25 Films, 7 Days | 20th MUMBAI FILM FESTIVAL

20th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival was held from 25th October to 1st November, 2018. In its 20th year, the special offer was 500 bucks for everyone against the usual 2000 – hence, a pouring footfall. Apart from initial issues for pre-booking, it was a seamless festival where I watched almost every intended film. Below are short reviews of the 25 films watched over a period of 7-days, (please find the synopsis on IMDB):

  1. Three Identical Strangers
    Dir. Tim Wardle | USA, UK

    It begins as an outlandish fictional story which is stranger than fiction. As it unravels, there’s emotional as well as thrilling component of revelations – perhaps, more twists like a rollercoaster. As unbelievably believable the triplets story is – Tim Wardle acts as a superior storyteller who takes through an engrossing, heartbreaking as well as darker journey. Tim Wardle’s riveting documentary lingers around existential question between nature vs. nurture – it’s a psychological dilemma.


  2. In The Aisles (In den Gängen)
    Dir. Thomas Stuber | Germany

    The much touted Deutsch film comes across as a sympathetic film but fails to engross since the moments are placed sparsely throughout a long tiring narrative. While there’s a brilliant choreographed sequence featuring forklifts which infuses similar rhythm into the characters, but the supermarket love story failed to sell itself. There’s a sweet flirtation between protagonists Franz Rogowski and Sandra Huller, but end up in desperation.


  3. The Harvesters (Die Stropers)
    Dir. Etienne Kallos | France, Greece, Poland, South Africa

    From a Greek-African Director, the quasi-biblical drama is a slow burner.. Etienne Kallos harvests family bonding amidst toxic masculinity and brother rivalry, but the biggest drawback is its tiresome narrative. The Harvests works like a broth, where the third act plays a major role in providing a savoury offering. Set amidst a rural backdrop where the landscape juxtaposes against the suffocation of the characters, a quasi-biblical reference to Cain & Abel.


  4. Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (The Man Who Feels No Pain)
    Dir. Vasan Bala | India

    Vasan Bala’s second directorial is an out-and-out whacky entertainer, sets up a comic-like ride which transcends into a pleasant entertainer, here, the winner is Vasan’s resourceful cinematic influences. From The Karate Kid, The Terminator, Rocky, The Death Match to Geraftar which plays an important arc; it’s such a resonating film for someone like me who has grown up watching Jackie Chan and Rocky, that too with grandparents. Karan Kulkarni’s zany soundtrack trends a cinematic crescendo, the pop music steadily transports into a pulpy zone. You’re in for an eccentric ride. “I felt like Rocky Balboa”, possibly sums up the extravagant feel post a whacky adventure.


  5. 3 Faces (Se Rokh)
    Dir. Jafar Panahi | Iran

    3 Faces (Se Rokh) is a metaphorical film for Jafar Panahi who is facing a house arrest, with characters on similar note – caged Panahi pens a determination of freedom. Panahi finds calmness in a rural backdrop where he finds tranquility yet astonishing raw characters who add gentle humour. With a tantalizing premise crossing borders, Jafar Panahi’s cinematic defiance about censorship strikes – though not powerful as it should-be, still an introspective journey.


  6. Bhonsle
    Dir. Devashish Makhija | India

    Featuring Manoj Bajpayee is a superior film which avoids ambiguity and dwells in subtext, where shots linger for brief moment to feel the emotion rather than the actor delivering it – visibly a director’s medium. Writers Mirat Trivedi, Devashish Makhija and Sharanya Rajgopal weave an intricately sensitive story questioning demarcation of boundaries, blind faith and religion. Devashish Makhija is an unambiguous director whose cinematic repercussions are about non-escapism.


