Apologies for being missing in action but my life was co-opted by festivals – first the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star and then Diwali! It’s been an incredible ten days of a feast of films, enriching conversations with great movie artists, too much mithai and sparkle. MAMI is a passion project for me – I started working with the festival in 2014 and it warms the inner recesses of my heart to see how much the festival has grown. And especially how much it’s loved. Sure, we get abused on social media for the inevitable bumps that any live event has but mostly, there is such a feeling of joy in celebrating cinema together.
My favorite thing about MAMI (apart from the films) is the connections that are made at the festival. One evening, we hosted a jury dinner and it was so exciting to see the Oscar-nominated Palestinian director (and head of our international jury) Hany Abu–Assad leaning over the table, in intense conversation with Oscar-nominated Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (at MAMI to receive the Excellence in Cinema Award and present his new film The Two Popes) and Vetrimaaran (also on the international jury), who is one of the most exciting Indian filmmakers working today. I couldn’t hear what they were saying but I was hoping that they are plotting something exciting. My other favorite visual from the festival was horror master Ari Aster (Hereditary, Midsommar) chatting at the edge of a party with Lijo Jose Pellissery, the man who has given us formidable films like Angamaly Diaries, Ee. Ma. Yau and now Jallikattu. Ari is a big fan of Jallikattu. Who knows where these conversations and connections might lead!
Bollywood has often been likened to a large dysfunctional family. This is most evident around Diwali when there is a slew of parties and everyone, dressed in their traditional best, goes from home to home, spreading hugs and good cheer. My stand-out moment this year was as I was walking into someone’s house – I bumped into a leading actor who started talking about an interview we have planned. I said, “Should we discuss professional things here?” And she replied: of course, yeh professional hi toh hai. Saal bhar ki networking aaj raat ko karni hai. I laughed out loud but she was absolutely right. When you’re in showbiz, you’re always on!
The last two months of the year will bring a slew of films including the third installment of Dabangg. I would argue that Chulbul Pandey is one of the best confluences of actor and character. And despite the wobbly second edition, I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next. I hope we end the decade with a bang and not a whimper.