October 16, 2014

Mumbai 2014 Day #1: A New Beginning

After watching more than 150 movies in the first five years of my experience at Mumbai film festival, I think it goes without saying what a heartbreak it was to know a couple of months ago that the festival might just not take place this time due to lack of funds. You know what was the first thing that came to my mind? That I'd take one week off during January and attend the Pune film festival. (Not Goa because that would be a little too expensive for me.) But thanks to all those who supported the festival and soon it became a movement - to save this cities biggest and the country's one of the most important film festival. I am filled with gratitude toward all those who contributed toward the cause, making possible what I believe is the happiest, craziest, most exciting week of the year.

So, it was a new beginning for the festival. And it was a new beginning for my relationship with it. Devanshu and I were contacted by Shakun Batra (the director of 'Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu' and now a very dear friend) to direct a promo for the festival. It was simple. All of us, including the twelve celebrities that feature in that 40-sec promo worked for free, to send out a message that there a lot of people who care for it. It was super fun shooting the promo, and I must thank Anupama Chopra and Shakun for this wonderful opportunity. I must also thank my crew, who worked on it for free, only to support us in what we were doing. This could not have happened without their unconditional help. You can watch the promo by clicking here.

And that's why this year the excitement regarding the festival started a few weeks earlier than ever before. We also felt that this is going to be our little contribution to it, and hence went on to shoot a few more promos, getting up early morning for it, even travelling out of the city, taking more favours from friends, and managing it with all other work of ours that we had to complete before the first day of the festival. Then came the bad news. One day before the festival had to begin, I fell ill. We all know how irritating a common viral ailment can be. In this October heat, it was more irritating than ever. I was scared that it might just ruin all these days of excitement. Missing even a single day at the festival was not acceptable to me. The knowledge that viral illnesses cannot be cured by any medicine and no anti-pyretic, anti-biotic drug you give can ‘cure’ you until the self-limiting ailment completes its cycle – did not help. The knowledge that rest and hydration is the best medicine in such scenario did. I also received a couple of messages from people who know how important the festival is for me – one motivating me to get perfectly well so that I can hit the perfect score of 35. So yes, I decided to miss the opening ceremony, and the party after that and slept. By morning, perhaps I was actually better or it was just an effect of adrenaline, I was fine. And thus I scored a perfect five on the first day of my favourite festival.

Before I head out for my second day, let me quickly tell you what in these movies made them contribute to the festival experience. The five movies I watched on Day 1 are:

Over Your Dead Body (Japan/ 2014) by Takashi Miike: Play within a movie. Excellent set-design and cinematography. Surrealism. Body horror. Glimpses of the Japan of the past. A mix of all this was the perfect opening movie for me. Plus the name of the director!

Refugiado (Argentina/ 2014) by Diego Lerman: The directing in this movie was so impressive – the choice of shots and edit, visual design, use of actors, and for creating moments of genuine thrill among the audience. I would be proud of myself if I could direct like this.

Norjmaa (China/ 2014) by Bayaneruul: A breathtaking landscape is good enough to give you an unforgettable cinematic experience. Add to it some local cultural customs, and a couple of interesting characters. An important anti-war film that also inspires in you the need to get closer to nature and to learn to co-exist with it.

Gett, the Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Israel/ 2014) by Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz: Israel’s official entry to the Oscars this year, the entire movie is set in a room and the space outside it. The way it made the audience react proves once again that all you need to move us is well-done characters. This will be one of the most sought-after movies of the year.

Boyhood (USA/ 2014) by Richard Linklater: No words can do justice to this experience. And if I try to say something really big about it, it might just set a wrong expectation for you. But I can tell you with all confidence that ‘Boyhood’ is unlike anything you have seen before. Shot over 12 years, the ageing of its characters creates an incredible impact over you. Some might think it was a bit too long, I personally did not want it to end. The movie is a work of pure passion and persistence, led by the maverick Linklater and supported by a wonderful cast and crew. That moving pictures are the best interpreters of reality – this film is the most glorious example of it. And for what it does without getting too dramatic or spectacular or profound, but by sheer insight into the human condition, apart from being an unforgettable film project, I have to recommend ‘Boyhood’ as a must watch before you die (#42). If you can let yourself be immersed in this unbelievable experience, you might just learn a thing or two about yourself, or might end up being a better son, a better daughter, a better parent. What more can we ask from films?

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