Movie crazy people are quiet people. Used to gaping in the dark, used to watching films alone, used to eating popcorn without crunching (or not eating at all!), used to drinking tea.
What do you think could turn the usually mild mannered cinephiles into a teeth gnashing, anger emoji using, ‘kill the techies’ sloganeering mob? Technical glitches on the
Book My Show site for MAMI of course! Anger and frustration was oozing out of Twitter when ‘Bookings start at 8 am’ turned into ‘Stay Tuned’ to ‘Booking will now open at 10am’. With one eye on the clock and the page on the computer ‘refreshed’ about a thousand times, I managed to make another cup of tea, and even go through my morning chores to face reality.
Others called in to share their own versions of trouble, but in the end everyone (on the twitter and whatsapp timeline) seems to have booked movies they wanted. I pick up the phone absent-minded and regret it instantly when I hear, ‘Manisha daahlin’! Tony invited me here, so I thought thodi wine shine ho jaaye and see a few films! Am sure you’re watching Roma! I will see you there!’
That voice! That monologue with many exclamation points… I knew I had to skip that film. Sorry folks, it’s one on my list, but I could not possibly see the film with someone sighing deeply during a love scene, crunching popcorn during dramatic scenes, and stage whispering, ‘How lovely the silence is!’ in moments that need that silence. Plus she won’t switch off her phone! I think cinema houses should employ special ushers with sticks to knock off phones that are on full screen glare. She does Davos because she can, but I was not about to let her ruin my pilgrimage. I skip booking Roma and take refuge in great films being shown at Regal. It’s a grand old theater, the staff nods approvingly at you when you deposit your coffee cup in a bin, and if you have ten minutes between films, you can get lovely greasy vadas, bread pakodas and mind blowing ginger tea across the street.
Jafar Panahi is an Iranian filmmaker who when home incarcerated, his equipment confiscated, made a film on his phone and smuggled the film in a USB stick embedded in a cake. When the regime was cracking down on pet dogs, his writer smuggles his pet to his seaside home, where he writes the script of his next film. The characters come alive and we see him inside his home, his mind, the posters of his earlier films leaning against the wall guiltily instead of being displayed with pride. Closed Curtains was such a personal experience for me because I have been wanting to make such an escape for ever. He then made a film called ‘Taxi’ which uses the dashboard camera to film his passengers as the director drives a taxicab in Tehran. This year he brings 3 Faces to MAMI. The first film I’m watching. 3 Faces is about Behnaz Jafari and Jafar Panahi (who play themselves) traveling to the interiors of Iran to find and rescue a young girl who wants to escape her conservative family. How neatly this filmmaker manages to bend the twenty year ban imposed upon him by the government.
I look for political commentary in Chinese films as well, and Zhang Yimou masterfully tells tales that are unforgettable visual spectacles. Watch Hero when you can. The film uses Martial Arts to score many political points (as many Chinese films subtly do) but Hero is a treat to the eyes. His Raise The Red Lantern, Coming Home, gave the world the incredible Gong Li. But when you watch the story of a young substitute teacher who walks across the country to find her missing student (uff! What a political statement the film makes), you will shed tears as I do with every watch, the film is called Not One Less. This year the second film I’m watching is Shadow by Zhang Yimou.
Last year at MAMI I fell in love with Godard and then hated him in the span of one film called Godard Mon Amour. The writer/director belongs to what every film student learns: The French New Wave cinema. His sense of humor as well as his talent for discovering the innate humanness of the characters has made me book the film The Image Book by Jean Luc Godard. I usually don’t sneak into reviews, but with him, you have to. He’s one director who has inspired so many filmmakers, plus it will be fun to eavesdrop into conversations of people at the coffee counter who will know everything about his technique and philosophy of film.
And yes, I am also a Japanophile. So no coming home before watching Shoplifters. The fourth film of the day. It’s about… I will tell you in the next column. I just need to make a promise to not ask for ‘A ticket to Bandra’ in a Kyoto accent… Arigatou gozaimasu, MAMI! The first day promises so much...
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. Disclosure: Jio MAMI 20th Mumbai Film Festival With Star is sponsored by Reliance Jio, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries that controls Network18, the parent company of CNBCTV18.com.