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MAMI DIARIES: MUST WATCH CINEMA, NOW PLAYING IN MUMBAI!


Brilliant cinema at the ongoing Mumbai Film Festival, raves Sukanya Verma.
In all its 16 years, this is my first trip to the Mumbai Film Festival. For some reason or another, I always
found myself occupied with a professional or personal engagement to make time for what I have
discovered to be the sine qua non for all movie buffs.
But this year I planned things better and made sure I attend the festival made possible this year by
passionate patrons of cinema with mind and money.
Day 1:
Early in the morning, I set out for Andheris PVR theatre, in the western suburb of Mumbai, wearing the
identity badge around my neck, feeling more cheerful and eager than a school kid off to an excursion.
Access to the allotted screening room is a breeze and I settle in my seat with a couple of friends and
equally excited folk. Its a Takeshi Miike film after all.

Over Your Dead Body (Japan): Miike creates an eerie, enigmatic ambiance to coincide fact and fiction
and achieve the sinister ideals of its zigzag plot with a gruesome finish.
It all has to do with the developments of an on-going period play, based on a 200-year-old folklore,
wherein a penurious samurai deceives his wife and child to marry a wealthy mans young daughter and
how these adulterous events find a semblance among the dramas leading actors in real time.
For all its artistry and deliberation, this is ultimately Miike. And in keeping with his reputation, Over Your
Dead Body eventually offers ample of blood and gore to nauseate over.
Early morning horror is drowned in a steaming hot glass of cutting chai on the roadside before I head
for the next screening -- Elephant Song at nearby Cinemax. En route, I learn all shows before 3.15pm
are cancelled owing to Maharashtra assembly elections.
Much too new at the festival scene to feel disappointed about such setbacks, I walk back to PVR
hoping to sneak into another movie. Luckily, I snare a vacant seat inside the screening of Argentinas
Refugiado.
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Refugiado (Argentina): The film delicately examines the impact of domestic violence on a young
mother-son duo on the run. Theres some wonderful acting in there, especially by the young Sebastin
Molinaro, in those heart tugging moments where he resists, revolts yet eventually reconciles with his
rude reality.
And to think a girl in the adjacent seat kept texting on her phone throughout such a poignant story.
I have quite some time on hand before the next film on my menu so I head back home and wolf down
my lunch of masoor biryani.
Back in Cinemax, I decide to check out film critic Anupama Chopras conversation with the legendary
French actress Catherine Deneuve and Bollywoods Deepika Padukone.
Undoubtedly Padukone is on a all-time high in her career and, sure, they both have tattoos on their
feet, but the pairing of a hot star of recently recognised acting potential with an accomplished icon to
discuss a heroines perspective and evolution in cinema simply felt odd.
While the Belle du Jour stunner sat there like a radiant lioness chomping off a slice of her interviewer at
every opportunity, the Finding Fanny heroine played the diplomatic card but couldnt resist rolling her
eyes and making a face when the veteran joked about the 28-year-olds unfeasible fantasies regarding
film production.
Nothing substantial came out of this discussion except Denevues French pride, Padukones patience
with moronic questions from the media and Chopras resilience in the face of technical glitches and
vastly conflicting sensibilities of her two guests.
After this entertaining session, I was more than willing to take that hard-hitting sock of a Spanish
drama, Schimbare.

Schimbare (Spain): Making difficult choices is something we all have to do but seldom the kind a
married couple does for the sake of their ailing child in the harrowing Schimbare. And yet is it so easy
to let go of ones conscience?
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Almost nothing of consequence happens for the longest time but all those minor details eventually
connect to make a dreadful disclosure, one that culminates into an unforgettable tragedy.
Too much intense stuff for one day, whew. I proceed for the final viewing of the day and spot The
Lunchbox director Ritesh Batra queued up for the French crime thriller, Fever. I dont know if he
enjoyed what he saw but I LOVED my pick.

Killa (India): What a delightful piece of cinema. Killa is like Hayao Miyazaki in live action. Just think the
deliberation, the soaking in of the atmosphere, and the familiar face of childhood, only the sweeping
hand drawn imagery replaced by superlative performances from its young, insightful cast.
This Marathi gem deserves every single applause and accolade that comes its way. To be dubbed a
festival favourite on Day 1, says a lot, doesnt it?
Day 2

