CATCHING UP WITH FILMS FROM INDIA, MAHARASHTRA, EUROPE…

FILM FESTS!: Aaba Eikatay Naa and Cycle, which gave contrasting views into the lives of a family behind closed doors and  a village full of memorable characters, were two of my favourite movies from the Goa Marathi Film Festival. Hot Hot Hot, the concluding film of the European Union Film Festival was my favourite there, a hilarious spoof on the rich guests at a spa

IF you’re addicted to films, my dears, it’s worth living in Panaji! There’s been a bonanza of film festivals one after another or back to back beginning with the 64th National Award Winning film Festival 2-17, followed by 10th Goa Marathi Film Festival (June 17-18), and then the European Union Film Festival (July 1-8) and there were the Cinephile Club films in between for members and the general public at large…I’ve become a member of the ESG’s Cinephile Club, although I must confess I really can’t go see films as much as I’d like to.

Mercifully, every now and again I can run away for weekend or evening shows just because I live in Panaji close to the lovely heritage ESG complex next to INOX/Old GMC. But I still think the Old GMC complex should be restored to health services in Panjim out of respect for its vintage history…and not turned into a mega entertainment zone (in this respect I do think the BJP government led by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is insensitive to the larger cause of conserving history).

Why doesn’t somebody make a film on the Old GMC and the history it has seen come and go? If anybody at the Vinsan Academy of Film & Media is listening? This is one cause which is worth rescuing. But to stay with the film festivals I don’t know what I’d do without running away to see a film or two, my dears! The kind of films I see keep the soul alive and inspire me to live…and frankly, I hate viewing films on the idiot box at home and never on my smart phone — although all manner of folk try to persuade me into access filmi apps and watch any film on smart phone and laptop. Like I have nothing better to do or don’t have to work for my rozi roti…sorry, catching a film or two is something rewarding to do so I take the first half of that statement back.

But this is also to say that I’m not over-enamoured by all the digital revolution buzzing around me these days, nor do I want too much new-fangled futuristic technology around me. Especially when I get all these disquieting reports about how radiation enshrined in our cell phones and the paraphernalia along with it is affecting our electro-magnetic field with repercussions on our health and health of the environment in which we live.

My Chicago sister tells me increasingly even young Americans are no longer crazy about digital technology and the more intelligent of them use their android cell phone only for quick communication — not like we go blah blah ad infinitum with the cell glued to our ears (without realizing how our brains are being stir-fried). I’m not so enamoured by our full steam ahead digital revolution with no commas, semi-colons, hyphens or full stops — to take stock of how exactly we are going to deal with all the e-waste generated and competing with other mountains of man-made garbage which we keep tripping over while stepping out on the streets of Goa. Our digital craze should pause a while for some introspection all the way down or up in the offices of all those engaged in the promotion of our current digital revolution.

WHAT films have I seen? I must confess I’m very impressed by how contemporary Marathi cinema, and since the films were subtitled in English and some very professionally so…one caught the finer nuances of the sentiments driving a film.  For example, Aaba Aiktaay Naa (directed by Aditya Suhas Jambhale) which is an evocative short non-feature film.  There is a laughing club where various members envy this one retired man who is “lucky” enough to have a family watch out for him…the truth is their friend is going deaf and everyone is constantly asking him “Aaba Eikatay Naa?

A couple of tragedies and our friend gets a hearing aid so that he feels like he is born anew to marvel at the small joys of nature around him or the sound of the fan whirling away. Then he also catches what the rest of the family thinks about him and realises that they’re really waiting for him to join his dearly beloved departed wife (to whom he keeps confiding in a photograph by his bedside). It’s such a fine-tuned poignant film mirroring today’s attitudes toward senior citizens in society.

In the end our weary friend tires of the chatter and whispers around him and disgustedly chucks the battery of his newly acquired state-of-the-art hearing aid. He prefers to be deaf! It’s a devastating moment in the film. The film won the Golden Lotus Award for Best Director in Non-Feature Film. You must see Aaba Eikatay Naa…. Do we have a special television channel screening only the best of our regional and national awarding winning films (with subtitling in English)?

Another film to take pleasure in is Cycle which too has won several awards. Directed by Prakash Kunte, the film’s story revolves around gentle and kind-hearted Keshav, who inherited his grandfather’s imported cycle, which he is very attached to. It’s his one joy in life, even if everybody else envies him his cycle! Well then, a pair of passing by thieves help themselves to his cycle and the hunt to find his cycle begins…the adventures which follow are a treat and offer some fascinating insight into village mindsets and memorable folk. The charms of Cycle are many.

I missed Kaasav which I wanted to see, but Ventilator is another worthy film to see. It’s all about petty joint family politics during Ganesh Chaturthi festival time, a bit of a tear-jerker but insightful vis-à-vis human behaviour desi-style. I asked director Rajesh Mapuskar, who was present before the screening of the film, if the film is biographical and he admitted candidly, “at least 70 per cent!” The goings-on in his own large joint family inspired the making of Ventilator and he’s not sure if he can do a repeat in another film, his next film is likely to be filmed somewhere out in North-East India.

Indeed, Marathi films are very vivacious and modern, I think I prefer them to Hindi Bollywood’s potboilers! Funny, at IFFI I generally tend to ignore the Indian films,  but now after seeing some of the 64th National Award Winning Film festival 2017 films I’m hooked on Malayalam, Kannada, Assamese, Gujarati films…

The European film festival films too were casually superb. Flying Home (Belgium) traces a fine story about racing pigeons and how they bring a young man and woman from different worlds together in exquisite harmony. And a film I liked very much was Cherry Tobacco (Estonia)…about small-town girl Laura who’s forever bored, she acquires a crush on Joosep who introduces a group of them to the charms of hiking through beautiful bog countryside…a lot of chemistry but the guy is married and Laura is denied the memorable moments she seeks to remember him!

It always occurs to me anew while watching some of the European films, how comfy most are with the naked body in the countries of the West…in a manner in which we in Bharatdesh are not! The film I loved the most was the festival’s concluding film Hot Hot Hot (Luxembourg), a hilarious spoof on the rich seeking rejuvenation at a spa called Finnish-Turkish Delight. Here various employees, old and new, have to come to terms with their own emotions which run riotously wild while they’re carrying out their daily chores in the presence of naked and near naked clients lounging around in the sauna/steam rooms and by the pool…a lot of amusing education here into human behaviour, attitudes and frustrations. Hot Hot Hot is one film I could see a few more times!

This is to say more film festivals are rolling into tinsel town Panaji!  The dates of the 48th International Film Festival have been announced from November 20 to 28, 2017, and you may start applying for your IFFI delegate card ahead of time if you wish. Hey, I’m all for indulging in films to broaden the windows of one’s soul, but it helps to be very choosy (now how can one ensure that). On that note make the most of whatever monsoon rain is left in the Goan skies, my dears, it is avjo, poite verem, selamat datang, au revoir arriverdecci and vachun yeta here for now.

— Mme Butterly

 

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