14th Mumbai Film Festival Diary- Day 4, 5 & 6 Stories

And finally we bring to you the last of the articles on the recently concluded 14th Mumbai Film Festival by looking at some of the films screened on the 4th, 5th and 6th Day of the festival.

I.D

Director – Kamal K.M

A young woman named Charu (Geetanjali Thapa) stays in a rented apartment with her friends in Mumbai. One day an unnamed labourer who is doing the painting job at her home becomes unconscious . She rushes him to the hospital , however he dies sometime later . And her search for discovering the deceased man’s identity leads her through the dark underbelly of Mumbai.

The film is crisp and engaging aided by able cinematography and competent performances. The way the film has been shot especially in the slum areas of Mumbai is remarkable. And very well conveys the claustrophobic way of living in Mumbai. Geetanjali Thapa does an efficient job in the lead role.

However despite the involvement of names such as Resul Pookutty (Producer and Sound designing),cinematographer  Rajeev Ravi etc. it is surprising that there is hardly any buzz about he movie in Indian movie and festival circuit.

The Hunt (Jargen)

Director – Thomas Vinterberg

A primary school teacher Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is wrongly accused of sexual inappropriateness and it begins to tear apart Lucas life.

The film very beautifully tells how a single lie sometimes perceived as innocent can destroy a person’s life. Many a times children have a habit of telling lies without any malice. The adults in general more than often to believe that children cannot lie , many times offering little or no chance for the accused person to defend their case. The film also shows how one misunderstanding or event can change the equations amongst people and bring out the worst in them. Mads Mikkelsen is superb in the lead role bringing the right amount of dignity and conviction to his role.

It wont be erroneous to state that The Hunt is one of the best films to be showcased at this year’s Mumbai film festival.

As Luck Would Have it (La Chispa De La Vida)

Director – Alex de la Iglesia

Roberto Gomez (Jose Mota)  an out of work advertising executive looks to provide exclusive interview rights to the highest bidder in order to provide for his family.

Personal misery always makes for great prime time viewing and news. This is a fact we have been seeing with amazing regularity over the years.The film is also a grim reminder of the trauma associated with losing one’s job and facing financial difficulties in today ruthless modern world.

The film takes a humorous yet dark and cynical look at the sensationalism prevailing in Media and all around us and how any news can be sold to people , provided it is done rightly. For handling the topic with in a realistic way with the right amount of dark and laugh out loud humour, the film is worth a watch.

The film also stars Salma Hayek as Roberto’s wife.

Here and There (Aqui y alia)

Director- Antonio Mendez Esparza

Pedro returns home to a small mountain village in Guerrero, Mexico after years of working in the US. He finds his daughters older, and more distant than he imagined. His wife still has the same smile. Having saved some earnings from two trips to the US, he hopes to now finally make a better life with his family, and even to pursue his dreams on the side by starting a band. He cherishes the everyday moments with his family.

A wonderful slice of life film, this one is an extremely simple film yet powerfully narrated. We get to see what Pedro and his family members are going through and there are enough and more moments that we can root for. One such is the sequence towards the end when both the elder daughters of Pedro have a long chat with each other in the room where Pedro used to have his band rehearsals. Definitely recommended and at the end of it all one also realizes how apt the title is for the film.

Tooting Broadway

Director- Devanand Shanmugham

Tooting Broadway is an urban crime drama based in South London and centred around Tamil ( Sri Lankan ) gangs who are infamous. 24 hours before the Tamil protests outside the Houses of Parliament, Arun returns home to stop his younger brother Ruthi from participating in a criminal act that could ruin his life. Arun is granted a day by his mysterious employer, Marcus to bring Ruthi round. Once there he meets an old flame, Kate who is struggling with a big decision herself, while Arun’s friendship with gang leader, Karuna threatens to suck him back into a world he left behind.

The premise is interesting enough as not many people especially those outside the U.K would be aware of the Sri Lankan Tamil gangs operating over there. However in terms of delivery the film somehow falls short in a few ways. For one the film keeps talking about Tamil gangs but does not emphasize on the Sri Lankan angle which is important because all Tamilians in the U.K are not from Sri Lanka, there is a sizeable Indian Tamil population too, who are not connected to all this at all. Secondly for all the talk of gang wars and rivalry there’s hardly any real gang war stuff shown and what we only get to see is intra gang rivalry and a few members fighting against themselves. However the casting is good and most of the actors do justice to their roles. Wish the film could have done more justice to the premise though.

