For its relatively recent beginnings, Jio MAMI has quickly dominated the landscape of film festivals in this country, with the strength of its sheer scale as well as its film industry clout. The hundreds of films scheduled in swanky multiplexes around the city cannot hold a candle to other humble film festivals pegged doubling up as tourist getaways. MAMI, on the other hand uses its Bollywood muscles to attract crowds, but otherwise, sticks to its film festival credentials. At 12 multiplexes running at least four shows, shown over seven days, it is one of its kind on paper. Every member can buy a pass of Rs 1,500 and watch a maximum of four films per day. The festival brought to the spotlight fantastic films such as Tim Story’s Taxi, the restored Apu trilogy by Satyajit Ray, Mistress America by Noah Baumbach, and Hansal Mehta’s deeply engaging film Aligarh that opened the festival. Two of the most anticipated films were Dheepan, directed by Jacques Audiard, and Un Plus Une by Claude Lelouch. Dheepan is the winner of the Palme d’Or during Cannes Film Festival 2015.
Touted to be one of Manoj Bajpai’s finest performances till date, Aligargh essays the story of an ageing professor, suspended after video footage of him having sex with another man was captured in a “sting operation” on videotape. A journalist, Deepu, establishes an unlikely relationship with him, and helps him build a case in court to support his right to dignity. The film is a philosophical treatise on how to live a life of dignity in a homophobic society.
Another gem of the festival, was the movie Chauthi Koot by Gurvinder Singh, that recreated the atmosphere of simultaneous fear and aggression that was there in Punjab of the ’80s during the pro-Khalistan movement. Chauthi Koot bagged top honours at Jio MAMI, winning the India Gold category. The award, called Drishyam Presents, entitles Chauthi Koot for publicity, distribution and international sales support from Drishyam Films, the production house that has also produced Masaan and Dhanak (see page 24 for more information). Gurinder Singh’s debut fiction feature film Anhey Ghorey ke Daan had won three National awards before this. Haraamkhor, a feature film that traces the relationship between a married tuition teacher (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and his student (played by Shweta Tripathi). National Film Development Corporation’s experimental feature on a writer’s relationship with words called Mere Mann ke Bharam has been awarded the Special Grand Jury Prize.
Touted to be one of Manoj Bajpai’s finest performances till date, Aligargh essays the story of an ageing professor, suspended after video footage of him having sex with another man was captured in a “sting operation” on videotape.
In the international competition segment, the Golden Gateway of India award was given to Ixcanul Volcano, directed by Jayro Busatamante, a Guatamalan film about how a 17-year-old girl avoids marriage. Thithi, a film set in rural Karnataka directed by Raam Reddy, won the Grand Jury Prize.
Mumbaikars turned out in full strength for the festival, across all age groups. While there were young Xaviers’ enthusiasts running around with their own handmade schedules in one hand and a coke bottle in the other, there were dapper elderly women and men enterprisingly standing in the Stand-By line, waiting for tickets that remained after the last call for booked participants were made. Every show was overbooked, and it was virtually impossible to just walk into any film theatre screening even the most obscure documentary; a far cry from Delhi that is spoilt with the number of free screenings that takes place in the city. However, despite the outer shine, mismanagement was a common complaint, as people who had previously booked tickets and turned up within time failed to get a place in the theatre, whose entrances looked like it were manned by mobs.
Ritika Bhatia, an industry insider and attendee at the film festival said, “It was impossible to get seats for the festival if you were not booked from before. For the unreserved category, the scene would be akin to Dadar station passengers at rush hour on cocaine.” Mansi Dorji*, another attendee and a screenwriter said, “Most of these seats are overbooked since a lot of people have reserved their places in films that they eventually could not turn up to attend. As a result of this, people who want to actually watch the festival have not managed to get a place for themselves and are at the mercy of the volunteers there. While a lot of money has been invested in the festival, some more attention could have been spared in its organisation.”
These experiences, unfortunately, can be verified by the author of this article. I arrived for a show of The Lobster at PVR Phoenix, Lower Parel for the evening show, and stood in the dreaded Stand-By line for about an hour and a half, only to be told there were no tickets, and when I ended up watching an experimental Danish film called The Visit, a documentary style feature based on the presumption that an alien spaceship had visited India.