This piece could also be called “Confessions of a Festival Junkie”. It takes one to know one, and you can spot one from afar at all such jamborees, pouring over the heavily tick-marked day’s schedule, occupying all available space within theatres, especially the steps (Wall Street occupants could learn a thing or two from us), looking hollow-eyed at the end of a long, five-film day, but not ready to call it one.
As I write this, there are still three days to go at this edition of the Mumbai Film Festival (MFF), which is organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI). The festival is technically in its 15th year but it’s been only five years since it hit its stride. In these years, the MFF has become a magnet for such a one as me, who will happily junk everything and hare off to the ends of the earth, if it means being able to catch films that are on my wish list.
Because I am a guest at the festival, I get to stay at the designated hotel and hop on to the transport shuttle when I can. So, in a sense, I am already locked into the ecosystem of the festival, but even if I weren’t, this is where I would be every year, at MFF time. And that’s because the programming is getting sharper and stronger every year, rivalling that of the always excellent International Film Festival of Kerala which happens in December.
The lack of a constant venue is a bugbear. Last year, the MFF was triangulated between the NCPA and the INOX theatres in Nariman Point; this year, the films are showing in south Mumbai’s famed Liberty and Metro theatres, and the Cinemax multiplex in Versova for those who live in the suburbs.
Festival director Srinivasan Narayanan is aware of the shortfalls. During a late-night across-the-town cab ride conversation, he says he knows the difficulties of moving locations in a city as traffic locked and scattered. That the programming has a few deficits is also something he acknowledges. It is difficult to programme 12 really good Indian films every year, because that kind of film — neither arcane and arthouse nor an out-and-out blockbuster but straddling the middle ground — has just started being made, and you can see that in the selection, and there will always be a few prize international catches that will get away.