The recently concluded 21st edition of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star featured 190 titles across 49 languages. That should give you an idea about the kind of stamina that is required to navigate these film festivals. A tough task but here I attempt to tell you about my top picks from amongst the Indian films that were screened this year.
The opening film of the festival Moothon had premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month to critical praise. Directed by Geetu Mohandas , this story about how a young boy comes to Mumbai from the Lakshwadeep islands to look for his elder brother is an unsettling and powerful thriller with gender politics woven in masterfully. Nivin Pauly, Sobhita Dhulipala, Shashank Arora and Roshan Mathew are all part of a formidable lineup that makes Moothon a must watch.
There is also Bombay Rose, a six year labour of love directed, written and painted frame by frame by Geetanjali Rao. It premiered first at the Venice International Film Festival and then had its North American premiere at TIFF . This unhurried visual treat will no doubt be a rewarding experience.
Apart from these two, here are the other 5 films that yours truly saw and was completely bowled over by, in no particular order of preference.
The name refers to a particular North-Eastern delicacy that has a strong smell which isn’t agreeable with most people. Directed by Nicholas Kharkongor, this dish becomes a metaphor for the cultural alienation and prejudice that people from the North-East are subjected to as they try and adapt to a new life in the national capital. With buoyant performances by Sayani Gupta, Lin Laishram, Tenzin Dalhi, Dolly Ahluwalia and Vinay Pathak this film not just conjures up some genuinely laugh out loud moments but also exposes the casual everyday racism that pervades our lives irrespective of which side of the divide we are on.
Ram Prasad Ki Tehrvi
Actress Seema Pahwa makes her directorial debut with this hugely enjoyable slice of life film. The head of a family passes away and as all unite in the moment of grief and carry forward the rituals and traditions, the drama that unfolds slowly is a humorous yet a deeply reflective look at relationships and familial bonds. The biggest lure of course is the stellar cast that includes veterans like Naseeruddin Shah, Supriya Pathak along with Konkona Sen Sharma, Vinay Pathak, Manoj Pahwa and Vikrant Massay. With a theatrical release round the corner this is a film that you cannot afford to miss.
Aunty Sudha Aunty Radha
An absolutely delightful documentary by Tanuja Chandra, this one is a deeply personal account of Chandra’s own two aunts both of whom now widowed stay together in the small town of Lahra a couple of hours away from Delhi. Their musings about life, the little pearls of wisdom that they share and the unvarnished account of hope and happiness endears them to us. Among the elements that work best are the nostalgic throwbacks, the sepia toned warm fuzzy feel along with the ease with which Chandra unobtrusively gives us a peep into their lives.
National award winning director Bhaskar Hazarika has come up with another brilliant film. Aamis means “non veg.” On the surface it looks like a harmless love story between a paediatrician (Lima Das) and a young PhD student (Arghadeep Baruah) who is researching on the food patterns of the people from the North East. Slowly the narrative enters a darker more twisted territory and it is nothing like what we have seen so far. A theme that is haunting and explores primal passions delicately and expertly. Make time for it.
Eeb Allay Ooo
Directed by Prateek Vats, this is a story about a young man who is employed to shoo away monkeys from the VIP areas in Delhi. A hilarious look at the man-animal conflict and what we as a society have been forced to do in order to sustain ourselves – this spectacular satire also received the prestigious Golden Gateway at MAMI. An exuberant performance by the lead Shradul Bhardwaj got him a special jury mention. This is a film like no other.