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Mumbai Film Festival: Bye MAMI, hello reality; but dance with a mermaid first...  

Mumbai Film Festival: Bye MAMI, hello reality; but dance with a mermaid first...  

Mumbai Film Festival: Bye MAMI, hello reality; but dance with a mermaid first...  
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By Manisha Lakhe  Oct 25, 2019 3:20:43 PM IST (Updated)

The JIO MAMI film festival closed on a high note on October 24, and was attended by many Bollywood celebrities. A look at some of the top movies screened at the festival.

It’s like they say in the fairy tales, you have to kiss a thousand frogs before one turns into a prince. We did just that. Over the last seven days reveled in stories coming out of far corners of the globe (missed Australia and Croatia this year), and sobbed into the pillow late at night because so much of your life resonated in a narrative from far away.

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A home that was full of not so rich but a happy family who did things together, now lies desolate and forlorn because one chacha left home to become a doctor and then slowly everyone trickled out… Gamak Ghar is perhaps the story of our lives, some of us empty nesters, trying desperately to hold on to a time that we thought was the best. Think of the rage in Les Miserables, a tale told in France of today. Where the cops are cops like everywhere in the world, and the people have had to learn to survive.
Marriage Story of course is something that is happening to less beautiful people than Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. And though lawyers can never look as good as Laura Dern (or Ray Liotta even) in real life, the poison that they can add to innocuous statements is unbelievable. Here is how: In the film the couple is granted custody of the child and they think it is rather amicable when Laura Dern suggests Scarlett insist the split should be 55-45. That was she gets to spend one extra day with her son, and why should the Adam get the satisfaction of having got a great deal, let him taste what a loss is like…
We try to salve our conscience with all kinds of reasons when our children go astray: fatherless child, mother too stressed with day-to-day problems to look after his needs too and so on, but what do you do when your child is being influenced by a religious teacher? He begins obsessing over ablutions and praying and demanding everyone in the family live in a certain way… Young Ahmed is so radicalised he’s even ready to kill his teacher because his imam said she’s an apostate and she wants to shake his hand even though she’s a woman… My heart went out to the mother who does not know how to handle her son who’s changing right before her eyes. Perhaps not with religion, but we have fought our own battles with our children who turn out to be different from what you thought they were going to be.
The festival had many a gem, and I wrote about them. But the film to end the festival will leave you gasping for breath when it releases in India soon. The Lighthouse by Robert Eggers is a fantastic end to a festival that moved you in so may ways. It is as the title suggests, set at a lighthouse perhaps at the end of civilisation. And Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson manage to hold on to your throat, get inside your head and dance a wild dance for an hour and fifty minutes. And even though you try to sleep after the screening, you are haunted by that seagull…
The loneliness of being marooned on ‘the rock’ for weeks begins to get to you. And you realise why this film is black and white. Because this film is made up of things you call your nightmares. The two men Thomas Wake and Eprahaim Winslow are keepers of a lighthouse, Eprahaim is the apprentice, made to do all kinds of menial jobs because Thomas perhaps knows that Eprahaim is hiding a secret, running away from a past…
The drunken meals are what brings the two men together. But there’s loneliness hiding behind every rafter. Just when you think the two men are coming to terms with being marooned at the lighthouse together, it slaps you when you least expect it.
Now isolation is a theme of one of my favourite tale of horrors: The Shining. But the hotel in that film is shrouded by a blanket of snow. Here, Robert Pattinson is trying to get to the light, literally. Light that is being guarded jealously by Thomas. This is the giant prism that magically creates light to warn the ships off the rocks…
Robert Pattinson was the person that made young girls swoon all over the planet because he was a vampire on the Twilight series, and I hated that mindless inter-species teenage lust show. But if you saw him as the brother who cares for his disabled sibling in Good Time (2017), The King (he plays the Dauphin of France) and Life (he plays a photographer) (both these films are available on Netflix), then you will forgive him all the Twilight films.
Good Time played at MAMI and everyone was floored by his acting chops.  Willem Dafoe on the other hand is like no other actor. In this film, he’s like Captain Ahab, and the lighthouse is his whale… Something that gives him a reason to live and also something that will bring about his downfall. He’s been nominated for four times for an acting award by the academy, and even when he’s doing a voiceover for Fantastic Mister Fox you can be assured you will come away impressed. You have seen him in Mississippi Burning to Wild At Heart to Body Of Evidence, to Spiderman, his talent is unmissable. In this film he’s at once a hero and then the antagonist. His taunts to Eprahaim stay with you even when you get back home. He is the perfect bully, and if you wonder why his smoking pipe is upside down, don’t. He’s like those playing cards where the knave has a side that is upside down… Or is it like what you have seen in countless horror movie that come out of Hollywood - the upside down crucifix - a sign of the Satan himself?
You will feel rage and fear and loneliness and sit stunned in your seat when the credits begin to roll. Then you realise that everyone has left the theatre and they are waiting for you to leave so they can clean up all the leftover emotions lying around you. You hand over the uneaten popcorn to the crew who roll their eyes and dump it. You wave at the nearest kaali peeli taxi (you have no energy to jab at options for Uber or Ola) who plays bhajans at you all through the ride back home. It’s only when you start singing like the two did in the movie that he stops, and you remember the funniest thing that happened to you at the festival.
It was the Sunday when people wearing their tags lined up patiently at Regal for the morning screening. Holding a flag for his flock of Chinese tourists, a tour guide attempts to answer the question by one of the tourists as they go past Regal towards the Gateway: You see these people lined up for the movie? You see Indians don’t have anything to do on Sunday, and movies are the best entertainment, so they’re lined up to watch blockbuster Bollywood movies…
I will miss you MAMI, and hope we won’t be relegated to the fate the tour guide pronounced for us...
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.
Read her columns here.
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