  7. Amaltash
    Dir. Suhas Desale | India

    Suhas Desale’s pretentious directorial is too staged and emotionally manipulative. There’s a clumsy calmness in the narrative which is strikingly let down by chaotic performances by Rahul Deshpande and Anushka Dandekar-ish Pallavi Anil Paranjape. It travels down the elite lanes of Pune which act as an appetiser, Cinematographers Rushi Tambe & Bhushan Mate captivate through luxurious frames. Definitely has a mesmerizing soundtrack, but for a predictable cringeworthy venture – it’s insufficient since it lacks novelty while displaying honest intentions behind inception.


  8. Cold War (Zimna Wojna)
    Dir. Pawel Pawlikiwoski | Poland, France, UK

    It’s a compassionate visual drama shot on a simmering aspect ratio of 4:3. Monochrome was never so enchanting as it was through the lens of Lukasz Zal, vividly framing picturesque humanscape amidst European War. Straightforward narrative is coupled with dance and music, striking resemblance to Casablanca (1942) but more aesthetically mounted. In its aesthetic, it’s a poetic masterpiece with every scene simmered and drenched in passion. Joanna Kulig, who also featured in Pawlikowski’s Oscar-winning Ida (2015) is astounding. She inherits the character rise intimately by spicing up the chemistry in her arms.


  9. Roma
    Dir. Alfonso Cuarón | Mexico

    From the director of Gravity and Children of Men, Roma is a vivid portrayal of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil. Alfonso Cuarón sums up a simple plot into a heart-wrenching cinematic affair with long takes suggestive of extenuating a point to symmetry of frames. Black-and-White acts as an emphatic motif for Cleo, it’s a majestic portrayal in the age of colour. Alfonso, who has also shot the film captivates mundane dynamics amidst a tinge of political climate. Even the arresting Sound Design (Sergio Diaz) presents a realistic climate with calmness and chaos, surrounding ensemble.


  10. Anthology of Shorts: 
    A Monsoon Date by Tanuja Chandra

    Tanuja Chandra’s sensitive short film is a heart-breaking thoughtful venture which opens broad perspective. A Monsoon Date is about an eventful, rainy evening when a young woman is on her way to see a young man she is dating. Along the way, she experiences bittersweet moments with a series of strangers, even as a storm brews inside her. Today, she has decided to reveal to the young man a heart-breaking truth about her past. This truth, she knows, is not possible for anybody to understand. And yet, she hopes that he would. With her heart pounding like the torrential rain around her, she holds on to this unreasonable hope. On the way, interesting motifs and symbolic elements play explicitly which come off as an easy-node. Yet, it ends in splits – something exceptional but underwhelming.

    An Essay of the Rain by Nagraj Manjule

    Nagraj’s post-Sairat venture is an empathetic cinematic journey. The National Award-winning short has Manjule’s striking romanticism about struggle in rural strata. Nevertheless, it provokes the thought process after all the struggle a young kid living in a hut goes through during a rainy day. Rain is just an excuse to present a wet cinematic affair which drifts into his third act impact, it was kind of a let down considering Nagraj Manjule’s previous works. But, it seems to be his working pattern which doesn’t fail. Though, it has a rhythm which juxtaposes against the disrupted rhythm of a poor family – it’s distantly absorbing. 


  11. Soni
    Dir. Ivan Ayr | India

    Ivan Ayr’s Soni has a deft indie touched, where many filmmakers are chasing long takes for elaborative cinematic expression. Soni has scenes crafted in similar way, but fails to render a feminist effort. It lacks an absorbing element, maybe the drawback is that it has been shot crudely in dark and long takes often distract the viewing. On the positive side, the subtleties play intelligently which covers struggle of women in India (in form of a Police drama) – it’s a battle between feminism and misogyny but there’s an incoherent cinematic battle over the surface.


  12. Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku)
    Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda | Japan

    Winner of Palme d’Or at Cannes is a heartwarming film which understates bonding in a morally questionable family – who rely on shoplifting to cope up with poverty. Tender ensemble between conflict and contrivance, a devastating portrayal by a socially conscious filmmaker. Hirokazu Kore-eda packs a deft story, felt like I’ve lived with the characters for lifetime ultimately realising crude reality of an immersive film. Hirokazu never emotionally manipulates the narrative, instead explores it in a nuanced and subtle manner. There’s subtly of social strata, survival and biological family – “maybe the bond will be stronger if you choose your own family” exclaims a character from a contrived family.


