The Mumbai International Film Festival (known as the MAMI festival) that concluded yesterday proved again that there is a demand for good cinema in the city.
The shows at the main venue in Juhu were packed to capacity and a few popular films had to have extra screenings to accommodate the overflow.
The crowd and chaos in the small multiplex lobby also proved that, maybe, it’s time Mumbai actually had a festival complex. But that maybe asking for too much.
So a few random impressions – it was good to see so many film people standing in queue, for the films, when they could have seen them at home on DVD.
There was a Venice award-winning film called Somewhere, by Sophia Coppola, that was about the loneliness and alienation of a Hollywood film star. He drives around in a swank car, but lives in a depressing room (even though it’s in Beverly Hills' Chateau Marmont), picks up willing women, dozes though a pole dance routine, and though he keeps looking through the rear view mirror, he never has any paparazzi following him.
What a contrast to the lives of even minor film celebs in Bollywood, pampered, feted, hounded by media and fans all the time; their every move magnified and reported. In contrast, the life of a non A-List Hollywood star seems so dismal.
Watching festival films, so many of which are beautifully shot, with imaginative ideas, but slow-paced and often dull, actually makes one warm up to Bollywood films, which at least try to entertain the audience, if not engage their minds. Then one watches some trashy Bollywood film, and wonders why so many directors have so little cinematic sense. It is so rare to find a film that satisfies on all counts, and it is mainstream Hollywood that gets it right so often –current example being Social Network.
It’s only film festival regulars who get to see films from countries not on the theatre or regular DVD circuit, and one of the joys of a festival is to discover such a gem, when everyone else is queuing up for the big names or award-winning films. In countries where cinema is not an industry, filmmakers may find it tough to get funding, but they are also free to use the medium as an art form.
Even if one manages to catch a handful of films, just watching the ol’ regulars queue up so assiduously and also see a new generation of cinephiles grow is a great feeling. The plastic badge hanging around necks automatically binds people into a community and that in itself is rare in a city like Mumbai.