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November 24, 1997


Bombay's own film festival!

Suparn Verma

Click for bigger pic!
Bombay has its own new film festival now. Though, of course, only time will tell where it will stand in the international circuit.

Dubbed the Mumbai Film Festival, it is the baby of the newly-formed Mumbai Academy of Moving Pictures and kicked off on Sunday and will continue till November 30.

A still from the festival's opening film Hazaar Chaurasi ki Maa. Click for bigger pic!
The festival opened with Govind Nihalani's Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa based on the novel by Jnanpith award winner Mahashweta Devi and starring Jaya Bachchan.

Make no mistake. This is not the first time an international film festival is being held in Bombay; the International Film Festival of India was held in Bombay two years ago. But the Mami event comes up every year unlike the IFFI effort, that pops up every decade.

Govind Nihalani Click for bigger pic!
"Six months ago Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar, Govind Nihalani, Shabana (Azmi), Amol Palekar and I had met," says film-maker Kiran Shantaram. "All of us were sick and tired of the bureaucracy involved in the Indian government's film festivals. A discussion began as to why could Bombay not have its very own film festival, one which can be held every year. That is, instead of our city, the capital of film-making, waiting ten years for its turn to host a film festival."

The idea had been touted earlier by, of all people, present Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A Sangma. Broadcasting minister two years ago when the discussion occurred, Sangma asked some film-makers why the industry itself did not host its own film festival.

"That idea never took off," laughs Shantaram, "So now we decided it was time that at least our city had its very own film festival, held every year."

Dev Anand, who baggd the Lifetime Achievement Award. Click for bigger pic!
The films this year include a rich mix from 22 nations around the world. They include the acclaimed Polish film Crows A Single Spark by South Korean director Park Kwang Su and Neil Jordan's Michael Collins. Iran, whose films have been critically hailed for its films over the last few years, has only one entry, Leila.

Film-makers attending include Park Kwang Su, Jan Nemec from the Czech Republic with his film Code Name Ruby, Tikoy Aguiluj from the Phillippines with his Rizal in Dapitan and Jorge Coscia from Argentina with Desperate Songs.

In fact, those who expected films like Basic Instinct or Erotic Tales are in for a disappointment; the trustees are averse to pandering to popular tastes, says Shantaram.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who is to be felicitated for completing 25 years in cinema. Click for bigger pic!
"While making the choices of films we were aware of the public opinion that X-rated films are shown at film festivals. So in our festival you will see only good, social, family-oriented films."

In deference to India's 50 years of independence, MAMI has included a Milestone section. "The idea was to show milestones in Indian cinema from 1947 to 1997," says Shantaram, whose father V Shantaram was one of the country's greatest film-makers. For some reason, the section will only include Hindi and Marathi films. Other films are not represented though director Adoor Gopalkrishnan will be felicitated for completing 25 years in cinema. A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dev Anand on Sunday.

The return of Jaya Bachchan

Photographs: Jewella C Miranda

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