ButlerLee DanielsEnglish
16th2014SerenaSusanne BierEnglish
17th2015AligarhHansal MehtaHindi
18th2016A Death in the GunjKonkona Sen SharmaEnglish
19th2017MukkabaazAnurag KashyapHindi
20th2018Mard Ko Dard Nahin HotaVasan BalaHindi
21st2019MoothonGeethu MohandasMalayalam

Note 1: The festival did not run in 1998 due to a lack of funding by the Maharashtra state government and in 2004 for unknown reasons.[1](MAMI – A Retrospective, The Big Indian Picture, Tanul Thakur and Roshni Nair, October 2013)

Note 2: For your convenience, this list has been duplicated on IMDb and Letterboxd. Updated every year.

A Little Bit of MAMI History

In the inaugural year 1997, MAMI screened a total of 70 films from 25 countries. The Big Indian Picture reports it as 65 films from 23 countries[2](MAMI – A Retrospective, The Big Indian Picture, Tanul Thakur and Roshni Nair, October 2013). Govind Nihalani’s adaptation of the Mahasweta Devi novel opened the festival which was then labelled as India’s first independent film festival. This, considering that Kolkata and Trivandrum already had their own versions, Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) and International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), respectively. One other major contender for that label was the International Film Festival of India (IFFI). But then MAMI was founded and it kicked off the first edition on 24 November 1997 with much pomp and circumstance. And it naturally ‘assumed’ the title. According to Rupleena Bose writing for MUBI Notebook, it was originally titled as ‘Festival of Films’ when it launched in 1997, which was partly because of a desire to replenish the dull mood of the Mumbai populace after the 1993 bomb blasts.

Either from the people involved in creating the fest or the type of films that were screened (The Fifth Element, Sholay (1975), and Ankur (1974) to name a few), it is safe to assume that many must have thought that it would revolutionize the industry. But more than either of those, it was self-sustenance that pushed MFF to the fore. More than twenty years later and with at least half a dozen more festivals running in India perhaps as a result, I’m inclined to confirm that it is the biggest cinema extravaganza that India currently has in the global landscape.

It is interesting to learn that the opening edition saw about 200 delegates in attendance and Jio’s part was played by Mahindra & Mahindra then which donated INR 5 lakh as sponsorship. The rumour that PepsiCo India showed interest – because of a lack of funds to run the 1998 edition – in sponsoring the fest in 2000 is actually true, but the organizers declined because they did not want it to be named ‘Pepsi Film Festival’. Nonetheless, India Inc. has been historically generous to the festival as past years have seen companies like Indian Oil (IOC), Star TV, Zee Cinema, Sahara, and Godrej contribute for the sake of continuity of the fest. In 1997 if the festival budget was around INR 10 lakhs, in 2013 it was estimated to be about INR 6 crores, thanks to ample funding by Reliance’s Big Entertainment (now ADAG). This type of funding helped MAMI turn from a cash-strapped passion organization into a real harbinger of creativity and vision for cinema on an international scale. In the next decade, it would not only start new competition sections but also run the only film criticism workshop in India – the Young Critics Lab which began in 2009 as a platform for young cinema lovers-cum-writers to hone their skills and take up film criticism as a serious profession.

One key thing to note here is that the organizers did not want the festival to be influenced by the demands of corporate giants, which is why film selection was and has been entirely up to MAMI. This confirms that there is no ulterior motive by certain elements who would want to push a specific film in which they have a vested interest. All the more reason to celebrate the decoration of Indian features as opening films.

What’s in a Festival Opening Film?

A lot, to be honest.

