The recently concluded 9th Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI) awards saw a massive turnout.
Sponsored by Adlabs, the event was held at Imax Wadala, YB Chavan Centre and Fun Republic Andheri from March 9 to 15.
But film lovers were just a trifle dissatisfied when it came to the selection of films, which were mainly contemporary ones. There were no classics from earlier decades, except for Krzysztof Kieslowski's Decalogue. One couldn't help reminiscing the MAMI of a few years ago, where there were packed early morning shows of films by the old masters.
The festival's opening film was the Chinese film, Curse of the Golden Flower (Man Cheng Jin Dai Huang Jin Jia, 2006) by Zhang Yimou. Set in 10th century China, the film has been nominated for Best Achievement in Costume Design at the Academy Awards, apart from various other nominations at a myriad awards.
This year, MAMI honoured Hrishikesh Mukherjee under the Retrospective section and showcased his films like Anuradha (also MAMI's centerpiece), Anand, Chupke Chupke and Golmaal.
Here's a look at some interesting films.
This segment included a mix of world cinema like Nuit Noire (Black Night, Belgium 2006), Cages (Belgium, 2006), Mr Average (Belgium-Luxemburg-France-Canada-Germany 2006), Irina Palm (Belgium-Germany-Luxembourg-UK-France, 2006), Fang Xizng Zhi Lu (The Road, Chinese 2005), Les Invasions Barbares (The Barbarian Invasions, Canada -- France 2003), The Wind That Shakes The Barley (Germany-Italy-Spain-France-Ireland-UK,2006) and The Good Shepherd (USA, 2006).
The Chinese film The Road was a deeply touching film about a love story and its fate over five decades. Ticket girl Li Chunfang (played by Zhang Jingchu) works on a bus during the Cultural Revolution. She gets married to the much older bus driver Lao Cui (played by Wei Fan), even though she is in love with the young and handsome Dr Liu. The film explores what happens to the characters over the five decades, and is an interesting reflection of the country's changing political environment as well. See, if you can get a DVD!
Another film worth watching is The Barbarian Invasions, a drama where a dying man reunites with old friends, former lovers, his ex-wife, and his estranged son. The film was the winner of the 2004 Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.
Indians can draw parallel with their own history of freedom struggle in The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Based in Ireland in the 1920s, the film is about how circumstances make two brothers, who were once on the same side, oppose each other, as the British succeed in making one Irishman the enemy of the other.
Window to recent Spanish cinema
This section showcased the much-talked about Volver (2006), directed by Pedro Almodóvar. A sweet fable-like film, it explores a perplexing situation when Raimunda's (Penelope Cruz) mother comes back from the dead, throwing up hilarious situations.
Another film which made for interesting viewing was Azul Oscuro Casi Negro (Dark Blue Almost Black, 2006) directed by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo. The film is about Jorge (Quim Gutierrez), who is faced with the odd request of making his impotent brother's girlfriend pregnant. Dark, with touches of humour, Dark Blue Almost Black had some fabulous performances and an interesting premise.
The focus on country -- South Africa
Some of the films in this section include The Stick Darrell (1987), Sarafina! (1992), and Cry, The Beloved Country (1995).
Cry is about a South-African preacher who goes in search of his wayward son who has committed a crime in the big city. The film makes for a moving and tearful drama.
A film one hoped was a part of this section was Hotel Rwanda, an unforgettable drama about the true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsis refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda.
The digital section
This section featured an eclectic and interesting array, including Krzysztof Kieslowski's Decalogue (1990). Originally made for Polish television, the Decalogue is a series of ten one-hour dramas inspired by the Bible's Ten Commandments.
Another interesting film from this section was the Prince's Respite (2005) a Hungarian film directed by Péter Tímár. The film explores the life of Alida Gáll, a model, who is shot at by a mugger. But just before the bullet penetrates her heart, the Prince of Hell appears before her and makes her an offer -- if she can convince someone else to die in her place in a minute, she can live. A dark, bizarre and comic story.
The film India worldwide section
Films such as Vanaja (Rajnesh Domalpalli, India-USA, 2006), Chaurahen (Crossroads, Rajshree Ojha India-USA, 2006) and The Bong Connection (Anjan Dutt, India-USA, 2006) were a part of this section. The Bong Connection, though interesting sounding, was disappointing. After all, how many films can we see of confused desis facing the same problems again and again?
The Indian film competition
This section was much more interesting with some powerful and memorable films such as Cyanide (A M R Ramesh, Kannada, 2006) which is now being made in Hindi, Nayi Neralu/ In The Shadow of the Dog (Girish Kasarvalli, Kannada, 2006), Nottam The Gaze (Sashi Paravoor, Malayalam, 2006), and Sonam -- The Fortunate One (Ahsan Muzid, Arunachalee-Monpa, 2006).
The only Hindi film entry was Khosla Ka Ghosla by Dibakar Banerjee.
Malayalam film Nottam explores the life of patriarchal Vasudeva Chakkyar, played by seasoned Malayalam actor Nedumudi Venu, who has dedicated his entire life to Koodiyattam -- Kerala's ancient Sanskrit theatre art form. Proud and wary of modernity, Chakkyar is an interestingly written character, one that throws up many surprises.
Apart from films, MAMI also chose to celebrate stalwarts of the film world. The MAMI Global Icon Award was presented to Amitabh Bachchan while the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to writer-lyricist Javed Akhtar.
Composer Pyarelal and director Aparna Sen were felicitated with the Contribution to Indian Cinema Award, and director Govind Nihalani was awarded the Kodac Technical Excellence Award.
Closing the MAMI film festival was Mira Nair's The Namesake. The excitement to watch the film at Imax was palpable as delegates who had just about emerged from the earlier film, stood in queues to get the best seats.
The film is about American born Gogol Ganguli (Kal Penn), who detests his name and then realises the significance behind it. Adapted from the novel, The Namesake by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri, the film explores the journey of Gogol as he struggles between two worlds -- that of his present, and that of his background comprising his old-fashioned parents Ashok and Ashima Ganguli (Irrfan Khan and Tabu).
The film releases on March 23 in India.