MAMI Film Festival: The India Gold Section takeaways
Takeaway films from MAMI Film Fest 2019
This year, I was fortunate enough to be a part of Young Critics lab. Under the same programme, all of the participants were supposed to watch the films from India Gold section and write about them. While the reviewing process was a little tiring since we were supposed to write about ten films in the period of six days, the Indian films under this category did not disappoint us. Speaking from my own experience, none of these films made me yawn or made me walk out of the theatre. They had an individual voice and did not fall in the trap of being faux-intellectual. Despite the differing qualities, none of these films made me feel bad to be a part of this process. All of these were very well-crafted and came from the personal spaces of its director-writers.
Some of these pieces of refined filmmaking had more impact on me as a human being. They felt either more daring in terms of Indian cinema or came from a place of a deep compassion for its subjects. Here are some of the films that I can’t take my mind off from-
Eeb Alay Ooo!
(The Winner of Golden Gateway award and Young Critics Choice Award)
A bittersweet tale of a reversed Darwin’s theory that has a concise understanding of the place it comes from.
Prateek Vats’s directorial voice has a surprising amount of freshness to it considering the film’s serious subject matter. The humanist drama does not trade any less in terms of humour. The farcical elements are largely organic here where the ‘jokes’ work on a cathartic level. We think twice before laughing on any of its elements. And such moments bring a certain truth to the narration, which understands the world it speaks about to be a mixture of tragedy and comedy.
For a job profile as hilarious as ‘repelling monkeys’, an incompetent and under-confident Anjani has been assigned- who’s often emasculated by everyone around him. In the pursuit of getting over the insecurities, his metamorphosis towards becoming a human langur- speaks just as much about him as the part of the city that he lives in. The regularized exploitation as a government employee comes out as an internalized battle. Hence, the narrative becomes just as universal despite being peculiar to the city of Delhi. And Shardul Bhardwaj’s performance channelizes all the pathos with the required empathy.
Tragedy of a misunderstood, under-privileged man doesn’t always need to come from a large studio. It can naturally derive from an indigenous milieu such as this.
An endearing protagonist embracing his bittersweet individuality.
Gurvinder Singh’s ‘Bitter Chestnut’ solemnly possesses you while never being cautiously intellectual. It sneaks up on you with its underlying existential dread where the protagonist is stuck between two worlds. One of which is staying in the ever-inviting home which might stagnate or limit his growth and the other is where migrating to a distant place will bring him more opportunities to pursue his dreams. But this central conflict is present to rather confront us with the similar narratives of people who are ‘stuck in places’- be it emotionally, ecologically or careeristically.
Khannaur shows privilege from different sides where everyone is just as oblivious of their acts as the others. The ones born with privilege have to come all the way to ‘experience’ meditation where the under-privileged ones learn it while growing up. The dynamic is shown with enough empathy to not leave it two-dimensional. And in between, the wide-eyed protagonist- Kisan gazes into your soul to further instigate how his internal struggle is not only his- how we are just as much part of it. Perhaps just like he says, everyone is indeed cursed like the bitter chestnut. And that’s how the film doesn’t just remain to be a cultural exploration.
A daring and deeply absorbing romance which is just as haunting as bewitching.
In a country where the hunger rate is strikingly high, the idea of monetizing on ‘craving’ is strangely liberating. Bhaskar Hazarika’s delirious romance does that and more. The two lovers here form their own world, built primarily on the mutual craving for sensual pleasures. In India, it’s almost a crime to indulge in such uncontrollable desires let alone think about them if they’re even slightly unreligious. In the same milieu, they wish to fulfil the void in one another’s lives filled with mundane regularities, while playing the ‘ideal’ roles assigned by the ones around them.
Lima Das breathes every nook and cranny of this world which largely depends on how her elegance responds to these notions. Her sumptuously seductive sarees and the way she carries them is drop-dead gorgeous. And amidst all the ‘Ravening’, their mutual desire- initiated by gluttony, builds into a romance that isn’t about mere companionship. Their ways of conveying emotions are largely about devouring each other with all their senses. It is perhaps the most romantic film in the recent times for how it uses to cliché of ‘being a part of one another’ and deliriously seeps that desire under the skin with the same yearning.
A tight and warm hug from the walls that surround our memories.
Achal Mishra achieves a rare poignancy with Gamak Ghar. There are those films which feel as if the director has created them particularly for you. ‘Gamak Ghar’ certainly does that for me. Despite being from a region miles away from where I belong, it filled me with unconditional warmth as if I’m part of their family. It took me back to my orthodox family that I don’t get to see often. I laughed and cried and went through my own good-old-days where things were convenient and much simpler.
While blurring the lines between a documentary and fiction, the film embodies milieu of his ancestral village from Bihar. The house itself is a character here which sees several generations- their growth and failings almost like how an old person in the family would. Birth and death are the accepted certainties here, by the members of the family as well as the house itself. Despite the migrations and departures from this land, there’s a strange pull that you experience only in an Indian family.
That yearning essentially makes this film a labour of love. Hence, the resulting charm fills me with an immense nostalgia which is largely inexplicable.
An outlook into generational love-hate relationships.
Archana Phadake’s ‘About Love’ has a distinctive charm. It almost feels like a Wes Anderson film where the house itself is your whole universe. Even when you see the outsides, those spaces appear from the perspectives of the insides. You just go through these tunnels – understanding these characters, their quirks, idiosyncrasies, their pain, heartaches and compassion.
Through the first-person approach, she presents three generations from her privileged family where warmth and scrutiny co-exist. But instead of inspecting, the film merely observes them by placing a mirror. And it does that with the regional peculiarities without being insular.
The characters belong to a family which lives mostly on their ancestral wealth. Hence, a mundane comfort is a part of their lifestyle. The same comes with a share of bourgeois and patriarchal values that affect the crux of their relationship. Every generation has a definition of love affected by it. With that, Archana brings out three-dimensional characters where she does not need to ‘invent’ any kind of charm. Here, the toxic sense of entitlement doesn’t necessarily shadow the joy, but builds it with an underlying sense of melancholy. Her mother’s story embodies the same ennui which you understand to have come from somewhere deep within.