Film Education


The Mumbai Young Critics Experience

THE MUMBAI YOUNG CRITICS EXPERIENCE

By RASIK TIRODKAR



MAMI organized Mumbai Film Festival last year was the first film fest that I had ever attended. And that was an awesome experience. Back then I came to know about an event called the Mumbai Young Critics where students from colleges were selected to take part. As I had just started blogging a bit on cinema I was looking forward to take part in the event this year. As soon as I saw a poster put up in my college I applied for the event.  We were then called at a college auditorium where we were supposed to review a movie on the spot to get selected. Around 60 students were shown a Danish movie called ‘We Shall Overcome’. I had never written a review on the spot before and was a little worried. So, I was really glad when I received an email from the coordinator of the event confirming my selection. There was also an introductory session at the MAMI office where we were given an idea about our schedule.

Workshop


The organizers of the event were very thoughtful in conducting a workshop for us selected 24 participants. It was held at the convention centre at the magnanimous Kokilaben Ambani Hospital. A hospital, I admit, normally doesn’t feel like an ideal place for a workshop.  But the venue proved to be quite good. We were given valuable insights by a few well-informed and reputed people like:

Amrit Gangar


A film theorist, Mr. Gangar was entrusted with the job of giving us a sort of film appreciation course. He started right from the inception of cinema. We were shown various rare films from the silent era which effectively portrayed how cinema has progressed over the years. Mr.Gangar liked to call those films ‘early’ but not ‘primitive’ cinema. He threw light on how cinema is mainly a visual medium and dialogues and music should be kept to a bare minimum. The most appealing part of his session, for me personally, was when he told us how the Indian sense of esthetics is rich and can be applied while criticizing cinema as well. He also compared cinema with Indian classical music. He said that like every ‘raag’ has a ‘pakad’ every movie also has one like ‘loneliness’ in Charulata.

Daniel Kothenschulte


He is a noted film critic from Germany who was supposed to take the full workshop. But unfortunately due to some visa problems he came in a day or two late. But he took no time in connecting with us. Whatever little time we spent with him was always illuminating. At his session, we were privy to the Cannes Palme d’Or winner ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives’. He also made some of us MYCs who had a short film to show it on the projector. We then had a discussion on them. The best one chosen was unanimously by us, it was as if we were having a mock drill of what we were going to do in the festival. But the best part of his session was when we were privileged to watch the silent film by Tod Browning, The Unkown, with live accompaniment by Daniel himself. That was truly an amazing and memorable experience as I doubt I would again have such an opportunity.

Mayank Shekhar

We also had a good discussion with Mayank Shekhar after watching the film ‘All the President’s Men’. He told us that one should write whatever one feels like about a movie, but the judgments should be justified with proper reasons.

 

The Festival

Though I was not entirely new to a film festival atmosphere it took me time to get used to it. Especially the task of watching 4-5 movies per day. We were given a delegation pass with ‘Mumbai Young Critics’ imprinted on it which we naturally wore with much pride.

We were told that the Mumbai Young Critics would act as a jury and give away an award unanimously for a movie from the International Competition Section. So the International Competition movies were compulsory for us. We were also supposed to review them the very same day. We had the permission of using the laptops at the press arena for this purpose.  A few of the reviews would also get published in the Hindustan Times. At times it used to get very difficult to finish with the reviews as after watching 5 films we used to be mentally tired. Also I am a very lazy writer. But as it was part of the protocol one had no option but to write them.

There were also Q & A sessions with the directors of the movies arranged specially for us. Many a times you really wish to ask the director certain things about his film, but can’t contact him. So these Q & A sessions were quite helpful in that respect. It also helped us in our reviews.

The MYC gave the award to the film ‘October(Octubre)’ from Peru.

Movies

The most exciting part of a film festival is obviously the movies on display. This year the line-up of movies was truly awesome. There was a mix of indie, big-budget and even classic Japanese cinema. My thoughts on few movies:

About Her Brother: Stood out from the usual heavy stuff on display. It’s a heart-warming story of a brother who no matter what always ends up being a pest. It had that charming Hrishikesh Mukherjee feel to it which I totally dig. Highly Recommend.

Caterpillar: A chilling tale about how the wives of the soldiers who took part in the 1942 Sino-Japanese were as real a victim of its atrocities as the men on the battlefield. But I recommend this movie only to those who can put up with large amount of nudity on screen.

Social Network: Purely OK. More so because it is coming from a director like David Fincher.  If you don’t know the story behind Facebook you will enjoy it more.

Biutiful: My favorite movie of the fest. A story about a man for whom everything is going wrong. It’s Innaritu and Javier Bardem. Need I say more!!!

Sweet Evil: A unique femme-fatale tale. She seduces and deceives but all in a seemingly innocuous manner. I recommend it for the fresh treatment to the femme-fatale character.

Zegen: A satire on the Japanese empire’s ambition to expand its boundaries by the Japanese master Immamura. Highly Recommend.

The MYC Gang

I personally know very few who share my taste of cinema. So it always feels good to meet people who may not exactly share my taste but also don’t consider cinema only as ‘light entertainment’. So thanks to Mumbai Young Critics I have made many cinema lovers good friends during the whole event. We have already started exchanging movies. And obviously keep in touch with each other through Facebook.

The Unforgettables

There were few totally unforgettable memories which are worth sharing:

The ‘Unsocial’ Network.

Seeing 300-400 people outside the screen for the Social Network screening the PVR staff which usually must be used to handling only empty shows got cold feet and just shut the doors to the screen. They even tried to fool people like me who were already sitting inside the screen to move out by conducting a mock security check. But these connived attempts of theirs were skillfully dodged by the smart audience. The show started with half empty seats even though there were 300 people waiting outside. The people inside the screen then started screaming to stop the screening and let people inside. The authorities were not stopping the screening even then. A few people got up on the seats and blocked the projection itself. Finally the doors were then opened and the seats filled. Few were allowed to even sit on the aisles. I wonder whether I will get to experience such a scene in a cinema hall ever again.

Discussing Sexuality in a cinema hall

I have previously had many sessions with my friends discussing sexuality in details but definitely never in full volume in a balcony of a theatre. Actually it was the movie Black Field which kind of forced us to have that conversation. This is one thing I would not easily forget.

Closing Ceremony, Dinner and the Stars

The closing ceremony was a memorable affair as the film we Mumbai Young Critics had unanimously chosen was given away an award. Also one of us was given a Best Critic award by the Film Street Journal.  Oliver Stone and Manoj Kumar were given Life Time Achievement awards. This was followed by a dinner at Sun n Sands at Juhu. It was definitely a memorable evening as we got to not only meet but also chat with our favourite film personalities and stars.

All in all it was beyond doubt one amazing experience!

Rasik Tirodkar has been a Film Appreciation participant in my FA batch of June 2010