Art & Entertainment

Wanted To View Topic Of 'Coming Of Age' Broadly: Varun Grover On MUBI's 'Hand-Picked By' Edition

Writer-director Varun Grover, who has turned guest curator for streamer MUBI's latest 'Hand-picked by' edition, says he wanted to explore various aspects of the theme of 'coming of age' through his selection of eight films, which includes 'Gamak Ghar', 'Joyland', and 'Cleo from 5 to 7'.

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Writer-director Varun Grover, who has turned guest curator for streamer MUBI's latest 'Hand-picked by' edition, says he wanted to explore various aspects of the theme of 'coming of age' through his selection of eight films, which includes "Gamak Ghar", "Joyland", and "Cleo from 5 to 7".

The phrase 'coming of age' is largely used to describe a journey undertaken by children and teenagers, but Grover said he has "broadened" the ambit to show transition of both people and places.

"'Coming of age' has come to be associated with stories of adolescence and teenage. But I wanted to view the topic a bit broadly and include films which are coming of age of not just kids or people but sometimes of places also," Grover told PTI in an interview.

Citing the example of Achal Mishra's Maithili title "Gamak Ghar" (2019), shot in the filmmaker's ancestral house in Darbhanga, the 44-year-old said, "The film is the coming of age of a time period, a house, the people around that house, the era and the feeling when innocence is lost over time and becomes something else."

Influential French New Wave director Agnes Varda's "Cleo from 5 to 7" is about a French singer who spends a couple of hours wandering through Paris streets as she waits for the results of a medical test.

"'Cleo' is the coming of age of a young woman who just has two hours. Passage of time is another aspect of coming of age and generally that passage is four-five years. But 'Cleo from 5 to 7' is all about how her life changes within these two hours," Grover, also a poet-lyricist, added.

Director Saim Sadiq's Punjabi-Urdu debut "Joyland", which was once banned in his native Pakistan, has nothing to do with teenagers but still fits the 'coming of age' bill, he said.

"A film like 'Joyland' is not about teenagers or children. But it's the coming of age of various people's sexuality, their understanding of the society around them, and how people treat their sexuality. So, that's how I went about looking at multiple aspects of coming of age," the National Award winner shared.

While Varda's 1962 French film "Cleo from 5 to 7" is the oldest title in Grover's selection, Sadiq's Cannes-winning "Joyland" (2022) is the most recent movie in the list.

Other five films that feature in his curated list are: Barry Jenkins' 2016 Oscar winner "Moonlight" (English), Jafar Panahi's 2000 title "The Circle" (Persian), Norwegian film "The Worst Person in the World" by Joachim Trier (2021), the 2004 English-language movie "Primer" by Shane Carruth, and Abbas Kiarostami's Persian drama "Where Is the Friend's House?" (1987).

Grover, who recently made his directorial debut with the coming-of-age comedy drama "All India Rank", chose these eight titles from around 400-500 of the "most popular and prestigious titles" in the MUBI catalogue which traverses both Indian and international cinema.

"I would have probably added three-four more films to the handpicked list but I also didn't want people to feel 

that I had given them way too many films to watch. So, eight films seemed like a good number," he added.

Before Grover, MUBI has featured curations by filmmaker Vikramaditya Motwane and actor-director Konkona Sen Sharma.

A multifaceted personality, Grover is known for penning lyrics of popular songs such as "Moh Moh Ke Dhaage", which earned him a National Award, "Womaniya", and "Jabra Fan". He has written films such as "Masaan", "Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar" as well as "All India Rank".

Grover is also a stand-up comedian who is the co-creator of the political satire show Aisi Taisi Democracy and has appeared in films such as "Qala" and "Bombay Velvet". 

Svetlana Naudiyal, Programming Director, Asia, MUBI, said the team is thrilled to have Grover on board for the third edition of MUBI's guest curations.

"His artistic vision, characterized by a unique perspective and profound sensitivity, shines through in his film selections. It's only befitting that his curation delicately captures the essence of childhood innocence and the tumultuous journey of young adulthood. 

"We're excited to share this diverse artist's curated watchlist with our audience, hoping these films resonate with them as deeply as they did with our esteemed guest curator," Naudiyal said.

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