By Arun Fulara. Posted on September 20, 2017
The Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival is around the corner and released its line-up last week. I've always been more interested in the Indian films screening in the festival since that's where some of the most interesting cinema coming out of our country plays. The last few years that I've been watching films at MAMI, I've loved their Indian film selections. This year too I was excited and the festival hasn't disappointed at all. In fact far from it. This year's line-up seems to be the most exciting in a long time.
I say this not because it includes a film that I was closely involved with - more about that later - but because the films are all really independent. Almost all of them have been made outside the studio set-up with minimal support and with passionate crews. The reason I love the line-up this year is more because of how the films seem to have been made rather than their content, which of course I haven't seen yet.
Some of these are made by collectives, some almost single-handedly. And maybe that's why the content looks as pure and out-there as it does.
Machines is a film I've been waiting to watch for a long while. The director Rahul Jain was at the Film Bazaar a couple of years back with the documentary and the trailer I'd seen then was spell-binding. The film has since gone on to screen at major film festivals around the world including at Sundance and IDFA and garnered lavish praise for its "quietly mesmerising documentary portrait of working rituals and conditions at a textile factory in the Gujarat state of western India."
Kho Ki Pa Lu is the most charming Indian documentary trailer I've seen in a long while. The film is 'a musical portrait of a community of rice cultivators and their memories of love and loss, created from working together on the fields' of a small village in Nagaland near the Indo-Myanmar border. The music sounds so pure and the cinematography seems to bring out the beauty of the hills perfectly. Made by the duo of Anushka Meenakshi and Iswar Srikumar this film ranks high on my list of films to watch at the festival this year.
Whatever little I've seen and heard of Sanal Kumar Sasidharan's Sexy Durga automatically makes it a must watch. The film won the coveted Hivos Tiger award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam earlier this year and has since then been travelling to festivals across the world. These guys are doing something terrific in Kerala, not just in the films they are making but the way they are going about it at Kazcha Film Forum. Two films at MAMI this year from these guys, with Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani? too screening in the India Story section.
Another interesting set of guys doing their films the way they want to and showing a path to the rest of us are Anadi Athaley and Heer Ganjwala at HumanTrail Pictures. Their film Ralang Road, directed by Karma Takapa, has already made waves internationally and will premiere in India at the festival. The team had earlier made a film in Chattisgarh called Mor Mann ke Bhram which too had screened at MAMI a couple of years back.
Shlok Sharma's Zoo, shot on an iPhone, is another film I am excited for. Reeks of 'money-be-damned, film-banani-hai-toh-banayenge' attitude that I am a sucker for. The director of Haramkhor which released earlier this year is an exciting talent to watch out for. The film is travelling to Busan International Film Festival and will have its India premiere at MAMI. While the trailer's not yet up here's a small interview of Sharma on the making of the film.
Village Rockstars by Rima Das is a film that I can't wait to watch. Made with a crew of two, Das has written, directed, shot, edited, production designed and produced the film. The film premiered at Toronto earlier this month and this interview of hers by Anupama Chopra is a masterclass on indie filmmaking.
Watch the trailer and you cannot but root for it.
The Ashwatthama trailer doesn't give out too much but looks intriguing. The film is premiering at Busan in October before it plays at MAMI.
I couldn't find much online about Turup except the trailer and this brief below it;
"Chess is a popular pastime in this neighbourhood, with roadside games bringing together men, to challenge each other in friendly and sometimes unfriendly matches. But for some, the pawns include morality and religion causing tensions to erupt when a tournament gets underway. Against this backdrop, a domestic worker with a secret hobby, a former journalist struggling with married life and a young woman in love, find themselves pushing boundaries and challenging the rules of the game."
Miransha Naik's Juze is another film that's quietly been making its way across festivals internationally.
This lovely review in the Hollywood Reporter paints a lovely picture of the film.
"With his first feature, Indian filmmaker Miransha Naik has gone beyond these clichés to reveal the much harsher social undercurrents tearing at India's smallest but richest state. Set around exploited migrant workers and their abusive paymaster-cum-slumlord, Juze is a poised, contemplative and topical debut, with a story offering mostly heartbreak but also a faint glimpse of hope."
Sadly the trailer doesn't seem to be online yet. Also missing is the trailer of Dipesh Jain's film In the Shadows, which stars Manoj Bajpayee. The film was in the WIP lab at the NFDC Film Bazaar last year. A brief synopsis of the film on IMDB throws some light on the film.
"The film is a psychological drama about a man who is trapped within the city walls and in his own mind. He attempts to break free to find a human connection."
The final film in the list is Devashish Makhija's Ajji, a film that I was lucky to be a part of. Having watched the team work their asses and pretty much everything off the last one year has been truly special. It's a film I watched grow from a script through the shoot into rough cuts and finally the film that it is now. While working on the film I wrote a series of articles documenting the heartbreak, the struggles and joys of working on an independent film. The film is premiering at Busan in October in the New Currents Section before coming to MAMI.
These are exciting times for independent cinema in India and the Mumbai Film Festival needs to be commended on selecting films with hearts.