Dear Mumbai Film Festival, time to get your shit together

Posted: September 2, 2014 by moifightclub in cinema, Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival

First things first, we love Mumbai Film Festival, especially the way they have revamped it in the last few years. They get the best films from all all the top fests of the world. This year the fest seems to be in trouble because of sponsors. As of now, they fest is trying to gather fund via crowd funding. Some of us have already contributed as we want to see the fest alive and kicking. We hope that you do contribute too. Click here to go to make your contribution. If you have enjoyed films at MFF in last few years, we hope you will do your bit. This city needs a film fest.

Once you are done with your contribution, let’s move ahead. The fest gets the best films from across the world but there’s a whole lot scope for improvement. Here’s why and how.


“Bhala hua mori gagri phooti, main paniya bharan se chhooti re”

 (Thank God my earthen pot got shattered. Spares me the job of filling water in it.)

Am sure most members of Mumbai Film Festival organizing committee felt like dancing to this old sufi qawwaali when this year’s festival got called off.

Of course it’s the best festival we have in terms of film selection and venues (as compared to the horribly inadequate auditoriums of Siri Fort in Delhi for OSIAN or sarkaari-babu horror story that IFFI-Goa is where one year old films which have already released in theatres are “premiered”) but still, it’s an open secret that MAMI/MFF is way behind in terms of professionalism when it comes to organizing.

Every year, like Tim Robbin’s Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption, film fans wade through piles of organizational shit to reach the freedom of festival movie-watching experience. It’s the most awaited annual event on a movie-buff’s calendar in India (film buffs fly down from various cities to attend it) and we all have that tacky-yellow sabzi-jhola (with MAMI logo on it) full of memories from the festival.

But nostalgia can be deceptive at times…making us forget the pains we took, thanks to the shortsightedness of the fest organizers in the last few years. And that’s why, when the news came of this year’s festival being called off, the first wave of reactions was sweet nostalgia with a cold sigh. People talking about the films they saw at the fest and friendships they made over the years. Now that, in my opinion, is a totally wrong reaction.

The valid reactions are:

  1. HOW FUCKING INEFFICIENT one has to be to bring a successfully running festival in the movie-capital of the biggest movie-consuming nation of the planet to an abrupt halt?
  2. HOW ABSOLUTELY OUTDATED one has to be to just give it up and not even try raising funds when one corporate has walked away, and just announce that festival is not happening this year? And…
  3. HOW FUCKING ARROGANT one has to be to not allow donations less than INR 10K for saving the festival? (OK, this has changed. Now they have cut it down to 5K and have given their reasons why and how)

Let’s analyze these three reactions in detail. Because therein lies the story of MAMI’s near-death-experience this year. And we are not even sure if it will survive, and if it does, then for how long.


The festival started in 1997 and barring a couple of years, it took place every year with changing venues inside Bombay. It manages to get a great selection of films and international filmmakers for master classes or discussions or just an ‘exotic holiday’ to India and I have rarely seen (in the last 6-7 years) a single show of even a half-way decent film going empty. There are always long queues, and especially for big ticket films (even hardcore art-house like Bela Tarr’s Turin Horse), people wait for 2-3 hours in the queue to get in. The point being – there is no reason this festival can’t be sold to the corporate or film fraternity for an annual contribution of just INR 5 Crores. But every year, the news of it running into cash crunch raises its head and we wonder how random engineering colleges manage to sell their annual fests for huge budgets year after year, while this film festival (with names like Karan Johar and Farhan Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap in trustees) runs out of sponsors regularly.

The difference, I think, lies in the lack of will. The festival is running in auto-pilot mode for a long time. With the exception of Festival Director (Mr. Srinivasan Narayan), who has always been hands-on and humble in trouble-shooting during the festival, the rest of the team is comprised of people who don’t want to learn anything from the world around or take the festival to the next level. Pure fossils or morons. You just have to attend some of the events planned and executed by them to realise they really have no clue – from opening ceremony to film/filmmakers introduction by college kids who have no clue about the film or the filmmaker, press conferences to masterclass to closing ceremony – almost every event embarrasses you. I know many friends who have stepped in and taken charge of the events before embarrassing the filmmaker any further.

