The Quint Guide to MAMI 2018 - 10 Indian Films to Watch
The Mumbai Film Festival is known for bringing the best of world cinema to the city, but the Indian films at the festival are often under-appreciated. Many local films have their Indian premieres at MAMI, coming from international festivals, often going on to more festivals, along with further awards and recognition.
The perfect example of this is Rima Das’ Village Rockstars, which after premiering at MAMI last year, won multiple National Awards including Best Feature and recently became India’s official entry to the Academy Awards.
This year the Indian selection at MAMI is exceptionally rich, with genuinely exciting and path-breaking works from fresh voices. There are the obvious titles like Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, which is opening the Mumbai Film Festival and which was the first Indian film to win the Midnight Madness award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Or Leena Yadav’s (of Parched fame) Rajma Chawal, starring Rishi Kapoor and Amyra Dastur.
But once again, we’ll try to focus on the hidden gems to watch out for. Here are our picks for Indian films at the 20th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.
Trust us on this, Buddha.mov is unlike anything you’ve seen and could become the breakout hit of the festival. Documentary turned fiction turned cross media, think of the central gimmick in Unfriended taken to its logical and thematic extreme. It’s a devilishly twisted look at hedonism, voyeurism and everything in between.
A project that has been teasing Indian cinephiles for years, this daring film again blends reality and meta-fiction as a filmmaker’s quest to recapture the last days of assassinated folk singer Amar Singh Chamkila (often called the ‘Elvis of Punjab’) goes wildly awry.
Bulbul Can Sing
Rima Das returns to MAMI for a third time after the success of Village Rockstars and that is reason enough to include this film here. Once again, Das sets her film in a small village in Assam, and brings specific empathy to a teenage girl struggling with her identity and clashing with the norms.
Ere Gowda, who wrote the critically acclaimed Thithi, makes his directorial debut with Balekempa. Gowda retains that film’s naturalistic flavour, but goes for something more quiet and intimate here. The film deals with potentially subversive ideas such as desire and loneliness in a small patriarchal community.
*Edit: Director Ere Gowda has recently been accused of sexual assault. As of this update, Balekempa has been withdrawn the festival.
Ivan Ayr’s debut is a starkly shot and filmed glimpse into the lives of two Delhi policewomen, who face male aggravation on a day-to-day basis, both at their job and elsewhere. It’s a true-blue character study, that lets its theme subtly creep up while never losing sight of its humanity.
To change tracks a little, Devashish Makhija is not a subtle filmmaker; last year’s Ajji shocked many a viewer. He returns with another tale of cyclical violence, this time anchored by a defining performance from Manoj Bajpayee, who plays a retired police officer struggling against divisive politics in his neighbourhood.
The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain
Here is another film that has been buzzed about for a while now. The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain is making its world premiere at MAMI, which is a big deal. The trailer looks absolutely gorgeous and promises something akin to a folk tale crossed with fantasy and sci-fi elements.
Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil
Aadish Keluskar’s sophomore effort after the mind-bending Kaul is an unconventional take on a conventional subject with realism, provocation and insight. The director calls Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil an “anti-romantic film.” The bones of the genre are there but Keluskar fleshes them with refreshing honesty.
Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Jaa Riya Hoon
Fusing documentary-realism with magic-realism, and true and fictionalised stories with poetry and dreams, Ghode Ko… is a love-letter to the syncretic culture of Old Delhi, to its history which is slowly losing itself amidst concrete and smog. Anamika Haksar is an well-known theatre director making her feature film debut.
Dominic Sangma’s debut is the only Indian feature selected in the International Competition at MAMI. The Meghalayan Garo-language film is about an 85-year-old man who has waited 30 years to be reunited with his dead wife. After a cryptic dream, he becomes convinced that she may have become unrecognisable in death.
Aditya Sengupta’s first film Labour of Love (2014) was a lovely surprise. He returns to the idea of dreams intersecting with reality in Jonaki : a moody and haunting drama about an 80-year-old woman who searches for love in a strange world of decaying memories.
The 20th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star runs from 25 October to 1 November. Here are our picks from the international films playing at the festival.