5 Reasons Why The Mumbai Film Festival Is The Biggest Film Event Of The Country

“They may say that I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one”

In 1946, a 25-year-old Indian boy went to France with a film he had made under an oppressive foreign regime. Competing with the likes of Billy Wilder, Roberto Rossellini and David Lean, Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar managed to win the top honor at the Cannes Film Festival of that year.

For 25-year-old Chetan Anand, this victory wasn’t as big as the defeat in releasing his film back home. Months turned to decades and Chetan Anand is continued to be taught in film schools around the world.

Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar

In 2010, first-time director Vikramaditya Motwane discovered that his film was going to compete in the Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival alongside Jean-Luc Godard,  Jia Zhangke and Hideo Nakata.

Between 1946 and 2010, several Indian films flew overseas to win big at international competitions and film festivals but no international films were traveling to India for festivals and competitions. Not nearly on the same scale as our cinema deserves.

In 1997, the great Hrishikesh Mukherjee gathered a team of cinema stalwarts to launch what would later come to be known as the Mumbai Academy Of Moving Image or MAMI. The sole purpose of the collective was to organize film festivals of international repute in India.


Next week, the Mumbai Film Festival, birthed by MAMI, will conduct its 19th annual session.  Over the last 20 years, this film festival has changed the landscape of cinema in India.  The festival’s role in reshaping the world’s view of Indian cinema can’t be overstated. This has led to a widespread financial awakening in the world of films.

Slowly, India is turning into the epicenter of the filmmaking world, attracting films from other countries to a homegrown Indian platform.

As Indians, we are conditioned to reform our memories as stories that are stranger than fiction. An unfiltered exposure to global cinema reinforced our urge to tell stories. It’s no longer incorrect to say that filmmakers have replaced film fans in our spectrum. This shift in paradigm has shifted the balance between the demand and supply of cinema.

Enter: the Mumbai Film Festival

Not only has the festival given a breathing space to a multitude of small films, it has also helped them sustain themselves in the cut-throat world of Independent cinema.

Where does the mainstream Hindi cinema, Bollywood, find itself in this new wave? Right at the center.


As much as we like to criticize mainstream Hindi films, these films have paved the way for independent voices to flourish among an audience that still views cinema as ‘entertainment’ as opposed to art. A film industry that thrives on its stars and larger-than-life stories, has surprisingly embraced new and fresh voices emerging out of the heartland of the country.

However, despite this global recognition in the last decade, film buffs across India are yet to awaken to the magic of movies here at the Mumbai Film Festival. Thousands of film fans from India and overseas flock to Mumbai every October to witness cinematic boundaries being broken.

This number, however, is infinitesimal once you consider the scale and grandiose of Indian cinema.

Thus, for the other millions of film fans in the country, here are 5 reasons that make the Mumbai Film Festival the biggest film event of the year in India:

1.  The line-up: No other single event in India can boast of a line-up as rich and diverse as the one at MAMI. From relatively lesser known films from Iran to straight up Hollywood blockbusters, hundreds of films are screened over a span of 7 days. Internationally acclaimed director’s like Asghar Farhadi, Jafar Panahi, Fatih Akin, Sion Sono and numerous more have had their films proudly sent to the Mumbai Film Festival. If that doesn’t lift the bar for India, we don’t know what would.

Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman

2. Movie Mela: Every year, MAMI organizes an event called the ‘Movie Mela’, as a part of the Mumbai Film Festival, that gives fans an opportunity to interact and listen to their favorite stars from a close quarter. Last year, the cast of Mr. India reunited at the Movie Mela to discuss unheard stories from the production of Mr. India. This year, the Movie Mela consisted of sessions with the cast of Golmaal 4, a director’s panel along with Karan Johar’s sit-down chat with Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor. The Mela keeps getting bigger every year.


3. Masterclass: If the Movie Mela doesn’t quench your cinematic thirst, there are the Masterclass sessions where veterans of the industry come and share their journey with you. The format of the Masterclass has been kept interactive so that young budding professionals can clarify every doubt they have about that particular genre of Masterclass. Last year, Primetime Emmy Award-winning cinematographer Cary Fukunaga conducted a Masterclass at the Festival.


4. The Director’s Choice: This is a personal favorite. This is the part where the young and restless come to get their dreams re-fueled. Hosted by Film Companion, The Director’s Choice gives one filmmaker a chance to present his/her favorite film to the audience and then question the director of the film about how the film came to be. The same panel saw Anurag Kashyap interviewing Vidhu Vinod Chopra along with the cast of his film Parinda. Listening to Vidhu Vinod Chopra tell how he didn’t have money to show his films in theaters is a story as raw as it is rooted. If you’re a film buff, you cannot afford to miss the Director’s Choice.


5. Platform for Young Filmmakers: As mentioned earlier, the Mumbai Film Festival doesn’t just give a platform to relatively unknown films, it also encourages younger filmmakers to take up equipment and shoot their films. Jio MAMI selects 10 young filmmakers who dream of making a short film and funds their respective projects. These films are then screened as part of the festival. Thousands of young filmmakers who constantly struggle due to lack of resources and information have been given this incredible platform to showcase their films.


So, have you booked your tickets for the biggest film event of the year? If you haven’t, you may want to do it right away. It’s going to get full pretty soon. Visit this to book your tickets.

Here’s to cinema!

Posted by

Yash Kasotia

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