Josh (Against the Grain)

Director- Iram Parveen Bilal

When there was a short gap before the next film (Mumbai Cha Raja) the best thing to do was to watch a film for whatever duration was possible. And so we ended up watching a part of Josh, the only Pakistani film playing at the festival. Josh talks about Fatima, a committed schoolteacher living the cosmopolitan high life in Karachi. She has her life shattered when her nanny, Nusrat, inexplicably disappears. Josh is the story of Fatima’s search, despite the warning of her friends and family, for a dangerous truth in Nusrat’s feudal village.

The film does maintain a fine balance between the cosmopolitan high life and feudalism co-existing in Pakistani society these days. It’s also a wakeup call of sorts for the youth to come into the forefront and tackle socio-political issues. The casting is good and the film does look good technically. It would be great to get to watch the complete film sometime soon.

Mumbai Cha Raja

Director- Manjeet Singh

This is an indie film in the complete sense and the film is a humble attempt to peep into the lives of kids living in the slums of Mumbai. It’s a tribute to their spirit of finding joy in trivial things and living life to the fullest. Rahul is a misunderstood and troubled adolescent who lives in the slums bordering the nouveau riche areas of Northern Mumbai with his alcoholic father, hard working mother and kid brother. He hangs out with his balloon seller streetwise younger friend, Arbaaz.

When Rahul’s alcoholic father beats and humiliates him by tying him up with a polythene bag for trying to save his mother from his anger, Rahul runs away from home. Rahul and Arbaaz try to escape from the grim realities of life by soaking in simple pleasures including roasting stolen potatoes, playing pranks on others, having a crush on a girl etc. The film is set during the last days of the grand festival devoted to Lord Ganesha when huge idols of the elephant headed God are taken in procession to the beach for immersion. Rahul has to handle the chaos in his life amidst the chaos of colorful and vibrant festival.

The film is a celebration of life and shows how one can find happiness in simple pursuits as well. The kids who play Rahul and Arbaaz are wonderful and the dialogues are witty and impactful. This is certainly a film to watch out for.

 

Three Worlds (Trois Mondes)

Director- Catherine Corsini

This French drama competed in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes this year. Al is a smart working car salesman who has climbed up the ladder and is now all set to be in line for the top job at the lucrative car dealership where he works and marry his girlfriend Marion, who also happens to be his employer’s daughter. Life takes a turn for Al when in a freak accident he runs over a man and doesn’t stay back to help out of fear for his own safety. Unknown to him there is a witness, Juliette who has seen it all from her balcony. With just days left for his wedding Al turns uneasy & keeps thinking about the accident. The film follows the complex drama that engulfs Al, Juliette, Vera (the accident victim’s wife) and Marion.

A very taut tale presented very effectively, this one can boast of highly effective performances from the star cast and can be credited with staying away from playing it safe. It’s a film that you will think about even a few days after watching it.

The Angels’ Share (La part des anges )

Director- Ken Loach

Veteran filmmaker Ken Loach comes up with a bittersweet comedy of a young Glaswegian father, Robbie who narrowly avoids a prison sentence. Along with a few others he is sentenced to few hours oc community sentence and becomes friends with that group. He is determined to turn over a new leaf and is aided by Harry, the guide to the group. Harry takes Robbie and his and his friends from the same community payback group to visit a whisky distillery and unexpectedly a route to a new life becomes apparent for Robbie.

The film takes some time to get adjusted to thanks to the Scottish accent that a lot of the characters sport but you get hooked on to the tale, slowly but surely. The actors are all wonderful and the film is high on humour but not of the slapstick variety. Whether you are onto whisky or not, this is a film which will work for one and all.

Me and You (Io e Te)

Director- Bernardo Bertolucci

After a gap of 9 years the veteran filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci returns to direction with Me and You which is all about a 14 year old boy Lorenzo and his half sister, Olivia. Lorenzo is a disturbed boy who prefers to keep to himself mostly. He gets to live his dream of staying alone in the basement when he informs his parents that he’s off on a skiing trip arranged by his school, only to stealthily move into his building’s basement and get himself comfortable. Alas the quality time he was looking forward to spending alone gets disturbed as his elder half sister Olivia turns up. How do a few days of living together bring out an impact on both of them is what the film is all about.

Bertolucci shows with this film that he even if he stays away from the arc lights for a long time he will always remain a competent story teller. Shot mainly indoors and centred on just 2 main characters, the film does manage to keep one engaged right till the end. The film certainly does prove to be inspiring for all aspiring filmmakers.

