At its opening ceremony, Mumbai Film Festival gloried in Bollywood supporting world cinema and making this year’s festival possible. There was chatter about how, with filmi celebrities lending glamour to the proceedings, MFF could be India’s Cannes Film Festival. It was the stuff of celluloid dreams. Yesterday, however, was the morning after.
Actor Imran Khan walked in to present Two Days, One Night by the Dardennes brothers only to be roundly and soundly booed. “Start the film!” chanted an impatient (and rude) crowd. One person hollered at Khan, “What are you doing here?” To which a rather nonplussed but dapper-looking Khan replied, “I’m not sure what I’m doing here.” If Khan is to be believed, he was essentially shanghaied into ‘presenting’ a film that he didn’t seem to know much about. Being there at Chandan Cinema, posing for photographers and saying a few words before the film started playing was Khan’s version of a fist bump with MFF.
That seems sweet enough, but in the gathered crowd of snooty intellectuals and people who see the Hindi film industry’s behind-the-scenes shenanigans, there was little warmth for the star. MFF’s creative director, Anupama Chopra, may believe that you can’t have a film festival in Mumbai that excludes Bollywood, but at least as far as the audience of Chandan Cinema was concerned, the film festival is no place for Bollywood.
The other celebrity presenter of day one was Varun Dhawan who was supposed to introduce Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’. Perhaps it was Khan’s experience or the human tsunami that crashed upon the theatre for ‘Boyhood’, but rgw net result was that Dhawan was nowhere to be seen and ‘Boyhood; was screened without anyone presenting it.
The crowd’s reaction to Khan would probably make SoBo hearts swell with pride because it was precisely as boorish as it imagines Mumbai’s suburbs and Andheri to be. While it’s true that the MFF crowds could do with a few etiquette lessons — the queue for ‘Boyhood’ had as much grace and order as a Virar (fast) train stopping at Andheri station — day one also showed why MFF regulars regard Bollywood with such disdain.
During the Q & A session following the Master Class conversation between actresses Catherine Deneuve and Deepika Padukone, someone in the audience asked Padukone why Bollywood doesn’t make “socially-relevant films”. Padukone said that it wasn’t true that there was no socially-relevant cinema in the commercial arena and held up Prakash Jha’s ‘Arakshan’ and ‘Kheley Hum Jee Jan Sey’ as examples. Clearly, Padukone hasn’t been out in the real world much if she thinks either of those films are relevant.
THE STUFF OF CELLULOID DREAMS?
At the recent Mumbai Film Festival, actor Imran Khan walked in to present ‘Two Days, One Night; by the Dardennes brothers only to be roundly and soundly booed. “Start the film!” chanted an impatient (and rude) crowd. One person hollered at Khan, “What are you doing here?”