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October 25, 2018

All You Need To Know About The 20th Mami Mumbai Film Festival

Text by Ranjabati Das

Here’s a selection to get you in the mood and MAMI ready….

On Women 

Nathicharami, Kannada

Mansore or Manjunatha Somakeshava Reddy’s debut feature Harivu (2014), highlighting the plight of farmers in Karnataka, won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada. His sophomore outing Nathicharami, is centred around Gowri, a young widow who is in denial about her physical desires, and is in a more urban vein.

Photo-Prem or Smile Please, Marathi

Gayatri Patil and Aditya Rathi’s maiden feature revolves around the photophobic Sunanda who is faced with a dilemma after attending a funeral: given her inability to pose for the camera, how will her descendants remember her once she is gone? The film chronicles her journey as she sets out to overcome her fears and secure a picture that will be a true representation of herself so that her image can be recorded for posterity.

Bulbul Can Sing, Assamese

Till 2017, few people knew the name Rima Das. But this year ensured that the multi hyphenate who produced, directed, wrote, edited and shot the National Award winning Village Rockstars — India’s official Oscar entry — got her rightful place in the sun. Her third feature, a coming-of-age film about love and survival, again set in rural Assam, centres around the teenaged Bulbul as she tries to unravel the true meaning of life and freedom. One thing’s for sure: this one will be seen by a lot more people than Village Rockstarswas last year at MAMI. Will it sweep the India Gold category this year too? That’s left to be seen. We wish however that the jury awards were handed out at the start of the festival rather than at the end so that the under-the-radar gems are seen by a wider audience.

Ottamuri Velicham or Light In The Room, Malayalam

Writer-director Rahul Riji Nair’s debut feature, centred on domestic violence and marital rape, won many laurels including the coveted Best Feature Film award at the Kerala State Film Awards earlier this year.

Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum or Sivaranjani And Two Other Women, Tamil

Comprising three female-centric short stories by iconic Tamil writers Ashokamitran, Jayamohan, and Aadavan, self-confessed feminist Vasanth S. Sai’s anthology film reflects on themes of identity, self-worth and space through three different time periods.

Hindi Gems

Bhonsle, Hindi

Devashish Makhija’s next after last year’s critically acclaimed Ajji that he wrote and directed exploresthe attitude towards migrants in the current clime of intolerance. The film asks pertinent questions of identity and belonging through the story of Bhonsle, a Maharashtrian cop, who finds a companion in a 23-year-old Bihari, even as the growing anti-Bihari sentiment in Maharashtra comes to a head.

Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil, Hindi

If you enjoyed Aadish Keluskar’s (who also goes by the name Vasudev) 2016 thriller Kaul which he directed, wrote and edited, you’re in luck. With this one, he delves into the various facets and eccentricities of a heterosexual relationship.

Life Of An Outcast, Hindi

Having explored the migrant experience in Naya Pata, Pawan K. Shrivastava turns his lens on caste oppression in India in a story that traces the misfortunes of a Dalit family.

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (The Man Who Feels No Pain), Hindi

The trailer of this superhero slash martial-arts film by Vasan Bala — who has worked as a screenwriter on Anurag Kashyap films like Bombay Velvet and Raman Raghav 2.0.— looks, in one word, epic. The opening film at MAMI this year tells us the story of Surya (played by debutant Abhimanyu Dassani, son of Bollywood actor Bhagyashree), who is blessed with a pretty cool superpower — invincibility — born as he is with a rare medical disorder called Congenital Insensitivity to Pain that disallows him from feeling any pain.

Hamid, Hindi and Urdu

Aijaz Khan’s third directorial follows eight-year-old Hamid in his efforts to get in touch with god to enquire about his dead father and the confusion that ensues when the number he dials is actually picked up.

6 Different Genres From Around The World

Actor Paul Dano (Ruby SparksLooper12 Years A SlavePrisoners) turns director with Wildlife which he has co-written with his Ruby Sparks writer and co-star Zoe Kazan. This domestic drama, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan who play husband and wife, has been lauded as “a potent collaboration in every respect, and a remarkable directorial debut” by New York Times critic Glenn Kenny.

Ethan and Joel Coen are back with The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (featuring James Franco, Liam Neeson, Kazan and Tom Waits among others), a film depicting six standalone stories against the backdrop of one of their favourite genres — the western. Originally conceptualised as a Netflix miniseries, this one is slated to be available on the streaming platform from November 16.

Debutante director Christina Choe gives us Nancy, a thriller starring Black Mirror season 4 actor Andrea Riseborough, which unfolds over the course of three tense days.

Writer-director Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma has been praised as breathtaking, dazzling, triumphant and much else. Upheld as a masterpiece, the Oscar contender takes us back to 1970s Mexico and right into the lives of a middle-class family and their neighbourhood. The Spanish drama is the second Netflix release on this list.

Benedikt Erlingsson’s Woman At War is a comedy slash thriller slash ecological drama about the alter ego of a pregnant woman who doubles up as an activist. Iceland’s official entry to the Oscars.

Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, based upon the memoir of the same name by paralysed cartoonist John Callahan (played by Joaquin Phoenix; is this the one for which he finally gets an Oscar?), is a motivating, feel-good film about how an accident led Callahan to find his true calling. Curated streaming service MUBI has acquired the UK theatrical rights to the Amazon Studios film that will release in Britain on October 26.

On Gender

Wash Westmoreland’s feminist film Collette starring period film specialist Keira Knightley tells us the tantalising tale of queer woman Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette — a French writer who was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948 and whose 1940 novella Gigi gave us the 1958 musical of the same name — and her dominating husband (played by Dominic West) who forced her to write under his name for a period of time.

Actor-director Joel Edgerton’s second directorial feature Boy Erased, based on the memoir of American writer Garrard Conley, stars Nicole Kidman and Edgerton as troubled parents who pressurise their son Jared (Lucas Hedges) to participate in a church-supported gay conversion programme.

Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation Of Cameron Post follows the life of a young girl and titular character Cameron Post (Chlöe Grace Moretz) who is outed as a lesbian by her male prom date and sent to a conversion programme to set ‘right’ the ‘wrong’. Akhavan is a bisexual who dug into her own experiences to tell this story. The film won the grand jury prize at Sundance film festival early on in the year.

Unnikrishnan Avala’s Malayalam film Udalazham or Body Deep, based on Avala’s 2012 book Vipareetham (The Opposite), shines the light on tribal transgender A. Raju, a member of one of Kerala’s Adivasi communities, who grew up in a deeply repressive and intolerant society.

Documentaries

Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9, inverting the name of his previous documentary (2004’s Fahrenheit 9/11)examines the 2016 US presidential election and the Trump presidency.

MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A.,based on who else but English-Sri Lankan musician MIA or Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, is the pet project of her friend and frequent collaborator Steve Loveridge. The second film to feature a female pop star this year, after Lady Gaga’s A Star Is Born.

Sangeeta Datta’s Bird Of Dusk (Shondher Pakhi) is a homage to avant-garde film-maker Rituparno Ghosh, who fleshed out notions of gender, sexuality and feminism in Indian cinema at a time when it was still considered taboo. The film is about his relationship with his hometown Kolkata. Datta, a friend of Ghosh’s, talks to film insiders including Soumitra Chatterjee, Aparna Sen, Nandita Das to give us an insight into Ghosh.

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