Amour

Director- Michael Haneke

Michael Haneke is one of the more celebrated International filmmakers in recent years and Amour continues to keep his record intact by winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year. Georges and Anne are retired music teachers who live a contented life by themselves. Their only daughter is married & lives abroad. One fine day Anne suffers an attack which paralyses her arm and slowly but surely things are never the same for the couple. An intense emotional tale, Amour works and works well primarily aided by the lead actors who do a stellar job. The film moves along at a very leisurely pace and is almost lifelike. But therein also lies the strength of the movie. Certainly a film to watch and there’s no doubt about that.

Cosmopolis

Director- David Cronenberg

Based on a novel of the same name by Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis talks about a day in the life of billionaire Eric Parker (Robert Pattinson). Eric rides slowly across Manhattan in his limousine which doubles up as his office and he chooses to travel all the way to his regular barber for a haircut. Thanks to the U.S President’s visit and the funeral of Eric’s favorite musician there is heavy traffic on the roads. Eric keeps meeting his wife who refuses to have sex with him and instead has sex with other women. He also has his doctor carry out his routine medical checkup in his car and then over worrisome news of currency speculation, carries out bizarre activities including visiting his potential murderer.

This is a classic example of a film that has been over hyped thanks to the director and the actors involved. Agreed that the film does have its moments but eventually the film ends up as a bit too narcissistic as we are subjected to random incidents without too much of a co-relation. Watchable indeed but definitely not a great film as it is being projected to be.
Electrick Children

Director : Rebecca Thomas

Rachel a 15 year old girl belonging to a fundamentalist Mormon family chances upon a rock ‘n’ roll tape and soon learns that she is pregnant. She believes that it was an immaculate conception by music while her family believes it to be an intolerable transgression and tries to force her into an arranged marriage. The search for the child’s origins is a revelation for the 15 year old. This is a wonderful film which is a pleasure to watch and considering except Billy Zane (who plays Rachel’s father and a pastor) none of the other actors are known names makes it even more appealing. The casting works very well and Julia Garner brings around a lot of charm and earnestness into the character of Rachel which elevates the film to a large extent.

Whether you see it as a coming of age film or otherwise, Electrick Children works, and works very well at that.

No

Director- Pablo Larrain

No is a film which will stay with you for a long time after you’ve watched it. It is a very very engaging account of how the Chilean dictator Pinochet was over thrown virtually due to an advertising campaign called ‘NO’ against him.

It has been purposefully shot with a pair of rebuilt U-matic video cameras which were standard for TV in the 80s. It does look ugly in the beginning but then as you get absorbed into the story you forget about it. He used the cameras to blur the line between fiction and the real TV clips from the real NO campaign that are used extensively in the film.

This is Indie cinema at its best with superb performance by Gael Garcia Bernal. The most history weary individual would also end up loving it. This one is a  must watch indeed.It is such gems that make a film festival worthwhile and memorable.

A Royal Affair

Director- Nikolak Arcel

This Danish Historical Drama has been garnering rave reviews across Globe and is Denmark’s official Entry for 2013 Oscar Foreign Film Category. The movie has been directed by Nikolaj Arcel who is famous for writing the screenplay of The Girl with Dragon Tattoo Swedish TV series.

This Danish romance drama revolves around a young Princess who is married to her cousin King Christian VII,who is of unstable mental nature and her hopes of blissful married life are trashed,while she is torn between her duty and her sense of freedom and things become more complicated when she gets involved in a steamy affair with the Royal Physician and Her Husband’s best friend who is also an amateur philosopher,Johann Friedrich Struensee. In the meanwhile, Johann uses his closeness to the King to pass Reforms and dissolves the council which is favorable to aristocrats. In doing so he makes enemies and news of his affair is out and things spiral out of control. On the surface level it may look like another historical drama, but it is not. Not only has it offered a love story against backdrop of one of the exciting times of European History but makes it more interesting is that the questions raised in the film are still topical. Madds Mikkelsen who plays the role of Royal Physician comes up with one of the best performances of this year. Another person  the young actress Alicia Vikander who has been described as next best thing in European Cinema.

Smashed

Director-James Ponsoldt

Any movie should be like Panchtantra Tales i.e entertaining with a message. James Ponsoldt does the same thing in Smashed while focusing on love story between a husband and wife and showing how a lcoholism ruins their relationship. Kate(Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a schoolteacher while her husband Charlie ( Aaron Paul) is from a rich family and doesn’t do much. Early into the film we know they are in love with each other and also that alcohol is sort of connect between them, it appears that the only time they are happy is when they are having drinks. Kate suddenly realizes that alcohol may be taking control of her life, when an incident occurs in school and she is taken under wings by the Vice Principal Dave (Nick Offerman) who himself was alcoholic. But the most difficult part that Kate soon realizes is that while being Sober is an easy task she has to see things in new light now and hence does she want to continue the relationship with her music journalist husband, who even though is supportive of her decision does not stop drinking himself. What makes the movie worth watching is it does not spend time on the recovery part, but on the part how alcoholism can affect our lives and our relationships.