The Little House (Japan): First of all the print wasnt impressive. But mostly the middling direction fails
to raise the potential of the story about a maids observations of the family she served and witnessing
an extra-marital affair between her mistress and her husbands young colleague against the changing
climate of Japans political history. The Little House unfolds like the pages of an erratically maintained
diary thats neither probing nor personal.
After this underwhelming experience, I join National-award winning director Hansal Mehta, Bangistan
director Karan Anshuman and rediff.coms journalist turned filmmaker Suparn Verma for lunch at TGIF.
Famished, I gorge on the yummy enchiladas and their animated chatter on evolution in editing software
as well as Bollywoods ghost director stories.
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A Most Wanted Man (UK/US/Germany): One of the festivals most coveted screenings, A Most
Wanted Man sees a massive turnout. I quite enjoyed Anton Corbijns espionage drama based on John
le Carrs novel.
It may not have the sly brilliance of Tinker Tailor Solider Spy but maintains an attractively absorbing
momentum and tense mood around a mans moral dilemma. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers
as one would expect but is simply god-level in the fabulous final scene.
French romance comedy, Into the Courtyards screening at Cinemax is delayed by an hour so rush to
PVR in a bid to catch the Iranian film, Snow but its packed to the core. Left with no option, I go to watch
The Good Lie.

The Good Lie (USA): It may have Reese Witherspoons face plastered all over the poster but the film
mainly revolves around a bunch of Sudanese refugees.
The Good Lie shifts from a dramatic story of their survival in Sudan to adapting to the American way of
life producing some funny moments. Familiar but endearing, this.
And then the last one.
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Serena: A watchable if glossy tale of doomed romance where you know pretty much everything thats
about to happen before it does. Jennifer Lawrence dons pretty vintage attire with aplomb but offers
nothing new in yet another wild, wounded avatar. Bradley Cooper does better in comparison with his
understated disquiet.
Day 3:
Back to back movies take its toll on my ill-equipped health. I wake up to a bad bout of cold, fever and
cramps, pop in some antibiotics with the hope to catch at least two movies.
I scrape through.
While waiting for the screening to begin, I cannot help but overhear (I have no choice, really, theyre
sitting right next to me) this lively chitchat about a Screenwriters panel discussion that happened earlier
in the day. About how insolent and nasty the crowd can get instead of engaging in a healthy debate
around the cute Vishal Bhardwaj and his witty responses, the sharp and super eloquent Sridhar
Raghavan, the no-nonsense Anjum Rajabali, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehras justifying star power and
how Sriram Raghavans talks like a Parsi.

Girlhood (France): The film hits several high notes before arriving at its slightly prolonged climax.
Director Cline Sciamma plays on the melancholy of its teen protagonist caught in tough surroundings
and bleak prospects with a realism thats both refreshing and effective.
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I am back in another queue to watch another French flick, Love at First Fight, which by the way boasts
of some exceptionally tender chemistry between its two talented leads in this quirky and novel take on
boy meets girl.
I slowly exit the hall feeling no trace of fever, cold or cramps. The ambiance is healing. The mood is
jubilant. Its like we are all enveloped in an alternate reality more dazzling than the Diwali markets
sprawling all over the city. What a festival!
Day 4

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Iran): Shot entirely in black and white with a funky soundtrack,
this effortlessly stylish, sensual and scary vampire western from Iran is an instant hit.
For a self-confessed scaredy-cat like me, the next two nights are spent shivering thinking about a
scene where a bewitchingly beautiful vampire in a veil frightens the bejesus of a kid wandering in the
dark of night.
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (France/Germany/Israel): Gett doesnt leave your system for a
long time. Shot entirely in a courtroom, the film tells the story of a woman seeking divorce from her
husband who refuses to oblige even though they have been living apart for years.
Through her five-year fight in a Rabbinical court, documented effectively in the story, things get so
unbearably frustrating and discriminating, its both comic and devastating.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (France): The Catherine Denevue-Jacques Demy combination is known
to produce magical results on celluloid. Peau Dane is one of my favourites.
And so the sheer pleasure of witnessing The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in all its restored glory is hard to
put down in words. Its attractive, almost ready-to-eat imagery and lilting melodies against the changing
backdrop of romance and betrayal makes one wish we all conversed in songs.
Pride (UK): An impassioned gay and lesbian community decide to fight for the cause of Welsh miners
in this feel-good, funny, frothy drama where homosexuals are in Prides own words heroes and not
victims.
With its heart and head in the right place, Pride, set in the 1980s, is a spirited adaptation of a true story
featuring British heavyweights like Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton.