Since 2015 when the opening film was Hansal Mehta’s Manoj Bajpayee-starring biopic Aligarh, MFF has managed to be the starting point of buzz for creative cinema. How else would one explain the almost cult status that the Internet generation has given to Konkona Sen Sharma’s debut feature? Or Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (2018) that took Reddit by storm when it released on VOD earlier in 2019? MFF helps native films create buzz, the type that Moothon is currently enjoying as it approaches its worldwide premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) along with other Indian award hopefuls like Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu and Shonali Bose’s The Sky is Pink.

mff opening films 1997 to 2009
Posters of opening films between 1997 and 2009 in reverse order / © Letterboxd

But this was not always the case. One of the main reasons why most of the MAMI opening films have been foreign imports is because of the buzz that existed and which they wanted to bring into the country’s mainstream cinema. Moneyball (2011), The Social Network (2010), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and The Sixth Sense (1999) have enjoyed heightened status and success in Mumbai and elsewhere in India also because they all were opening films.

In 2018, Vasan Bala’s action comedy opened the festival. And despite the hiccup by its producers due to an issue with distributors and theatre-owners, the film got a theatrical release in 2019. The buzz that MFF created in October 2018 definitely needs to be attributed.

An opening film sets the tone for a festival and in some cases it can also influence the rest of it. In 2017, Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz got the honour and the response was lukewarm. Although I could not attend the entire week-long event, I can confirm that the overall fest in terms of footfalls and audience response was much weaker than what it was in 2015 and later in 2018, one of my most successful years as far as MFF and me are concerned.

Some Statistics

I like statistics so it makes sense to take a look at what numbers tell us about the MAMI opening films. Here you go:

  • 12 are English-language features, four Hindi, three Mandarin, one each Polish and Malayalam
  • Three have been directed by women filmmakers, 18 by men
  • A total of eight Oscar wins for three out of 21 titles
  • Only one unanimously poor critical performer (Susanne Bier’s Serena (2014))

Conclusion

I think selecting Moothon (The Elder One) as the opening film for the festival by an organization that is largely influenced by Bollywood cine artists is a breakthrough. Admitting that cinema is the common language that we speak, MAMI has only transcended beyond what it set out to achieve when two decades ago industry stalwarts like Amol Palekar, Sudhir Nandgaonkar, Kiran Shantaram, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Shabana Azmi, Shyam Benegal, Gulzar, Ramesh Sippy, and others came together and sowed a seed that now gives us a taste of the best of Indian and world cinema every year. In 2018, the festival was one of the best experiences I had.

mami 2019 opening film moothon
Nivin Pauly in the MAMI MFF opening film Moothon (2019) / © MAMI

It is important to also note that the main intention of MFF was to create a platform for appreciation of regional films. International films already got the attention they desired, but for a secular and multi-lingual country like India where there are films being made in all major languages, MFF was a necessity more than a fad. The selection of a regional film (Moothon is produced by artists majorly from the south Indian state of Kerala) for the 2019 edition is a step towards an extension of fulfillment of that vision.

It is difficult to trace the history of MAMI but this list will probably act as a type of archive as we move ahead and break more barriers. TN.

MAMI 2019 edition poster

The 21st Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star begins on 17 October 2019 and ends on 24 October 2019. Registrations are now open over at BookMyShow with one pass worth INR 500 ($7).

footnotes   [ + ]

1, 2. (MAMI – A Retrospective, The Big Indian Picture, Tanul Thakur and Roshni Nair, October 2013)

The Menace of Slow Walkers

The train is scheduled to arrive at Currey Road station at 7.34 PM and leave for Thane a few seconds later. It’s 7.20 PM now and I have just left my office building in Lower Parel, all poised with shoelaces tied tight so that I can walk briskly and skillfully manoeuvre the potholes on the road and hands-free as I like to be all the time. I take a right from the exit of the building into the noisy roadside market and bam! I see the first of the type of people that is only second to the other menacing type of commuter people (the 4th person on a Mumbai local seat) you find in Mumbai: slow walkers.

I bump into several more after that first interaction, taking me more than 10 minutes (compared to the otherwise 5-minute dash during non-peak hours) to reach the station, and I end up missing the train. Of course, I can leave 5 minutes early from work if I really want to catch that 7.24 Mumbai CST-sourced train but that’s not the point of this rant. So, let’s focus on slow walkers, some of their most nefarious qualities, and why I think they are a threat to the society at large.

