For most of us who are based in Bombay, the Mumbai Film Festival is an annual ritual. And since the fest always has a strong programming line-up, we keep telling our film fanatic friends who are based in other cities, that they must visit during the fest. Anand Kadam attended the fest for the first time this year. As he is back to conference calls and office emails, he looks back at the madness of those few days.
“Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines”
I wait for an hour in the queue, legs bent, shoulders slumped, sweat on my forehead, a water bottle and a jacket by my side – both to counter the air conditioner in the auditorium. This is not the sad part. The sad part is that I miss it. I miss the early rush. I miss the struggle of booking the slots. I miss the anxiety of missing other films. It was as if the universe decided to carve four days out of my life and paint them Neon. The screen lights up with snow and the name comes up – Pablo Larrain. Claps and whistles. Goosebumps. A biopic turned inside out where non-fiction and fiction intertwine and where the literal and the poetry marry to create beauty.
“Beauty is not everything, it’s the only thing”
Nicolas Winding not only believes it but lives through it as if this very line is his gospel; why else would he put everything aside in Neon Demon, from logic to rationality, to dazzle you with images that burn your retina and sound that pulsates your heart. Early morning dose of lesbian necrophilia and cannibalism. Yum. I am awestruck and angry at the same time. My stomach grumbles for breakfast. I eat a sandwich. The images keep disturbing me, and Jesse, who isn’t ashamed of her body, refuses to leave me.
“Shame isn’t a strong enough emotion to stop us doing anything at all.”
I count the number of people ahead of me. The counter on the screen reads thirty two. Touch and go. I feel restless as the queue starts moving. I reach the entrance but I am stopped. My heart breaks. I wait there. Hundred options run through my head as I scan the schedule. I am about to leave when I am allowed in. Beauty is not everything, it’s the only thing. Paul Verhoeven finds beauty in perversion. My brain in unable to process what it had witnessed. Elle is the exact opposite of everything I had ever seen. It challenged every notion I held of morality. It’s not immoral but it makes morality irrelevant.
“A stew needs time for the flavors to sink in and so do people”
What if there isn’t enough time or you have all the time in the world but something is amiss, like the flame is too slow or the wind is unaccounted for? How does he do it? Koreeda. How does he do it? I am exhausted. My eyes are heavier. My jacket feels heavier. The film starts. It ends. I don’t blink. A family drama that makes you laugh and is profound, where melancholy hides behind the surface. The constant struggle of not ending up like your father. It’s all there, rolled up into a bittersweet film.
“Why are there so many crying scenes? This isn’t a funeral”
I stand up for National Anthem for the umpteenth time as I prepare myself to watch a documentary where the citizens, in fear of being killed, must cry at the funeral of their leader. Weirdly though, I never thought I would be, in some sense, similar to Kim Jong-il. He loved movies and disliked his country’s cinema. What he does next is downright bizarre, hilarious, and tragic at the same time. He kidnaps South Korea’s Shin Sang-ok and his ex-wife Choi Eun-hee to fulfill his dream – to make better cinema. The irony of it all, Shin Sang-ok gets more freedom to create his cinema in North Korea than in South Korea. This entire story would have been unbelievable only if it weren’t a fact. North Korea, a country that needs to be saved.
Another country in Chaos. Egypt. I watch with my mouth wide open as the entire film is being shown from within a police van. Clash is an ultimate depiction of chaos and riots. No matter the ideology, people suffer. It’s an attempt to make us realize the only solution is for people to learn to coexist with people they hate.
Then there is India where child labor is abundant facilitating child traffickers.
Cecilia, a heartbreaking story of a tribal woman whose teenage daughter has died in mysterious circumstances. Apart from being a brilliant investigative journalism, the documentary also deals with moral dilemmas – would you rather accept monetary compensation or fight for your daughter’s justice? Pankaj Johar successfully shows the apathy of the entire system and makes you question your role in its contribution. By the end of it I feel absolutely numb. How can I break this vicious cycle when I myself am a spoke helping it rotate?
“I like to bring a bulldozer and ruin all of this city.”
“They ruined this city once, they built it again and now this is it.”
After traveling for more than an hour, I am stuffed up to my chest with Baghdadi’s daal gosht and fried aloo. The premier is late by an hour. I sit there in the stall of Regal wrapping myself with my jacket as if it were a blanket. The Director apologies for the delay and introduces the star-cast. Then it starts. The story moves in a leisure pace giving you ample time to absorb and soak in it. It slides through mundane parties and games. Then something strange happens. I see myself on the screen. I am twelve, asked to babysit my nephew who is all but four. I am busy watching something on the television as my nephew gulps down half a glass of old monk left on the table by my dad. I am to be blamed. Of course. I feel humiliated, families can do that, they can smother you. I am scarred and scared. Like Shutu, I am to carry everyone’s guilt. I want to scream at the screen and tell him to survive this. This will pass and will only be a distant memory. You will grow out of it. Great genius blooms late, remember?
“I want to witness your death and I’ll be the main character.”
My last show ends. It feels like an end of a pilgrimage. Where else do you find people, from eighteen to seventy, discussing films and only films, and a bit of gossip? Be it during lunch or dinner, in the queue, in the theater, in the loo. Discussing films with unknown people.
Films, Food, and beer.
What else do you want from life?
Just one slot a year dedicated to films. Isn’t much to ask.
(Based in Pune, Anand is a software engineer working in a bank. Priorities in life – Mutton, Wine and Cinema, in that order. He tweets @invokeanand)