Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022

Day 5 At MAMI: Pleasant, Peaceful And Profound

Still from 'A Suitable Girl'

Kids these days eh? I’m not quite sure when I became ‘that guy’ but bloody hell some of these young people can drive you up the wall, especially when it comes to following proper movie theatre etiquette. A deeply affecting and emotionally charged film was almost derailed today because of a group of constantly excitable students who just couldn’t keep it down. They're just so energetic and animated and squeaky, erupting into laughter at the silliest of things. They’re the kind who I imagine would completely lose their minds at those lazy stand-up comedy show where the comic opens with “So, any Gujuratis in the house?” All I could do was sit there and pray somebody would inform them that watching a movie on the big screen isn't supposed to be an interactive experience.

 In other news, I got my first taste of MAMI withdrawal symptoms today when I couldn't find anything worthwhile to feasibly watch before 2 pm resulting in what felt like a pathetically wasted morning and major feelings of missing out. But that’s inevitable, what with the end of the festival hanging over us with only two days to go, following which there will be a giant PVR ICON-sized hole within us all.

 During these seven days, we put our lives on hold for something that we feel gives us meaning, purpose,fulfilment. Like we’re a part of something greater than ourselves. We feel a strange connection to anyone we come across with that distinct pass dangling around their neck. Almost like we've been through something with them. Here the communal feeling of movie watching goes beyond just one cinema theatre and becomes a shared experience over the entire week. Soon it will end and we’ll have to go back to doing life again. Till then we keep going, keep queuing, keep watching.  

The Party: A Well-acted Albeit Unremarkable Ensemble Comedy

Sally Potter’s The Party follows a celebratory get together between friends which quickly catapults into chaos following a series of startling confessions and explosive revelations.

 Filmed in glorious black and white, the well-acted film is entirely made by its wonderfully kooky characters and their rollicking back and forth. Among them is a newly elected MP (Kristin Scott Thomas), a human fortune cookie (Bruno Ganz), a delirious drug addict (Cillian Murphy) and pregnant lesbian (Emily Mortimer) among others.

 Potter’s comedy-drama unfolds like a play, entirely taking place within the confines of a few rooms. The onset aggression and escalating tensions between the various characters arise from a clash of ideologies and political differences through which Potter aims to make some astute statements. However, while the film has some wonderfully witty exchanges (mostly lead by the scene-stealing Patricia Clarkson), a breezy runtime and some great twists, its attempts to make strong statements felt forced and unnatural. While The Party made for a pleasantly enjoyable watch, it's hardly something that’s likely to stay with me.  

24 Frames: Not Particularly Profound But Deeply Peaceful

 24 Frames is the final film made by one of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time, Abbas Kiarostami who passed away last year. The film showcases a series of 24 photographs taken by Kiarostami over his lifetime which he brings to life by imagining what he believes might have happened just before just after they were taken.

 The film shows each of the 24 frames, one at a time, spending a few minutes on each one. Each frame is essentially a moving painting, depicting some form of scenery and wildlife. Suffice to say staying awake felt like an Olympic sport on this one given the film is just so conducive to tilting heads and drooping eyes as nothing really happens on screen.

 And yet, Kiarostami's deeply personal film didn’t have me feeling alienated or particularly aggravated by its nothingness. Instead, it was strangely unassuming, unobtrusive and serene. I just sat there letting my mind wander, while many in the audience nodded off, not to mention the steady trickle of people who exited the theatre throughout the film. While ordinarily, these would all be blasphemous to the big screen, that didn’t hold true here because 24 Frames isn’t really trying to get you to do or feel anything. It just is and entirely leaves it to you to make what you will of it.

While I can't say I found it particularly profound, neither did I see it as pretentious and was instead mesmerized by its peacefulness.


A Suitable Girl: A Powerful Portrait Of The Failures Of Our Society

 "As the girl is born, it is understood she has to get married one day or another.”

 The opening line from the deeply affecting documentary A Suitable Girl perfectly captures its purpose in highlighting the indelible pressures women in our society face when it comes to marriage and finding a life partner - the entire purpose of a woman in our society.

 Filmmakers Smriti Mundhra and Sarita Khurana documented the lives of three women, Dipti, Rupa and Amrita over a prolonged period of time capturing their journeys of finding a partner to getting married and beyond, using their stories to paint a picture of what it means to be a woman in India.

 The film remarkably explores the entire matchmaking industry which is well-oiled, mechanic and grossly regressive where the prominent factors used to assess suitors include caste, weight and complexion. These factors take precedence over examining any sort of genuine connection between two individuals. It’s an entire system based on assessing paper proposals, not people. However most of all A Suitable Girl is an exploration of how the entire institution of marriage in India as it stands is set up to belittle, limit, repress and control women.

 Certain scenes are deeply disturbing to watch such as one where in Dipti’s story (the sweetest and most wonderful of the three who you wish you could just reach out and hug, with a smile that could light up any room) where her parents are essentially marketing her to a perspective match and talking about her like a product, listing out her specifications and special features. In another scene Amrita casually jokes about how if she doesn’t have a child with her husband by her third wedding anniversary, she may as well be declared dead due to the fury of her in laws. Ritu’s story is particularly interesting considering her mother is a professional match-maker or as she calls herself ‘alliance consultant’ (which I guess makes me etymological content manifestor).

 For these women and many more like them, their fate is sealed from the day they are born with marriage being the be all and end all of their existence, something which is absolute and inevitable like tax or death.

While the film doesn't particularly offer much new insight into a topic we’re familiar with, it is powerful and profound and deeply moving.

 It’s worth mentioning that A Suitable Girl is also filled with much joy, celebration and love. But at what cost?