As the rumor is doing the rounds – a very big corporate house was willing to step in and take over the festival reins but some of the festival’s members  couldn’t put together a PPT pitch in time and the deal fell through.

Yup, you read that right. The festival team was late on the PPT and hence we are not having our festival this year. I am hoping it’s not true and is just a rumour, but it brings me to…


The news of festival shutting came in at around 7 in the evening. By 8 pm, some of us had started tweeting individually that we will be happy to contribute money to save the festival. By 10 pm, Vivek Kajaria (producer of Fandry) started putting together a collaborative effort and tagging other producers, people with influence in the industry to contribute. Within 3 days, over INR 1.5 Crores were raised (thanks to contributions by Manish Mundra (producer of Ankhon Dekhi), Anand Mahindra (CMD of Mahindra Group), and Rajkumar Hirani-VVC-Anupama Chopra combine). All of this, just by people coming together.

And what does MAMI team do when faced with such a situation? Just nothing. They didn’t even make an announcement or appeal for help. Just let the news out through back channels that fest won’t happen. In this age, when kids are trying to crowd-source money even for their education and holidays, a worthy cause like MFF could have easily done that. But they didn’t. Mostly because they are a bunch of outdated people with no idea where the world has moved to in the last 17 years.

It seems even the ideas are crowd funded for the festival. Once the word spread, people were willing to contribute, and after then the MFF team has put together a page with all the details. Woah! That’s unheard of. You realise what I am talking.

And that’s why it’s difficult to get sponsors. Because they don’t how to create properties that can sell –  No star attendance, not even representation of respected filmmakers of the industry, no hyped event, so the press coverage is abysmal, and so no sponsors. Their film mart is a joke where filmmakers have been refunded money because nobody worthy enough came to see and buy the films. Learn it from NFDC Film Bazaar how they have built it up in the last few years. Learn from film fests across the world. Create properties, create your usp, create one thing that nobody has, make it attractive for the sponsors. why is it such a difficult thing to do?

In the last few years, they have been able to built only one property – the competition for under 25 filmmakers. But that’s limited in its reach. The topic is Mumbai centric, entries are only from mumbai. why so? Make it wide. Open it. You might discover the top best U-25 filmmaking talent of the country. And few years later when they make their feature,  people will say he was discovered at MFF. That’s how film fests brands are built worldwide. They discover the talent, nurture them and put them on the world map. why so myopic?

Once in a while they manage to get some good filmmaking talent from world cinema. But then, that’s it. No filmmaking event or hype around it. And mostly there are those who have past their prime and have nothing new to offer. Why will the sponsors come? Aim for one big filmmaker, just one to start with – make an event around him. Have a screening of his film with a masterclass, get a desi filmmaker who knows his films, put two of them together, make it the big attraction of the fest. What attraction MFF has now for sponsors? Nothing. Great films? Yes. Badly organised? Yes, Yes, Yes!

Also, moving the fest to South Mumbai is a terrible, terrible idea. You don’t cut off ties with your own industry. When the industry is in suburbs, all your filmmaking talent is in suburbs, nobody except the film buffs are going all the way to the other planet to watch films. You need the industry, they don’t need you. They are happily making bollywood films which makes shitload of money and have no connect with MFF, so no contribution either. Make MFF attractive to them as well. Don’t sell out, but there are ways to involve them. Just for the sake, here’s an idea – say sneak preview of 10 mins or 30 mins of RajKumar Hirani’s PK or any such one of the most anticipated films of the year. You will see how the media and sponsors will fall in line. There are million ideas to create that you will get it going. Learn from the ComiCons and CinemaCons of the world. And get the fossils out who are completely useless. The world is moving at the speed of light-years.

Another great proof that MFF team is full of inefficient, vile, completely out-of-touch-with-the-times nutjobs – look no further than Rajesh Kumar Singh, a man responsible for selecting films for the festival. A bitter, homophobic, misogynistic, censorship-loving guy who MFF refuses to let go of. Here’s his review of SLB’s Ramleela, or his open letter to Aamir Khan here. And the best – here‘s his call to people all over to protest against Ramleela. Why? Because “Had Sanjay Leela Bhansali abused prophet Mohammed and Quran, like what he has done to Ram and ‘Ramleela’, Islamists would have beheaded him”. There’s no end to his priceless gems. Google, you will be amazed. These are just the tip of the gigantic moronic iceberg.


