Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2019, that began on October 17th, 2019, brought with it a wide variety of films in its line-up, more specifically over 190 titles, spanning 53 countries, 49 languages, 13 world premieres and guilt for cinephiles for only having 24 hours in one particular day, in their quest to not miss any.
No intervals in between a film, travelling to locations far from your locality, playing the closest version of KBC’s fastest finger first on BookMyShow, hating people with a gold pass whilst waiting in long queues, trying to not be weird or star struck when Sriram Raghavan and Vishal Bharadwaj are sitting right behind you, these are a few things a first time MAMI goer needs to battle with. Film festivals in recent times have created this bridge between industry professionals and aspirants by getting them in the same theatre to watch a piece of art they both fancy, and take different things away from.
In its 21st edition, MAMI raised its bar once again, striking a perfect balance between bringing in the best of festival favourites from across the globe, and selecting some really special films in their competition section, made by young as well as experienced filmmakers. To back that up, the competition jury is filled with hallmark industry professionals from the Hindi Film Industry, and experts from around the world, to raise the bar even higher. Franklin Leonard, Zoya Akhtar, Vishal Bharadwaj, to name a few. Films are just one part of this festival (quite literally). This festival is filled with masterclasses and post screening interviews and a few star-studded pre-events as well like the ‘Movie Mela’.
MAMI this year brought in the best of films from across the globe, and stood there with a grinning smile whilst we, the cinema lowers, tried to plan to the best of our abilities, and still regret not watching quite a few movies. To name a few biggies, most anticipated titles from Berlin, Cannes, Sundance, Venice, Toronto etc. James Gray’s Brad Pitt starring a sci-fi space drama, Ad Astra; Noah Baumbach’s global festival hit, Marriage Story; Joanna Hogg’s Sundance winner, The Souvenir; Pedro Almodovar’s filmmaker tragedy, Pain and Glory; Martin Scorsese’s Netflix-produced gangster opera, The Irishman; Robert Eggers’ future awards favourite, The Lighthouse, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
But the struggle didn’t end there. Waking up at 7:30, opening 2 tabs of BookMyShow, practicing as to what movies I need to book, all this just so that I lived up to my ambitious so called MAMI schedule. My parents were the happiest seeing me up so early every day, only to see what the actual motive was, films. For most first timers, booking was also the most resentful phase since they never got the titles they were interested in, till they actually figured their way out, the story of my fellow best friend. Friendships have been on line when one of us got the show, and the other didn’t, only to have a smile on their face when at the box office, seats for that show were available.
Planning this edition of MAMI, was like planning a bank heist. Entry and exit routes, making the most of our time, finding ways of exiting one theatre and entering another, planning travel and queuing up – to the minute. It was nothing short of an adventure. It also got people to get out of their comfort zone and do anything in their power to get hold of the films they longed for. This meant going lengths and breaths of Mumbai, from the Regal theatre in Colaba to PVR Icon in Andheri, and everything in between these two ends.
In a festival that brought in some of the most loved movies from across the globe, it was very ordinary to have an industry veteran sitting right behind you, and watching and applauding the same things as you do, for they are fans of the artist and genre of cinema as well, just like you. Having both, Meeting Shakun Batra while standing in the queue for Marriage Story, was nothing short of a thrilling experience as the movie itself, and this was just one such experiences.
However, with films come opinions. Everyone is entitled to have their own opinion, if you can justify them through the context of the film, good and bad. And since any form of art is subjective, everyone may not have the same opinion. Festival films from all over the world have been heavily reviewed and spoken about, and this brings in a lot of pressure. But something I saw this year was pretentious cinema lovers who didn’t even watch the entire film, conformed to what was being said about that particular film, without having an opinion of their own, which maybe could differ.
This is not the point of film festivals. Its as much as education, as it is entertainment. The reason festivals bring in 200 odd films to be watched over just a week, throws light on the fact that we are the king of what we want to watch and also have an opinion about. It is about what you take from the film, which may or may not be aligned with the world, just don’t be afraid to stand out.
All in all, with the 21st edition coming to an end, hats off to the team at MAMI for giving us another year of magnanimous titles, and a fabulous viewing experience, to keep our love for cinema alive, and for aspirants, hope and motivation to one day seeing their name on that screen being applauded for. Films are a great medium for saying a lot, festivals are a great platform to be used as a medium for that film, and the team at MAMI, did just that.