Jio MAMI Young Critics Lab mentored by author and critic Deepanjana Pal entered its final phase on Tuesday. The lab is a unique concept wherein young students attend lectures on film appreciation. The films discussed during the lab ranged from documentary, fiction to mockumentaries and other hybrid styles. The participants who have made it to the final list after a process of scrutiny will be getting to watch films at the festival. They will be getting hands on experience of reviewing films. One of the reviewers will be declared the winner and will be awarded.

Pandolin spoke with Deepanjana back in August this year when the lab had just begun. Now that the lab is concluding, we thought it fitting to be picking up from where we left. Yes, we have picked from the bookmarked pages but there is a small twist to the tale. Joining us in this session is Manika Verma, a final year student of Journalism at Xavier Institute of Communications (Mumbai), who is one of the participants of the lab.

Deepanjana Pal

Deepanjana Pal

Deepanjana Pal

How was the experience of shortlisting and finalizing the participants?

It’s been good. As of now, I have only shortlisted the participants. The finalization process will be done on the basis of the reviews that they write.

What are the key skills that you are looking for in these future journalists?

I am basically looking for people who are interested in films. The people who made it to the final 19 are both interested in and are learning from what we have talked about in our previous sessions. Nobody is going to become Anthony Lane or Robert Ebert overnight. That’s not entirely how it happens. Enthusiasm goes a long way.

And what were the important learnings from the workshop?

First and foremost, to always wear comfortable shoes. Which I do! (Laughs). And the second most important thing is to always keep the language simple.

What next has been planned for the participants?

They now have a entire week of amazing films to watch and possibly sleepless nights as they write reviews for The Dailies. They have a great exhilarating and insomniac period ahead of them.

How important are such labs for the younger generation?

Honestly, we don’t really know because we don’t have enough of them. Someone who’s interested in film appreciation or writing about films has very few options to choose from.

Labs have their own positives. Meeting a bunch of new people who have the same interests as you enables you to have constructive discussions. Picture this, for the last three months we’ve had one weekend every month, where from 10 in the morning to 5 in the evening all we were doing was thinking about films, culture and theories essentially. And that’s nice.

Manika Verma

Manika Verma

Manika Verma

What were your expectations from the lab?

I expected a lot of sessions with fellow cinephiles about Indian and world cinema. I saw it as a gathering of people who love cinema.  I am a regular attendee of MAMI from the last two years. So, this year I decided to join this lab.

Were your expectations met?

Yes, it was as I had expected. The discussions were quite informative. We were shown lots of exciting documentary films and met a lot of nice people. It’s not every day that you get to watch Shyam Benegal’s Kalyug, Andrew Jarecki’s Capturing the Friedmans and Woody Allen’s Zelig. The whole process was rewarding.

You will be writing reviews of the films under India Gold section. How are you going to apply your learnings from this lab?

For the uninitiated, India Gold is a competitive category. Here at the workshop we learnt a lot about reading the various aspects of a film. Direction, production design, acting, cinematography and editing collectively make a film. So, while writing the review, we will take all these aspects into consideration.