So the instant appeal to #SaveMFF helped and people started trying to find ways to collect money. Seeing this reluctance of people to let go of the festival easily, MFF started accepting money. INR 1.5 Crores came via 3 individual donations, and then MFF put up this page.

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 6.25.20 pm

Yes, look at it closely to see the mission statement, how much money they need, why they need it, and how they plan to spend it. Also see closely if you can find any rewards (as is the norm nowadays for even smallest of contributions to indie film projects – eg. “A shoutout on twitter for contributing Rs. 100 for our film”) on the page for giving money to MFF. And if you look real close, you will find a big bold lettered ‘thanks’ too. NOTHING. MFF just wants your money jaise ki uska haque hai.

(As I write this, the page has been updated with a 20-second video of festival director’s appeal and an FAQ, so may be they are still putting together this section of rewards and thank-yous and other logistics. But still, it’s just another symptom of the problem – they have either no clue or take things for granted or both.)

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 6.25.44 pm

Also, as you go to the next page to contribute, you realize they are taking contributions of only INR 10K or more. Why? (Now they have cut it down to 5K. FAQ says because time is less.) Should we ask why time is less? Whose fault it is? And this random arbitrary figure of 10K is a huge hindrance for people who would want to contribute 2K or 5K (fairly big numbers for somebody contributing in “such little time”.) Yet again, arbitrary people running a show with no regard for the viewers, who now want to become stakeholders too.

This was a great opportunity, this is a great opportunity – to make it a festival of the viewers, to involve us in raising funds and (maybe) curating the festival too. (We can chuck modesty and say with full confidence that we follow world cinema very closely and can suggest great hidden films from around the world without even being sent to big festivals on MFF money like Mr. Rajesh Kumar Singh. And nobody has covered MFF like we have done in the last few years. Here’s some proof.) But, if MFF wants my 10K, without even thanking me for it, at least show me some hope that things will improve, the outdated people and systems will be thrown out, the veil of vagueness about funding and expenditure will disappear.

Give us some stake and say in the festival, and see how more people will join happily. For starters, check out TIFF website and how many kinds of donations they allow and in how many ways they let the viewer interact with the festival. You got the films, that’s great, now get everything else sorted. It’s already too late. People won’t contribute every year if you guys remain lazy morons who can’t sell a film fest to sponsors.

All the best.

 – Nicolas Bourbaki

(PS: Now that my gyaan is done, let me make my contribution for MFF.)