If you are not impressed by the above paragraph, then one reason you should watch this is for Mary Winstead, she portrays each shade of transition from victim to survivor so beautifully and naturally that your heart goes for her. Good news is that  James and Mary will be back soon for another movie. Aaron Paul at the same time delivers in a movie which is not focused on him, kudos to him for not making his character villainous, in fact by the time the closing credits comes your heart goes to him.

The Fourth State

Director- Dennis Gansel

This is the third film from director Dennis Gansel who gave us the immensely entertaining film,  The Wave. This German Movie is majorly in English, guess Dennis has set his eyes on Hollywood. Paul (Moritz Bleibtreu) a scribe arrives to Russia from Germany on the  invitation of his mentor Alex to make a magazine look more glamorous with changing times of Russia. Paul falls in love with a Russian girl, witnesses the murder of a famous journalist and when he published the obituary of the slain journalist things are never same for him. His girlfriend dies in a bomb blast and he is sent to jail for suspected terrorist activities and is unable to get a court hearingt. Rest of the film follows how Paul tries to unravel the mystery in a strange land where he does not speak Russian and with no one to his aid.

If you are excepting The Fourth State to be another Hollywood style thriller you would be disappointed.This would require a bit of patience and also if you know the geo-politics of the region it will be much more pleasurable viewing. Again the film raises some questions which are of paramount importance in today’s age. Can individual liberty and freedom be ignored in name of anti-terror laws? Does anti-terror law really help in curbing terrorism?

Beyond the Hills

Director- Cristian Mungiu

This Romanian drama premiered at Cannes this year where Mungiu won the Best Screenplay Award and the 2 actresses Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan who play the main leads, shared the Best Actress Award.The film is also the Romanian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 85th Academy Awards in 2013. Based on the 2 nonfiction books written by Tatiana NiculescuDeadly Confession and Judges’ Book, the films talks about two young women-Alina and Voichita who grew up together in the same orphanage and drew close to each other. At the age of 18 both of them have to leave the orphanage and while Alina goes to Germany and takes up a job there Voichita is taken in by a monastery and becomes a nun. Things turn around when Alina comes back and asks Voichita to come along with her to Germany whereas Voichita doesn’t seem to be keen to do so. An intense drama that’s more or less multilayered, there’s an undercurrent of thrill throughout the film.

It’s not very difficult to figure out why Mungiu won the Best Screenplay Award at Cannes as the narrative is kept simple yet effective. While some people might wonder why the film drags for 150 minutes, we can surely say that every single minute spent watching the film is well spent. The film also exposes some harsh realities of society and makes some ask some poignant questions as well. This is definitely one of the best films of the festival this year.

Ship of Theseus

Director- Anand Gandhi

The underlying question that the film asks is if the parts of a ship are replaced, bit-by-bit, is it still the same ship? If this question and the trailers made you a bit confused then the film will more than address your apprehensions very well. An unusual photographer grapples with the loss of her intuitive brilliance as a result of a clinical procedure; an erudite monk faces an ethical dilemma as he has to choose between his principle and death; and a young stockbroker, following the trail of a stolen kidney, learns how intricate morality could be. Following the separate strands of their philosophical journeys, and their eventual convergence, Ship of Theseus explores questions of identity, justice, beauty, meaning and death.

By far one of the better debut films emerging from Indian Cinema in recent times, this is a film which gets mostly everything right. Pankaj Kumar’s cinematography is brilliant and the performances from the cast also is splendid, especially that of Neeraj Kabi who excels as the monk. This is a film which surely will be talked about for quite some time.

Pune 52

Director- Nikhil Mahajan

The initial teaser and the posters created a flutter and the second trailer only raised the expectations further. Set in 1992 in Pune the film revolves around the life of a private investigator Amar Apte (Girish Kulkarni) with a failing marriage whose life takes a dangerous turn after he takes up a case that unknowingly becomes personal and throws his life off guard. The film has a remarkably good star cast headed by the ever dependable Girish Kulkarni (also the dialogue writer and one of the producers of the film).  Sonali Kulkarni as Girish’s wife, Prachi Apte and Sai Tamhankar as Neha, Kiran Karmarkar as the builder, all fit their characters indeed. But unfortunately the film turns out to be throwing more light into the personal life of Amar Apte with his detective work being relegated to the background rather than vice versa. Therein lays the major problem which is compounded by the way certain things happen a bit too casually. The film certainly doesn’t seem to have lived up to the initial expectations raised by the promos.

 

 

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