  13. Two Meetings And A Funeral
    Dir. Naeem Mohaiemen | Multi-Screen Cinema

    Two Meetings and a Funeral is a three-screen experience, looks at the pivotal moment of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), when parts of the utopian third world project to end Euro-American dominance shifted from its socialist urges to the petrodollar fuelled ‘ummah’ concept of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Between the 1973 NAM meeting in Algeria and the 1974 OIC meeting in Pakistan is periscoped Bangladesh’s debut as a new nation-state. Harnessing rare archival footage of these meetings and traversing transnational architecture in New York, Algiers and Dhaka with fellow travellers, the film reflects on the idea and contradictions of the Third World as a potential space for decolonisation and South-South solidarity. 


  14. Dhappa (Howzzat)
    Dir. Nipun Avinash Dharmadhikari | India

    Dhappa
    is an explicit allegory stating fundamental right of expression, a challenging multidimensional perspective. Writer Girish Kulkarni pens a broad perspective into a housing society, an universal amalgamation engulfed within makes it more relatable and realistic. Dhappa is thoughtfully conceived and honestly directed, a relevant theme which crudely mirrors the society. Originated from a true story which took place in Pune, a rich cultural city where a children’s play on the occasion of Ganesh Festival featured Jesus Christ. Cinematographer Swapnil Sonawane moves with the characters, the conflict is explosive and the camera moves only in presence of the kids.


  15. The Flight (Urojahaj)
    Dir. Buddhadeb Dasgupta | India

    Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s latest directorial features one of the finely crafted sequences in Bengali Cinema – dance of the ghosts. It takes off on an interesting note as a mechanic finds a World War II plane – but as it doesn’t swift smoothly as it encounters turbulence in form an off-beat narrative trying too hard. Chandan Roy Sanyal is a director’s actor who has inherent rawness in performance.


  16. Fortuna
    Dir. Germinal Roaux | Switzerland, Belgium

    Fortuna is a cliched French rendezvous snoozefest.


  17. Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil (Lovefucked)
    Dir. Aadish Keluskar | India

    Aadish Keluskar’s second feature is equivalent to a mephistophelian, which ends on a fiendish note dugs into harsh reality in a developing country – where reality and thoughts travel backwards. It travels through uncomfortable waters often bringing out devilish laughter at misogyny and chauvinism. Aadish Keluskar’s unconventional love-story is lit with yellow tint and long takes by Cinematographer Amey V Chavan. Color palette represents conflicting associations, here with power of sex and politics; along with dominant subtext about nincompoop society. Psychologically the yellow tint contradicts the narrative in an intriguing way, it’s about high energy (horronderous sex implied) and enthusiasm for longing and love.


  18. Ashleel Udyog Mitra Mandal (Vulgar)
    Dir. Alok Rajwade | India

    Alok Rajwade makes a fine debut with Ashleel Udyog Mitra Mandal (Vulgar). It’s all about burning desire, even the protagonist’s name suggests the same. Based on a bad trip about Savita Bhabhi, writer Dharmakirti Sumant pens a narrative quite on the lines of Kranti Kanade’s CRD (2017). There’s a deft essence and feel to Alok Rajwade’s directorial debut, unlike CRD, it plays in a more understandable and entertaining zone. Translated as Vulgar has its strength in mis-e-scene, rhythmic choreography brings in a semantic approach. Despite all its entertaining glory, it flatters too much in making an experimental venture. Nevertheless, there’s a charismatic aura to the dynamic setting upheld by a phenomenal performance by Abhay Mahajan.