  1. Nitin says:

    Expletives aside, your points are all 100% spot on

  2. Oh I’m THRILLED someone has brought up inept-ness & inefficiencies of MAMI. Coz MAMI / MFF / MIFF is THE WORST ORGANISED festival in the world. I have seen my 10 yr old son’s school class organise a talent show for the parents with better planning and common sense.
    Some examples:
    I have reached for a premiere of a French film (this was some yrs ago), and told that the screening had been shifted to a time 2 hrs later. Even the Audio-Visual attache of the French embassy who had set up the premiere & sent us the invite had no clue. No information on the MAMI / MFF website or on social media.
    We have had our students go on board the festival as interns for the past few years, and they have reported horror stories to us of how completely inept & clueless the organisers have been, leaving it to these young 19-20 yr old kids to do the work while they partied away at the multiple free dinners that the festival managed to secure from hotels in Mumbai. I have heard multiple stories of how screenings were stopped midway as the quality of the video / audio was terrible. I have heard stories of how filmmakers have walked out of their own films midway coz they could not bear what had been done to their films. I have personally seen Mr Shyam Benegal walk out of his own screening. I have been told by a filmmaker that he walked into the projection room to ask why the film was playing so badly only to find out that the theatre was playing back films from a DVD in a LAPTOP on VLC player with a headphone audio out (Yes. Really!).
    Film Festivals are important. They are good coz they enable blurring of boundaries. Boundaries between filmmaking countries, boundaries between what is ‘commercial’ and what is ‘arty’ (I still dunno what that is all about, coz to me a film is just a film). However, the films themselves are not as much of a draw as they used to be, thanks to the internet. I can watch almost ANY film that I want whenever I want to watch it. So the argument that festivals enable search & discovery is not as apt as it used to be. However, festivals do enable search & discovery of people. Certain filmmakers are ‘found’ in festivals. Or 2 filmmakers from 2 countries find each other at festivals and embark on a long & successful co-production partnership. I think MFF has long stopped being such a festival. I’m glad its revival is a possibility but could we please ensure that the organisers do not screw up. Ever again.
    Nobody ever will not support a good quality, well undertaken venture. In this day & age when we have some of the largest corporates and brands queuing up to be part of / associated with the Indian Film & Media industry, statements like ‘this does not fit into my brand parameter’ or ‘this does not fit into my marketing plan’ are excuses for ‘this is a poor quality and zero value for money event and I really don’t want to back it’.
    Undertake a good event and people will queue up round the block with bagfuls of money to be involved.
    I am not firing blanks. I have been part of a festival for 3 years with thousands of people in attendance. After not seeking ANY sponsorships for the first year, the 2nd year saw media outlets contact us themselves wanting to be part of the festival as media partners. Yr 3 saw us closing out our sponsorship requirements in our first meeting, which short of 30 mins. And every single person who attended, was part of or funded any bit of the festival was pleased that it was a GOOD event. So the day we have a good festival, people will support it without desperate efforts by individuals or the industry. Starting with me and the organisation I work for.

  3. I would not have responded to this lump of ill-informed bullshit and some well-meaning yet juvenile observations and opinions. Since the nameless ignoramus refers to my name in one of the paragraphs to cast aspersions on the integrity of MFF organizers, I ‘m joining the issue. Not to defend myself but to correct the misconceptions of the opinionated idiot.

    I have been attending the Cannes (3 years) and Berlin (5 years). MFF has nothing to do with it. I do it for my own education and understanding of the trends in the art house cinema of the world and how the film markets function. I pay for this out of my own MEAGRE savings. And I’m not part of MFF organization. The festival officials had included me in their screening committee for world cinema and competition sections. It’s more of a screening and not a selection committee. I was one among the other far more experienced and knowledgeable people. I don’t know if I made any useful contributions or not. I played a minuscule/insignificant role in the programming process. This year I’m not part of that screening committee either.

    The writer is obviously ignorant about a whole lot of things and though he talks about international festivals and markets, he actually does not know how do they operate and how hard it has been for the MFF organizers to put together a programme that had best of the art house films from around the world year after year. He is obviously talking through his idiot’s hat.

    He does not even know that MFF had the most celebrated and iconic of the art house/mainstream filmmakers from across the globe as guests/Jury members and their retrospectives, including those who have either headed or have been part of the Jury of the major film festivals like Cannes and Berlin. Some of the biggest names of world cinema have been associated with the festival.

    Even the film mart has not been doing all that badly within the constraints it has to function. And Goa Film Bazaar is anything but a film mart for this idiot’s information. Moreover, MFF & Film Mart don’t even have 1/6th of IFFI and Film Bazaar budget and other easily available logistical facilities.

    In terms of cost effectiveness, getting the best value for every rupee spent, MFF is far ahead. It works with a skeletal staff yet achieves big results. And for organizing a festival of this kind, 5 crores are peanuts. I have seen how the festival director lives in Cannes and Berlin, saving money wherever he can, and yet getting best of the films for his festival.

    As far as my political views and film reviews are concerned, they are my points of view and I’m not shoving them up any asshole’s ass. And I’m not living in an ISIS or Talibani or a Stalinist regime as yet. I am free to have my opinion in Hindusthan. So, this fucking idiot can keep burning and boiling and berating me.

    I’m open to debate though. But I know such bastardized lot chooses the path of blatant calumny, and diatribe instead of a meaningful debate or discussion.