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Day 5

The Search (France/Georgia): Michel Hazanaviciuss remake of Fred Zinnemanns The Search
starring Montgomery Clift embraces a noticeably darker tone.
While the original is set against World War II, the new one centres around a boy whos lost his family in
1999s Second Chechen War after Russian military guns them down. How the refugee kid forms an
unlikely family with a UN human rights worker forms one side of the story while the loss of a young
mans innocence after hes forcibly recruited into the Russian army leading to the aforementioned
shootout is explored in another.
One works, the other not so much.
Clownwise (Slovakia/ Luxembourg/Czech Republic/Finland): Quite enjoyed the spirit and humour
that binds the storys three mime artists, friends and collaborators now reuniting after 30 years. Time
and distance has taken its toll in different ways on the creative, temperament troika who didnt part on
good terms.
Clownwise has a lot on its mind and takes its sweet time to unfold but even at its dullest, every single is
punctuated with a moment that evokes a powerful response.
Funny how the gentlemen sitting on either side of me -- one dozed off, the other snored through -- were
the loudest to applaud during its awe-inspiring final shot. ;)
71 (UK): Went in thinking this would be another war movie but 71 is a hard-boiled thriller against the
backdrop of the troubled climate of west Belfast in its initial years. Its no surprise then how throughout
its nail-biting 100 minutes, youll find yourself at the edge of the seat.
Watching this terrifically shot film reminded me of the time I was in the city not too long ago and
beholding prominently preserved scars of its brutal history.
Really good stuff, this.
Mommy (Canada): Mommy is just another level of genius. Its audacious. Its original. Its insane. Its
honest. Its brilliant. I promise you havent seen anything like this ever.
Xavier Dolans 1:1 aspect ratio filmed Mommy is the story of a tough mom and her erratic teen son as
they tide through the best of times and worst of times displaying a unique blend of charisma and
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complexities. Especially since Anne Dorwal andAntoine Olivier Pilons inject extraordinary life into these
characters written masterfully by a 25-year-old Dolan.
25!!!
Day 6

The Tree (Slovenia): The Tree does not follow a traditional narrative structure to tell its story of
entrapment wherein a mother and her two boys are forced to stay within their walled house after one of
her sons is held responsible for his friends death making him an easy target for the family seeking
revenge.
Devoid of drama The Tree is quiet but effective filmmaking that wants you to think and draw emotions
on your own. In a Q & A that follows afterwards, its director Sonja Prosenc says she didnt wanted to
take a minimalistic approach without using background score to suggest the emotional tone.
Macondo (Austria): The life of a Chechen refugee boy forced to grow up before time (played by an
actor more perceptive than his age) and take care of his two sisters while her mother fends for them
single-handedly in a neglected neighbourhood of shiny Vienna and the inner conflict he experiences on
seeing another man (potentially) taking the place of his deceased father in their home is gently
conveyed in Macondo.
Whats impressive is how remarkably its cast of non-actors delivers. As filmmaker Sudabeh Mortezai
points out that most of them act from the inside and thats why the impact is strong.
Theeb (Jordan/Qatar/UAE/UK): The majestic landscape of Jordan. The adventurous tone of its
storytelling. The gritty spirit of its titular child actor. The haunting background score.
Theeb is absolutely riveting and a visual treat, its impossible to take ones eyes off the screen as it goes
back in time to chronicle the wonderful story of a Bedouin boys survival and guts.
Clouds of Sils Maria (Switzerland/Germany/France): While one can unfailingly count on Juliette
Binoche to rock the show, its Kristen Stewart who springs a surprise with her stunning emotionality as
an international actors personal assistant in Olivier Assayass delicately unravelling Clouds of Sils
Maria.
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Aside its terrific portrayals and breathtaking cinematography, Clouds of Sils Maria is a profound
meditation on the process of acting and ageing around the constantly changing face and focus of show
business.
Day 7

Nirbashito (India): Taslima Nasreens provocative writing and the strong reactions they produced is
why any mention of her is synonymous with controversy. But Churni Gangulys Nirbashito is an intimate
account of the author and poets isolation in the stark solitude of Sweden as well her cat Baaghini left
behind a friends care in the bustling chaos of Kolkata.
Whats fascinating is how the film smoothly alternates from lyrical loneliness of a banned writer to comic
chaos of bureaucratic workings without hitting a harsh note.
Coming Home (China): In a somewhat same space as Hollywoods The Notebook but much better,
Zhang Yimous Coming Home is the latest reminder of why hes one of my favourite filmmakers and
understands the agony of waiting like nobody else.
His The Road Home is the ultimate love story in my opinion and the sentimental but subtle Coming
Home is another poignant tale of affections between a husband and wife reunited after two decades.
Only she no longer remembers him and is frozen in a time bubble and hell do everything to give her
hope.
I walked out of the theatre overcome with emotion because Coming Home is so moving.
And the wait for the 17th Mumbai Film Festival has already begun.

Sukanya Verma/ Rediff.com in Mumbai