Slow Walkers in Mumbai City

For a long-time walker and public transit commuter like me, the existence of slow walkers is something more than a source of irritation. They are a menace to the existence and forward-movement (literally in both life and on the road) of fast walkers simply because they slow everyone around them down.

a mumbai street
How many slow walkers can you spot in this Mumbai street? / Creative Commons

A true slow walker is someone who obstructs traffic by walking at a pace lower than the average. There are several reasons why someone would be tagged a slow walker. Reasons like short legs or short strides (both usually interchangeable), simultaneous use of mobile phones or headphones (usually also making the wearer look like a nut), talking on the phone while chewing the microphone to death by bacteria, talking to another slow walker, moderate or heavy activities like munching on a burger, looking for a cell of an atom in the bag, daydreaming, and voluntary slow walking. The last one, and so it sounds, is the most annoying of all.

I haven’t gone beyond Palghar, so I don’t know what the situation is in other countries. Hence, I will talk about and for the Maximum City alone. In Mumbai, slow walkers do not realise that they are moving slowly and testing the patience of everyone currently behind them and who will be behind them in the next few seconds, not even when a fast walker overtakes them. It is pretty normal for them to take their own sweet time to wherever they are going, which makes me even madder. But that’s the case if you leave them alone and go past them without giving them the eye or a scoff.

In the case you do, you are sure to receive an invisible expletive or two, possibly in the natural cursing tongue of the city specially used for emphasis: Marathi. In Lower Parel, you may also get an English “Dude” or “Relax” or their Hindi equivalents. It’s also fascinating to see the facial expressions, a lot diverse and nuanced than those by the people who pay good money to their teachers to ace one or two as part of their Bharatanatyam course. None of them are appealing to hear, if you hear that is, because as a fast walker if you are not hitting a speed of at least 4 kilometers per hour, you are in the middle of the spectrum. And no one writes about you.

Mumbai’s slow walkers, I feel, may not be much different than those found in New York or Beijing. Of course, the congestion here is extreme and that might add to the anxiety of individuals. The only difference that I assume makes sense to point out here is that they are not just present on the streets in the forms of students, daily wage workers, beggars, beggars in a suit, Grofers delivery guys when they are on foot, government officials with the trademark black boxy side bag, and loafers to name a few but are also found higher on the vertical plane. Be it metro stations or skywalks that will break down tomorrow, cause a few casualties, and then closed down for repairs or office premises in highrises, slow walkers have marked their presence and they will pull off their same slow-walkedness with unparalleled panache and audacity. Try sprinting from your desk to the loo and you will see what I’m talking about.

A crowded Mumbai street
This is an example of what I see in front of me every day when I leave from work. / Creative Commons

According to the TomTom Traffic Index 2018 which surveyed 403 cities across 56 countries on 6 continents, Mumbai is the most crowded city with a congestion level of a startling 63%. To put that into perspective, I require an extra travel time of 63% to go from A to B in the city than it takes on an average to do it in uncongested conditions.[1]TomTom methodology: An overall congestion level of 36% means that the extra travel time is 36% more than an average trip would take during uncongested conditions. (https://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/traffic-index/about) The difference is huge if I calculate the total extra time needed for an entire year and then place it alongside other data like the number of steps, number of kilometers walked, and the money spent on my imaginary gymnasium membership.

The Quality of a Slow Walker

A slow walker on the street is like a founder of a multi-level marketing campaign. They are themselves a blemish on Earth but then conspire to create a little gang of lesser blemishes that are collectively not doing any good to the society. Do keep in mind that such campaigns target both gullible persons and intelligent persons and they manage to convert both types. A slow walker, in sheer semblance, slows down both other slow walkers as well as fast walkers. It’s the perfect analogy.