  19. Climax
    Dir. Gaspar Noé | France

    Cinephiles queued up from 11am for the 9.30pm show, just letting you know the craze for Gaspar Noé. It’s an exasperating cinematic stimulation, one which trips cinematically in hands of a startling director Gaspar Noé. Climax is a musical horror film explained thematically in the synopsis as, “Birth and death are extraordinary experiences. Life is a fleeting pleasure.” It’s an explosion of hedonism, ethnicity, hysteria as well as disgusting moral compass – which subtly play behind the carnage. While there’s so much to trip on, Gaspar Noé takes you on a LSD trip which is a psychedelic experience. Exceptionally choreographed sequences set an unusual rhythm, with long takes making an insane impression.


  20. Nathicharami
    Dir. Mansore | India

    Mansore’s Nathicharami is an important venture for Kannada Cinema, set in a prosperous and progressive nation, yet our society has many taboos related to the subject of sex and carnival desire. Featuring Sruthi Hariharan, the film is woven around the female protagonist whose personal life and hence her overall being is stuck within such a framework. Nathicharami plays intricately in momentariness, even in its mechanical narrative it reaches out with whole heart. Mansore steps away from the conventional frame, an actress vocal about MeToo ends up in a prevalent film about a women’s desire.


  21. Fahrenheit 11/9
    Dir. Michael Moore | USA

    Michael Moore is one heck of a director. He makes a compelling documentary with interesting analogies against America’s Democrats and Republicans. Michael Moore is being bashed for his unapologetic research and presentation, hence a lot of Trump-Putin lovers have hated the documentary. As it began from a doomed election, it travels through hilarious yet waters of a mirroring society; ending up in tears and a long impression bygone. It’s a reality check!


  22. Namdev Bhau: In Search of Silence
    Dir. Dar Gai | India

    It comes at a point when hustling and gasping through the chaotic Mumbai becomes an adventure. Hence, as I write this particular review plagued in non-escapism – Dar Gai’s sound film remarks about an old protagonist setting out free from constantly vocal Mumbai towards a Silent Valley. Dar Gai is a sound director who infuses sound design with meticulous depth. Cinematographer Aditya Varma takes through enchanting Ladakh which is as picturesque as it’s opaque. Namdev Bhau is played by Namdev Gurav, from whom the character is inspired. The non-actor delivers an antic performance clashed with ever pestering Arya Dave. It’s a resonating film which talks about urban alienation and globalisation in subtle context amidst finding peace. From evolution to revolution, Dar Gai’s sound film is a sweet motivation sprouting a quest of tranquility.


  23. Shakespeare Wallah
    Dir. James Ivory | USA, India

    For the second time, witnessed Shashi Kapoor on big-screen in a tiresome Merchant-Ivory Production. Although it intricately captures the mood and emotions of the Shakespearean troupe, it ends on a bittersweet note. Satyajit Ray’s mesmerizing BGM was a gallant.


  24. Chippa
    Dir. Safdar Rahman | India

    Safdar Rahman’s Chippa is a travelogue letter to Kolkata, it depicts an interesting journey of an underdog from hostile environment to a dream-like and eventually returning back to hostility which is supposed to be a home. Safdar Rahman weaves in a different perspective of Kolkata at night, against all the clichés he extracts the nightingale beauty. Sunny Pawar (Lion, Sacred Games) works as an element, his confidence is charming as well as heart-pondering.


  25. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Di qiu zui hou de ye wan)
    Dir. Bi Gan | China

    Bi Gan’s exclusive semi-3D film is an incoherent toned film where style takes over substance. There’s a pestering for mesmerizing effect, especially the dark toned first half sets the mood right – as the character dwells in a dreamlike journey, the film vents out into a 50-min long take shot in 3D. Although, it ponders in space and time expression, ultimately it was an embarrassing experience, a film touted be hypnotic masterpiece shattered belief in pieces.

Thank you for bearing the words, have a sumptuous cinematic day!


Copyright ©2018 Ninad Kulkarni. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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