The 15th Mumbai Film Festival- What we watched
Q: Where did the last week go?
A: In a blur of movie-watching, that’s where!
I am not exaggerating when I say that I have not seen sunlight during the Mumbai Film Festival- except on screen, of course. While the lineup this year wasn’t as interesting as it was last year, and the programming meant we had to inevitably sacrifice one ‘must-watch’ movie in favour of another, after back-to-back screenings of 5 films a day, the post-MFF withdrawal symptoms are just about setting in.
So here’s a round up of what I watched at the festival. We begin with our favourite India-based films.
(Listed in order of viewing)
Dir: Anup Singh
The festival began on a high note as this was the second movie I watched on the opening day. Qissa is a genre-bender, gender-bender (I learnt a new word here) and a boundary pusher. The story of Umber Singh and his family, this movie was on our must-watch list, and post screening, stays even firmly so. Watch it for its unique storyline, let it surprise you as you try to make sense of it. Watch it for the powerful performances by Tillotoma Shome, Irrfan Khan and Rasika Duggal. And watch it for its beautiful music as the film continues to haunt you.
This film went on to win the Second Best Film in the India Gold 2013 category
Dir: Amit Gupta
The Film India Worldwide section of MFF is always an interesting watch. Directed by NRIs, stories based in or on India, Jadoo inaugurated the section this year. The story is quite promising. A light-hearted comedy about two Indian brothers in the UK, who are chefs, they own rival restaurants across the street, but they fight and split their family recipe book into half. This results in customers having starters at Brother 1’s restaurant, only to finish the meal at Brother 2’s restaurant. When there is a marriage in the family, the Daughter of Brother 1 wants both her father and uncle to cater at her wedding. Interesting, right?
I walked out of the movie within half an hour. And that’s being kind.
3. Vakratunda Mahakaya
Dir: Punarvasu Naik
This one reaffirms it’s spot on the watchlist too. First time director Punarvasu Naik presents a gripping thriller about a soft-toy Ganpati within which is a bomb ready to explode. As we follow the toy God’s journey through the city, we meet multiple characters, from a street kid and his junkie friend to clandestine lovers, from a special needs child to a politician, and explore their relationship with the beloved God. The whole time, however intimate the moment, Naik doesn’t lose his control over the pace. Emotional moments about the bond between devotee and God are followed by reminders that God can be a bringer of mass destruction and Death. As is writer Yogesh Vinayak Joshi’s style, the film makes a stark comment on faith. Vakratunda Mahakaya is packed with fantastic performances, comedy and satire, all bound together by the urgency of a ticking bomb.
Word is the film is headed for a January 2014 release. Do not miss.
Dir: Devashish Makhija
I’d seen Oonga pre-MFF, so I spoke to those who watched it at the festival and asked them what they thought of the film. It seems like the film garnered a mixed-response, with most viewers happy with the watch. One thing was unanimous, all of them loved the fact that this was a story with a heart, and stated that was enough for them to forgive any technical shortcomings they found with the film. The power of a good script, no?
5. Sulemani Keeda
Dir- Amit V Masurkar
Of all the films I’ve watched at the festival, this one had the audience wooting and laughing and applauding through the film. A comedy about two writer’s struggles with their art, Sulemani Keeda (the title received another round of applause from the audience, which I suspect mostly consisted of aspiring writers) is a tongue-in-cheek take about their experience with Bollywood. Think obnoxious producers who laugh at writer’s contracts, producer’s even-more-obnoxious son looking to be launched, obscure references to Tarkovsky and Fellini… you get the gist. Again, most of the audience seemed to have gone through/going through similar situations, as they guffawed and agreed with the story on screen. This one was also the lightest watch of the festival, easy on the grey cells, unabashedly non-intellectual types. Watch it when you want a break from the heavy films festivals usually screen.
Dir- Richie Mehta
After the disaster that was Jadoo, I dared to walk into another Film India Worldwide screening, and I am glad I did. Siddharth is based on a true-life story about Mahendra, a zip-wala who sends his son (Siddharth) to work in Delhi, only to find out he has disappeared mysteriously from the factory he was working at. Mahendra borrows money from his friends and sets out to look for his missing son, tracing him all the way to Dongri in Mumbai. Does he find him? Watch the film to find out. The film is an honest-to-life portrayal of the nature of life. Help comes from unexpected places, disappointment greets you where you’d hope for success, support awaits you where you expected reprimand. The film may seem a little flat, the plot too coincidence driven, but then again, it leaves you with the feeling that life isn’t what you expect it to be, so why should a film based on life be all that a traditional screenplay is expected to be? Worth a watch, though maybe not for all audiences. I know my friend who came along for the film got bored. Also, I wouldn’t go by the international reviews, as they’ve been written without the understanding of the milieu, which surprisingly for an Indian-Canadian directed has been handled superbly, without being too self-suffering or pity-driven.
7. Taak Jhaak/Sunglass
Dir: Rituparno Ghosh
This one was the only movie on our must-watch list that we didn’t see, thanks to the non-availability of the print (official statement given to us by the festival organisers). Ironically, this is a film about a sunglass that makes you ‘see’ more than the normal vision. Then again, Ritu was known for his sense of humor.
And then I missed a few. I couldn’t catch Nagraj Manjule’s ‘Fandry’, but heard enough about it from a lot of people during the festival to convince me that I’ve missed a very special film indeed. The film went on to win the Jury Grand Prize (The Silver Gateway award).
Also on my wishlist is Katiyabaaz, which won the Best Film at the India Gold category, which I missed due to conflicting timings with another beautiful film. (See what I mean about the conflicting programming? Le sigh)
Did you catch any of these films? What did you think? How was the festival for you? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear from you!