Catherine Deneuve, the still ethereally beautiful French actress at the age of 70, won’t be making it to India in October. A retrospective of her films including such classics as Jacques Demy’s Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Luis Bunuel’s Belle de Jour, were to be the one of the high points of the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image Festival, aka MAMI.
A celebration of Arab cinema was on the cards. The British director Ken Loach of Kes and The Angels’ Share was to be garlanded with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Directors Richard Linklater, Atom Egoyan and Kim Ki Duk were to be some of the other esteemed invitees at the week-long festival from October 14 to 21.
Slowly but surely, the event had attained the status of India’s best film festival, in terms of the cinema it showcases, outclassing even the government’s age-old International Film Festival — which has become very iffy ever since it was confined to Goa, instead of being conducted in New Delhi and alternately, in different cities.
Confirmed news is that MAMI will not unspool this year, a terrible loss for unconventional Indian filmmakers who are given an outlet to premiere their indie efforts. Films like Hansal Mehta’s Shahid, Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry and Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus are just three of the titles which gained attention at the Mumbai festival. Moreover, short films and documentaries which were to be given pride of place in the scheduling, will now have to seek other outlets.
And of course, there are the film students, cineastes and technicians, who will be deprived of their annual update on world cinema. The vast collection of films were to be programmed at the Big Cinema Metro and Liberty in south Mumbai, and the PVR multiplex in Andheri.
So why is MAMI going defunct? Answer: lack of sponsor. Unless there’s a miracle after this weekend, and an enlightened corporation steps in to sponsor the event. The cost: Rs 5 crores, which isn’t much of a sum for corporations which dole out money for events, which are forgettable and serve no purpose in raising brand awareness.
Indeed, if either of the two groups which have been approached – one in real estate and the other in petroleum products — opt to save MAMI, they can. Word is awaited from them on Monday.
What you might ask happened to the support from the Reliance group, with personal patronage being offered by Tina Ambani down the last five years? Insiders say that the Ambanis had gone out on a limb to keep MAMI alive, but have pulled the plug. Not without resuscitation efforts though.
Earlier this year, a Delhi-based entrepreneur, had come in to raise funds from sponsors. Turned out to be no go. The TATA group was approached, but MAMI did not fit the kind of events which they back.
Hence, a decision has to be taken by Monday – to be or not to be. Ninety per cent, the decision will ‘not to be’, robbing the city of its premier film culture event.
The festival has been nurtured the last five years by the feisty Srinivasan Narayan, a film connoisseur and former officer at the NFDC. The event attracted packed houses besides stellar guests such as Oliver Stone, Theo Angelopoulos and Costa-Gavras. When I called Narayan, he confirmed that MAMI was in “a situation…but I never lose hope.” More than that, he would not elaborate, since an official statement will be made, only after all the last-minute rescue bids next week.
Perhaps MAMI could have led a longer life if Bollywood film personalities had backed it wholeheartedly. Besides their presence at the inaugural function, they are conspicuous by their absence at the film screenings, be it Shah Rukh and Aamir Khan a decade ago or Sonakshi Sinha of late.Watching world cinema isn’t their thing, obviously.
Of MAMI’s board members active in films, only Shyam Benegal and Shabana Azmi have attended the meetings regularly.
Although the festival’s preview committee has been watching the nearly 1000 entries received from all over the world, it seems to have turned out to be an exercise in futility. Moreover, the festival’s catalogue hasn’t even kicked off.
So, let’s hope for a miracle on Monday. Or else it’s goodbye MAMI.
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