Their quality is so contagious that the moment you come in contact with them it stops being their quality and starts becoming that of the people they affect. Take, for instance, the slowness itself. You come across a dozen of slow walkers strategically placed across the path to your destination and you bump into each one of them, hindering your pace and eventually delaying your arrival at the destination. The slow-walking quality of the six people on the street has converted into the slowness of your own strides which at once were so praise-worthy you could have won an amateur sprint race.

They also add to your exasperation, not just at the thought of reaching your destination late but also at being handed a speed breaker without solicitation. It is like those Ola and Uber drivers who have their vehicles installed with speed limiters. They can’t go beyond 80 kmph and that adds to the annoyance of the drivers as well as those that they are ferrying (sometimes without the other more essential safety standards, I should add). Ask me!

Meeting a slow walker on a Mumbai road is particularly annoying because most of us fast walkers follow a pre-determined line of path like those sprinters do in a running track. We mindmap and follow this track to avoid potholes, puddles, animal dung, relatives, and many other unpleasant things. Bumping into a slow walker means changing this track abruptly, and once that happens, you have lost your planning. The road ahead becomes an open sea of bitumen and concrete and plastic without a plan or a map, making you look like a fifteenth-century sailor out on the sea hoping to become Amerigo Vespucci. Safe to say that I now add slow walkers to that list above.

The above situation worsens if you are out there during peak time. Conditions around railway stations in Mumbai are far worse and I personally hold a record of meeting 13 slow walkers one after another outside Lower Parel station as if the whole universe is trying to conspire against me despite me simply wanting to reach where I want to be and having read the book.

In Mumbai, another variation that you see is of slow walkers in groups. Those are the worst because you can’t even give them the eye for there is the risk of being manhandled. Not much difference in a group of civilized people and a group of uncivilized people in India. These are the hard times and any group of more than two people pose a risk to an individual and other groups of more than two. Such is the complementing atmosphere colored by the recent effervescence of nationalist politics in the country. If you are a woman, things will almost surely go south because then there is also the danger of someone out of that group flashing at you or executing a more unpleasant activity or engaging in a crime like it’s routine stuff.

The streets are definitely not safe and we all know that. We don’t need one more element that makes it inhabitable.

A Threat to Society

Well, I know what your first thought is. And I agree. Slow walkers are not a threat to society. They are just innocuous beings trying to come in terms with their inability to match the average speed of streetwalkers. And the blame is not on them. It’s on us. On me.

So much rant about people walking slower than you. If such a small thing can demand such a long article, then there is a lot to introspect about where my anxieties and insecurities lie. If it takes me 10+ minutes to reach from A to B instead of 5 minutes, why is it affecting me so much? Where am I going so quickly? Of course, not to summit a peak strewn with garbage. Then what is the hurry? Why so much animosity towards my fellow brethren?

I think it is time to ask ourselves why we hate slow walkers so much and then scramble for an urgent solution to put all of it to an end. Chelsea Wald at Nautilus thinks it’s got to do with our dwindling patience levels, but she does not provide a solution. So, let me try.

a man in a hurry
If I was in a hurry and had the obnoxious habit of walking on an escalator, this would be me / Creative Commons

The easiest and the best solution is to not be in a hurry. Do half the things that you have planned for the day and then take a break in the time that you had allotted for the other half. Stipulate more time for commute and do it like you would do the waking-up chore on a lazy Sunday. As far as I know, none of us wants to be in a hurry nor there is a task that needs an urgent action.

Tomorrow, leave from work at the same time as you usually do and put a relaxed gait forward. If you have been catching the 7.37 PM train, try taking the 7.47 PM train. I never thought I would say this but the only way to stop hating slow walkers is to gradually become one. Start now.

PS – The good thing about the article is that no one identifies themselves as a slow walker. So, this cannot be seen as a direct attack on them. I’m not looking forward to receiving death threats considering the over-sensitive atmosphere that has blanketed India since 2014. TN.

footnotes   [ + ]

1. TomTom methodology: An overall congestion level of 36% means that the extra travel time is 36% more than an average trip would take during uncongested conditions. (https://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/traffic-index/about)