    Rajesh Kumar Singh

    • Know-It-All says:

      The writer knows that Film Bazaar is also a market, therefore comparing it to Film Mart. If the festival has such a small team then why does it divert its energies to something like a Film Mart when a Film Bazaar already exists. Film Mart is just a bad me-too product. Secondly, given the limited budget and team, why doesn’t the festival focus on its core competence than organizing a market that serves no purpose. As you may read in the post, IFFI is not being praised for anything. Film Bazaar, however, is very well organized and successful event that works with a small team and constrained budgets. Point being, it’s the competence of the organizing team that makes the event what it is.

      • That’s why I say you know very little about Film Markets. Film Bazaar in Goa is not a film market in spite of it’s name being such. It indulges in some peripheral activities like Co-production Market, etc.., replicating sideline activities of film markets elsewhere, and creating a chimera of a market. No films are bought and sold there. It serves just one useful purpose. Some Indian films get exposed to festival programmers, who I believe are invited by the Film Bazaar. That’s how Film Bazaar justifies its existence and budget. Most of it comes from the govt. When an audit was ordered of NFDC finances by the I&B Ministry, it’s MD had a heart attack. The exhibitors at FB are NFDC suppliers and other government bodies. They don’t buy or sell films.

        Indian distributors and sales agents do their buying and selling outside India. None are present at Goa and if a few turn up, that’s for reasons other than buying and selling films. FB also brings out a festival daily, which is more of a joke. A lot of other things happen but let me not dwell on that.

        Contrary to that, in the Film Mart actual buying and selling of films took place and I recall in one year a whole lot of Iranian films found buyers since Indian distributors based in Mumbai attended it. All initiatives begin with a first step. Mumbai is the right place to have a Film Market. It’s another issue if this region really can sustain another film market and if it has to, what should be done to make it work by bringing global film buyers and sellers to India, not in a tokenistic way. One has to study if it will serve some useful purpose in short or long term. That’s a long discussion.

        Now, is MFF organised well within its constraints? Yes, it is very well organised and as I said in my post it’s the most cost-effective festival that gets you best of the films carefully picked up by a sensible team of programmers who travel all around the world looking for great films and using their network of contacts to acquire them at reasonable prices. And of course it brings to the city of Mumbai the best known names of contemporary world cinema to impart Gyan to budding filmmakers. It does a far better job of programming compared with IFFI that has long years of experience, nearly unlimited budgets, and a well-established infrastructure.

        You have also said something about the main venue of the festival. What kind of a film buff are you that you cannot travel down-town to watch best of the world cinema? People travel across continents and you are complaining about a distance of 10 to 15 Kms in a city that has the best of public transport system. That’s not fair.

  4. duke says:

    agree with a lot of the rant but to be honest I have loved both the last two editions dearly even with teh occasional password glitches, rescheduling, cancellations etc.. the range of selection, programs is mind boggling.. the organisation team might have its misfits but it also has a large student volunteer team which puts in a lot of its time and effort so ppl can put in their twitter updates of having watched the latest bela tarr to their ignorant friends..Such a festival can be a logistical nightmare and it shows sometimes.. and frankly what will you rather take.. A screening at packed NCPA or Liberty or a out of focus screening at Infinity mall with suburban strugglers deluding themselves as Lokhandawala being in the “centre of the industry”..Liberty, Inox, NCPA are ten times better than the plex in suburbs.. bandra doesnt even have a plex..or that shithole dungeon called PVR juhu.. My only gripe is that it should be 9 days long over two weekends rather than one

  5. vishal yogin says:

    Its far easier to reach Inox or Liberty than struggle through the horrible traffic to the Infiniti mall area from anywhere. And yes I am sensitive to cigarette smoke – what kind of a theater has a smoking lounge running in parallel right outside across all the screening halls ? I would never go there again – I refer to cinemax. And not forgetting the stupid lounge seats at the top which means less people are allowed inside for a show.

  6. […] KAUFMAN What:Dear Mumbai Film Festival, time to get your shit together Spicy: This post is by a visitor of Mumbai Film Festival. Here he analysed Mumbai Film Festival in […]

  7. […] about Imran Khan getting booed? Well, since it was one of the ideas that our Nicolas Bourbaki-ji wrote about while discussing ways to improve the Mumbai Film Festival, he is back to tell you […]

  8. Anonymous says:

    You know Bourbaki ?
    And there’s “The world is moving at the speed of light-years”.

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