Mumbai Film Festival, 2016 – Notes From Movie Mela

Posted: October 26, 2016 by moifightclub in Mumbai Film Festival, Q & A, Workshop
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As most of us at mFC have been busy watching back to back films at the Mumbai Film Festival, none of us could manage to attend the 2-day Movie Mela. But thanks to Suchin Mehrotra, all is not gone. He attended the Day 2 of the mela and here’s a post on the same.

(click on any pic to start the slide show)

What’s particularly interesting about the Jio MAMI film festival as against other global film festivals, is how it showcases facets of world cinema and indie cinema, but also merges this with a celebration of mainstream Hindi cinema. The Movie Mela is an example of the latter and described as ‘India’s only movie carnival’. I chose to attend day 2 of the Mela, given I found it had the more appealing line-up of events; however I was also really aware of the full day of film watching being sacrificed.

Session 1: Virtual Reality and Filmmaking

A fascinating session hosted by the charismatic Shakun Batra on virtual reality and its implications and applications to storytelling, featuring panelists Gabo Arora – creative director at the UN, filmmaker Anand Gandhi and Raja Koduri – the man behind the VFX of the gargantuan Baahubali. The discussion explored what exactly virtual reality is and the opportunities it offers the world of filmmaking, with words and phrases like ‘immersive’ and ‘you-are-physically-in-the-story’ being frequently thrown around. Although the panel repeatedly proclaimed, almost matter-of-factly, that VR is a game-changer and the definitive future of filmmaking, I remain unconvinced given the same was said years ago about IMAX and 3D, the hype behind which eventually fizzled out. However, this is still no-doubt a fascinating new dimension to the medium of cinema, and definitely one which all film buffs should be aware of. In fact, most Hollywood studios are investing in a VR arm of some sort, with big names likes Steven Spielberg said to be toying with the medium in their future projects.

Gabo Arora’s presence on the panel was for both his renowned VR films like Clouds Over Sidra, as well as his insight on the implications of VR on the humanitarian field. Research conducted on the effectiveness of charity donation collectors who randomly approach people on the street for a donation, found that only 1 in 12 ever receive funds. However, by giving each of these collectors a VR headset which allowed them to show a short film such as Clouds Over Sidra to passersby, the chances of receiving a donation almost doubled. Simply put, people were more generous when given a visual experience of the very conditions they were being asked to help change. Arora also announced live at the panel that the UN would be picking up Gandhi’s VR production, Cost of Coal, and including it in their distribution network, making it India’s first ever VR studio acquisition. Aside from this, Gandhi made a wonderful appeal to one and all asking for anyone who has a meaningful story to tell using VR, should just walk into his company’s Mumbai office to pitch ideas, and if they connect with it, they will provide all the necessary tools and infrastructure to go out and make the film.

However, as interesting as the possibilities of VR may be, the session went on for far too long, with a far greater focus on technology than filmmaking, and proved largely exhausting by the end. Suffice to say, I was strongly craving the feeling of a movie theatre by this point.

Session 2: Short film premier: Ouch by Neeraj Pandey

Ouch – the aptly titled comedy, starring Pooja Chopra and Manoj Bajpayee – who is fast becoming the face of the Indian short film, proved to be a fun little film which hinges on Bajpayee’s great comic timing and keeps you chuckling. Apart from some overpowering music and the slightly stretched narrative, it’s a refreshing change to the recent slew of short films made by mainstream filmmakers. However, I couldn’t help but feel this didn’t qualify to be it’s own standalone session considering the film could be viewed on Youtube at a later stage. (It was released on Youtube later the same day).

 

Session 3: Director’s panel – In conversation with Zoya Akhtar, Vishal Bhardwaj, Gauri Shinde, Shoojit Sarcar and Rohit Shetty

Undoubtedly the session that made the entire day worth it and how! A pure cinematic delight that had me giddy with excitement. Hosted by Anupama Chopra and Rajeev Masand, it was an enjoyable mix of focus on the movies and filmmaking, as much as it was on the more light-hearted aspects of personal experiences. The delightful discussion covered their behaviours and demeanor on set, their attitude towards stress, their relationship with failure as well as their approach to dealing with actors.  A few excerpts and fun facts from the session:

When asked what the best advice on filmmaking she ever received, Zoya Akhtar recalled something Mira Nair (whom she has assisted in the past) had told her about three things to never forget –

  1. Always be true to the story you are telling
  2. Never let go of your femininity in an effort to be the boss. You can wear  a skirt and lipstick and still be the boss
  3. Never hook up with your actors.

Rohit Shetty was in full form and stole the show with his frank and direct answers. Although I don’t hold his brand of cinema in very esteem at all, I couldn’t help but respect the man for his honesty which included stating that ‘Golmaal 2 was a crap film’, ‘The villain in Singham 2 just didn’t work’, and admitting that he didn’t think much of Dilwale particularly because of the love story arc between SRK and Kajol which let the film down.

A few fun facts:

  • Shoojit Sarcar has special-made Darjeeling tea that is specifically plucked and delivered from Darjeeling for him which he sips on all day on set
  • Zoya Akhtar’s one golden rule on her sets is “strictly no littering” to ensure the crew respect all the locations they shoot at.
  • Vishal Bhardwaj maintains that none of his films have ever set the box office on fire or even gone onto make money, which is just startling to consider! He said the most any film has ever managed is recovering its money.
  • None of the directors claim to drink coffee which was a particularly shocking revelation given how stressful a job of a director is, and more so given how much caffeine I had to ingest just to be able to make it to the event and hear them speak.

Session 4: In conversation with Shahid Kapoor

Although it is in no way an easy task to follow up a panel discussion featuring some of the exciting filmmakers in the country, Shahid Kapoor’s session proved to be equally as engaging, largely down to how candid the actor was about his career. He openly discussed how the majority of his films aren’t ‘good films’ as such, and how he’s really come into his own in the last few years and is clear about the kinds of films he wants to be a part of. It was ultimately hard not to be charmed and I’m certainly excited to see what the reinvigorated actor offers up with his future projects. He is next to be seen in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon followed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati.

Overall the Mela proved to be fine day for any cinephile that helped provide a much-needed dose of variety to the festival proceedings!

(Suchin Mehrotra is a freelance writer and critic, who left the corporate world to pursue his love of cinema because he watched one too many films for his own good. He is based out of Bombay and can be reached at @suchin545)

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