Jio MAMI 20th Mumbai Film Festival Day 4: Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon, Woman At War and serpentine queues

Kusumita Das

October 30, 2018 12:28:11 IST

If titles were queues, then Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon could well be the longest one this year at Jio MAMI Film Festival.

For the film’s third screening which was held on Day 4 at a suburban venue, the real queues were no less outstretched either — on Monday morning, when I reached at 10 for an 11.30 show, I knew that I had already missed the good seats.

Thumb rule: You can never be too early at MAMI.

Around me were people still hungover on Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma that was screened on Sunday evening, and had people wait in line for three hours. Only four from the standing queue made the cut, I was told. If this is not a gamble, I don’t know what is.

A still from Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Ja Riya Hoon.

Ghode Ko… marks the directorial debut of veteran theatre artiste Anamika Haksar and has been generating the right kind of festival buzz. Set in Old Delhi’s Shahjahanabad, the film is an insider’s lens into the lives, hopes, dreams and despairs of daily wage earners, domestic workers, pickpockets, factory workers, street vendors and so on. They are all crammed into the city in so little space that even their dreams clash against each other. And dreams here don’t refer to life goals, we mean it in the literal sense of the term. It’s a feature film that blends magic realism with documentary. The result is novel and engaging in parts, but, at over 120 minutes, it does get tedious, despite the best intentions. And no matter how much realism one looks at achieving, continuous extreme close-up shots of sweaty limbs pulling handcarts can get too much for endurance.

At the post-screening Q&A, Haksar spoke of how the film was borne out of her own experience of working with street-workers in Delhi. “If the incidents depicted in the film comes across as random, it’s because the streets are just that. There’s no such thing as building up to a climax. Every five minutes could be a climax,” she said, almost reading our minds. While the discussion did well to explain a lot of things we saw, one couldn’t shake off the feeling of being straitjacketed in poverty. Purpose served, I guess. As someone was overheard saying, “Bohot gareebi hai…”

From the streets of Old Delhi, I moved to the hinterlands of Tamil Nadu, with Vasanth S. Sai’s Sivaranjani and Two Other Women. What a gem of an experience that was!

A still from Sivaranjani and Two Other Women

Through three stories, Sai explores how three women are fighting the casual sexism and misogyny in their homes. Riding on a taut screenplay and riveting performances, this film hits home and how. Sai uses repetitive sequences to hammer in the routine that is patriarchy. But such is his craft, that not once do you get tired by it. We see a village housewife in the 80s whose husband leaves her because of the one time she shouts back at him when he beat her. In the mid-90s, a working woman fights against her husband and in-laws who forcefully read her personal diary. In the early 2000s, the scenario may not be as extreme, except that the woman lets go of a promising career in sports as she bows down to the pressures of marriage and early pregnancy. And the man of the house summons her every second to fetch his glasses, newspaper, shirt, breakfast and nearly everything else while getting on with his day. Sound familiar?

Sitting with us in the audience were the film’s two leading ladies Parvathy Anand and Lakshmi Priya Chandramouli. Incidentally, they were watching the complete film for the first time. Director Sai is a man of few words that never fail to draw a chuckle. It’s refreshing to see someone at a film festival who does not try to over-intellectualise while fielding questions from the audience. “You noticed that? I thought I was being subtle,” was his response to an observation about a certain repetitive sequence in the film.

The serpentine queues continued in the evening for Nipun Avinash Dharmadhikari’s Marathi film Dhappa that looks at the politics of religion from a child’s perspective.

Another crowd puller was Benedict Erlingsson’s Woman At War which is about a woman in the 50s who battles the local aluminum industry to protect the highlands of her country, Iceland. I managed to catch a small portion of the massive 7 and half hour-long documentary CzechMate – In Search of Jiri Menzel. Directed by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, it explores the world of Czechoslovakian New Wave. While the theatre was not bursting at the seams, this one had its set of loyalists. It was after over three hours, that they paused for a 10-minute interval. Barring an interest in the subject and a commendable attention span, one would also require a bladder of steel for this one.

I ended my day at the festival’s youngest segment, The New Medium. “Immersive” being the watchword these days, this segment uses the device of multiple-screens in a single auditorium to challenge the status quo of single frontal screens.

I saw a 17-min film titled The Great Silence, from Puerto Rico. Told from the point of view of the endangered Amazona vittata parrots, the film through three screens examines the relationships between the human and animal and the terrestrial and the cosmic. This was followed by the screening of 77 sqm_9:26 min, which is a piece of forensic architecture that reconstructs how a murder was carried out by National Socialist Underground (a neo Nazi terrorist group) in 2006, in Kassel, Germany. The sprawling wide screens neatly accommodate the info-graphic style visuals, although I am still not sure how it fits in a film festival space. As someone in the audience said, “I think it’s as much an experiment for them [The New Medium] as it is for us viewers.” The novelty is striking yes, but, as of now, I am yet to be “immersed”.

Day 4 was a classic festival mixed-bag and MAMI is never without the regrets of what one missed out on. It’s a constant reminder that you’ll have to let go of some things even though they are within an arm’s reach. So soak in all that comes your way. On the other side of the night is another day of cinema.

(Through the next four days, Firstpost will round-up the major highlights, fly-on-the-wall conversations, and our top picks of events & films from Jio MAMI 20th Mumbai Film Festival.)

Updated Date: Oct 30, 2018 12:28 PM