Editor's note: Writer Arpita Chatterjee is in Canada with her husband Sagar Desai, who wrote the music score for A Death in the Gunj, Konkana Sen Sharma's entry to the Toronto International Film Festival
Day 5 was awful. Got hit by the TIFF flu. Yes, that’s a real thing as regulars at the festival told me. Was in bed the whole day and missed out on all the action. The weather in Toronto has changed drastically over the weekend and gone from bright and warm to cold and windy, especially at night. The winter is upon Canada, where the temperatures go down to -40 Celsius.
On Day 6, I got up feeling wheezy but pumped myself up with Vitamin C and headed out for a morning show of Lion, the true story about an Indian boy who found his real mother after 25 years. The buzz around the film can be heard all the way to Vancouver.
A segment set in a home for lost children broke my heart. Everyone has an excuse – if you get abused, you become and abuser, if you get cheated, you become a cheater, if you get bullied you become a bully. Where does it stop? And when do we as a nation rise above the shit? Of course, I have no answers. Only questions.
But there are people who make it possible for a child lost in the vast seas of more than a billion people to be rescued. They are few and far between, but they are there. The story of Saroo Brierly, who found his biological mother after 25 years, is an ode to the lost children of India by Garth Davis.
The film moved the audience deeply (to tears) and most people around me were sniffling when the end titles rolled.
Lion has powerful performances by Dev Patel and by his Indian and Australian mothers (Priyanka Bose and Nicole Kidman), but the star of the show is the tiny Sunny Pawar.
The intensity this five year old packs in his rendition of Saroo, is comparable to Om Puri’s Hasari Pal in the City of Joy. Trust me I am not gushing. He uses his eyes to convey a range of emotions - vulnerability, fear, joy and confusion.
I was pleasantly surprised to find my good friend Tess Joseph from Bombay had cast him. As I congratulated her on Facebook, she wrote to me to say that she found Sunny through workshops held for 1,800 kids at the Air India School in Kalina, Mumabi.
Post Lion, Sagar and I headed out to grab lunch at Korean-American brash and edgy chef David Chang’s Momofuku, which is just three blocks from Scotia Theatre. It was on my list of must-dos. David Chang’s love for noodles resulted in him giving up golf to chase his food dreams.
On our way to Momofuku, we found a lost and confused festival programmer and movie critic Uma Da Cunha who was trying to get in touch with Adoor Gopalakrishan on the phone but he was not responding maybe because she had dialed the number wrong.
We took her to lunch because she hadn’t eaten anything and she looked totally frazzled. Once we sat down for lunch the sweet lady got her bearings about and sorted out work schedule.
Momofuku is located in a three-story glass cube and has a very canteen-like vibe with benches and an open kitchen. Both Uma and Sagar being vegetarian ordered Yunnanese Rice Cake with goat’s cheese and Extremely Spicy Noodle.
I ordered the classic Pork Bun with scallion, a sticky hoisin sauce and cucumber. The meat and bun was so soft and tender it was like eating a cloud.
The flavours of the broth and the meat went down really easy but my palate sang from the slight kick of chilli and scallion that is basically a variation of spring onion. Best Ramen I’ve ever had. I’m going back for another before I leave.
The festival has started to wind down now as the big star movies have played their premieres, and the crowds have started thinning. There are no more autograph hunters and screaming movie lovers gathering behind the Princess of Wales Theatre where I spotted Ryan Gosling and Leonardo Di Caprio. People lining up in endless rush lines are gone. Toronto is slowly slipping back into its original form.
Watched a couple of not so great films not worth mentioning and ended the night at Bar Hop where I overheard a really cheesy pick up line. A 27-year-old in a suit sitting at a table next to me told a blonde intelligent looking girl in her early twenties, “If you want to take some pictures to make someone jealous, I’m happy to make out with you.”
People actually use these lines. The girl was a real sport and laughed.