Saturday, October 31, 2015

My Annual Pilgrimage Begins: The Mumbai Film Festival Day One

The Second Mother (Que Horas Ela Volta)



and... Titli

The moment the festival catalog drops into your lap, you know you are done in. Cinema from around the world at your doorstep. All you have to do is step into the dark, cool theater, and forget about 500 other people breathing in the same joy that you are feeling.

I hugged the catalog, forgetting that there were two strangers in the elevator that took me up to PVR Juhu for the first film of the day. The strangers looked away at so much weird pda...

I stood in the rapidly snaking queue, and i tried to distract myself from the practically non existent air conditioning by imagining i was part of the 8 bit snake game.

Just when Deepa arrived with her catalog and delegate pass, the hitherto orderly queue for The Second Mother suddenly disintegrated. Show cancelled!

But the young girl at the door was rather poised. She directed people nicely to other shows.

Deepa and I looked at each other and realised that the Universe was sending us a sign:



Drove across town to Regal and drowned the wait in Chardonnay.

If Closed Curtain (Parde) showed us an angry, bitter Jafar Panahi, what would Taxi be?


'We need to feel like we are with him in the taxi,' was a prompt from Vikarm and we knew it was an excuse for sitting right up front in the theater. 

I saw a wicked side of the director, mocking the system with a calm strength... 

'Ohhhh, mister Panahi! You driving a taxi because you cannot make movies any more!' 

okay that's telling you too much already!

Watch the film! And then as you emerge marveling at his chutzpah, you get a call from your local jack sparrow, 'Madam! The movie you asked for is not yet in single, but you can watch it in combos!'

You choke over the coincidence.

'Sordid Realism' is a phrase you add to your vocabulary. 

Taxi was a brilliant, brilliant start to day 1 at Mami!

Dibakar Banerjee's Titli was playing at INOX and who could resist this week's Bollywood release?

'Why did they name you Titli?' The new wife asks the young man.

'Why do we need to see every member of the family brush, gag, gargle, spit?' I asked. 

'Why don't I care about the fate of any of these 'low-life', 'down and out lads attempting to live a life of crime', 'high on life violent lads low on cash'?' 

The second half of the film manages to instill some purpose to these pointless lives but then I had stopped caring (the five women in the row ahead left before the intermission).

Ranveer Shorey is phenomenal, and so is Amit Syal. You want to like Shashank Arora, but cannot. The Bhabi and the dad are far more interesting. But all of them lacked the real ugliness that we saw in Anurag Kashyap's Ugly.

I loved Ugly. It made me believe that we can be really that. Here, it was like watching cockroaches die after you have sprayed them with insecticide. You know they are going to die, and you'll have to sweep them on to the tray and dump them. You just don't know when they'll succumb.

Thank goodness there was Aligarh to go back to.

Regal had a huge huge line of people outside and the last person in the line explained: They're letting only celebs in.

Someone, and thank goodness for that someone, said that it was a line for those who did not have tickets. Deepa ran ahead and checked. She waved at me frantically, and whew! It was indeed a queue for those who did not have tickets.

The young people from Book My Show scanned the bar code on the delegate passes, and we were in! The best thing ever! With the films booked through until Sunday, looking through the text messages was a nightmare!

Yes, yes, the screening was delayed. By celebrities arriving late ('We are waiting for the theater to fill up' the poor MC announced). Manoj Bajpayi introduced the crew on stage and finally the screening began. But not before you wondered why no one on the stage mentioned the name of the professor whose life story was about to unfold on screen.

The disclaimer stated that this was fiction.

Manoj Bajpayi just took over our lives for the next hour and a half. His loneliness dominated the screen like a living thing. Every gesture, every look, every defeated step he took, every lock and latch on his doors and windows, every song he sipped every evening stayed with you. 

You ventured out of the movie into the darkness of the night helpless at the way things are. But on the journey back home, you did not sink into the comfort of air-conditioning in your car. You rolled down the windows and let the hot air assault you because you could still feel claustrophobic from those cage like apartments Manoj Bajpai lived in. 

The movie is slow and the courtroom scenes grated (they were necessary, but after having watched 'Court' not too long ago, the melodrama was tough to take)...

Manoj Bajpai in his introduction mentioned how he has spent years on stage. The camera stays so up close to him in the movie, that experience shows! He also says that Rajkummar Rao wasn't even born when Ashish Vidyarthi (plays the role of his lawyer in the film) and he were working the stage, and boy! That shows too! Rajkummar Rao seems like a rookie here. 

The movie stays with you long after you have come home. So do the songs. And Manoj Bajpai's very mood. Even when he is embarrassed, shy, in despair, exhausted, lost in thought, snoring, asleep, unable to find words for what he's feeling. 

In the movie, he laughs at young people who express everything as being 'fantastic, fabulous, cool, superb, super and awesome'. I think these words sum up his performance.

'Me maz harapun basale ga' is an old favorite Marathi song. Manoj Bajpai trumps Asha Bhosle's rendition. In fact, he's so good, I'm hearing it right now as I get ready to take on another wave of marvelous cinema at Mami Day 2


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