‘What Will People Say’ to open the Discovering India section at MAMI Mumbai Film Festival
The Discovering India section at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star, curated by Uma da Cunha, includes films both – Indian and International – that celebrate the Indian diaspora and the multiple narratives of the Indian experience globally. This year’s five select films indicate that the section’s canvas is getting larger, more varied and more exciting.
Iram Haq’s ‘What Will People Say’
Haq’s second film, fresh from its world premiere and tremendous acclaim at the Toronto festival now comes to MAMI. ‘What Will People Say’ is about a spirited 16-year-old girl, Nisha (Maria Mozhdah), living with her parents and older brother. The family emigrated from Pakistan to Norway many years ago. Nisha is subjected to living a double life. At home, although uncomfortable and reluctant, she submits to the strict behavioural code of her family. Away from home, with her friends, she is like any other Norwegian teenager, dancing at night clubs with girls and boys of her age.
Nisha’s identities clash when her father (Adil Hussain) happens to open her bedroom door one night, and is aghast to find her Norwegian boyfriend with her. Enraged, he beats the boy mercilessly. The ensuing scandal and backbiting leads the father to spirit Nisha away by force, without her knowing her destination, to his sister’s joint family in a small town in Pakistan. From then on, she lives like one of them. All attempts to escape are useless. The film then dwells on her exiled, lonely life and far more humiliating subjugation, with finally even her parents being unable to cope with her.
‘What Will People Say’ is produced by Maria Ekerhovd (Norway) for Bergen’s Mer Film, with Germany’s Rohfilm Factory GmbH and Zentropa Sweden and its international sales is with Beta Cinema. One half was shot in India in collaboration with Mumbai’s Sikhya Entertainment.
Nicolas Chevaillier’s Victor’s History
This challenging film uses the rigorous Dogme 95 style in its delineation of three disparate youths trying to make a documentary in France. ‘Victor’s History’, a debut film for both director and production house Corsaire, follows an unlikely young trio who embody today’s drifting, questioning youth. Each one is from a different continent, far removed in thinking, cultural ethos and aspirations, a virtual microcosm of a world going haywire.
Victor (played by director Nicolas Chevaillier), the man with the money, is ostensibly French, voluble and conceited. He hires the other two as they embark on their journey to make a film on his father, who was a miner and a war hero. Dorian (Kev Clinsc), an African-Asian from the US, is his researcher, who successfully debunks every pompous idea Victor comes up with. The third is Zuhair, the cameraman from India, unobtrusive and silent until provoked, badly in need of the job (played by producer Shoaib Lokhandwala).
On their recce which keeps getting extended, they each provoke the other revealing their irreconcilable racial subculture and attitudes. Their journey delves deeper and more ominously into unsavoury and gruesome clues. The film speaks the language and lore of today and is amusing even as it descends into a destruction they cannot halt.
Danny Ben-Moshe’s ‘Shalom Bollywood’
Ben-Moshe is one of Australia’s leading documentary filmmakers. He won the country’s top documentary prize, the Walkley Award for his film, ‘Code of Silence’. His latest documentary ‘Shalom Bollywood: The Untold Story of Indian Cinema’ seeks to chronicle the contribution of Jews to cinema in India.
A century ago, when Indian cinema began, it was frowned upon for Hindu and Muslim women to perform on screen, so Indian Jewish women took on female lead roles and dominated this space for decades. The film reintroduces us to some of India’s great Jewish actors, like Sulochana, the superstar of the silent film era; Pramila, the first Miss India; the unforgettable Nadira; and Bollywood’s favourite uncle, David. Using archival footage, interviews, storyboards and re-enactments, old stories and lives are revived.
The film has been produced by Ben-Moshe’s Identity Films.
Saila Kariat’s ‘The Valley’
This is the debut work of Saila Kariat who has been an engineer, an entrepreneur and a mother while pursuing a lifelong passion for cinema.
The film follows the life of Neal Kumar (Alyy Khan) and his family who seem to be living the American dream in Silicon Valley. However, below this veneer of success, there are fissures of discontent running through everyone in the Kumar family. When college-going Maya, one of Neal’s two daughters, commits suicide, the entire family is devastated. Unable to understand what could have driven Maya to take this drastic step, Neal tries to deal with his grief by digging into her life to discover the truth. It leads him to learn as much about himself and his family as his deceased daughter.
Wavefront Productions are the producers. ‘The Valley’ won the Best Original Screenplay at Madrid International Film Festival, Best Feature Film at Long Island International Film Expo, and the Best Feature Film Jury Award at the D.C. South Asian Film Festival.
Bash Mohammed’s ‘Prakasan’
‘Prakasan’ is an Indo-French co-production and the second film by Indian filmmaker Bash Mohammed (‘Lukka Chuppi’) from Kerala, who now lives in Dubai. The film’s protagonist is the naively trusting Prakasan, who enjoys a secluded, pampered life with family and friends in the luscious forest land of Chamakudi, Kerala. They survive on the pittance they earn off their rich forest produce. But Prakasan’s dream of leaving for a big city is coming true. Amazingly, he has found a job in bustling industrial Cochin, some distance away. His mother, sister, girlfriend and friends are all sad at his departure, but the undaunted man takes off the next day. His zany adventures as a country bumpkin begin with his bus ride and escalate as he meets kindly but conniving city types, like his three-wheeler driver, a prostitute who shares his ride, the filthy tenement he lives in and the city gadgets he sees for the first time.
Prakasan’s bumbling attempts at adjusting reach peak point when he learns that his job is of a sex-educator to local prostitutes. Locating his clients gets him beaten, chased, bleeding and convicted at the police station. He knows now that life is bliss in the serene and untouched forests he has left behind. He is welcomed back with joy and affection.