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Mumbai gets into cinema mode

Think Mumbai and films, and the cult song, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, pops up instantly. Exploring the city’s love affair with the movies is project Cinema and the City, that celebrates this connect with a felicitation of National Award-winning filmmaker Shyam Benegal

Unwind for the next 10 days as you explore how Mumbai and the film industry have gone hand-in-hand to encourage each other’s growth. Asiatic Society of Mumbai has lined up many events ranging from walks, exhibitions, and screenings to discussions, to delight the cinephile.


Shyam Benegal in Khalid Mohamed’s documentary, The Master: Shyam Benegal. Pic Courtesy/Karan Desai

Tomorrow, Cinema and the City will be inaugurated with the screening of film critic Khaild Mohamed’s documentary on his mentor, friend and filmmaker — Shyam Benegal. Mohamed’s relationship with the filmmaker has had its share of ups and downs and an intriguing history. “When I started as a film critic, I was a purist and was largely influenced by world cinema,” recalls Mohamed.

Khalid Mohamed with a cast member in his documentary, The Little Big People, chronicling the lives of street children in Mumbai. pic courtesy/ Karan Desai

The mentor’s way
In Mohamed’s words, his reviews of Shyam Benegal’s initial films were “austere and acerbic” as he followed his editor’s (Bikram Singh’s) way of being ‘puritan’ at The Times of India. “After I published a piece on Mammo (my grand aunt), Shyam called me to discuss the film, despite my hostile reviews. It was something that deeply humbled me,” says Mohamed, who went on to write three scripts for the adman-filmmaker: Sardari Begum, Mammo and Zubeidaa.


Rafique Baghdadi at Cafe Military, one of the many Irani restaurants in the Fort district. PICs/Bipin Kokate

Mohamed’s other documentaries will also be screened — Little Big People and The Last Irani Chai, to end the festival. In between, there will be several discussions and screenings about Mumbai through the cinematic lens, cinema halls and Marathi cinema.


Shammi Kapoor will also be a point of conversation as he epitomises the rebel in Bollywood

No more Mumbai
Rafique Baghdadi, film historian and one of the brains behind the project, laments, “Mumbai doesn’t figure in the films made today anymore. You see other places on-screen now, especially Delhi.” Baghdadi shares that since 1896, Bombay/Mumbai and cinema have had their trajectories intertwined. Taxi Driver is a noted example when the glittering city becomes a pivotal background. “It was only since the 1950s that the city could be shot comfortably. Before that all we know is that the records were perhaps destroyed and the camera was also heavy to be carried for exterior shoots,” he says.


A 1947 image of Metro Cinema

Baghdadi believes that Mumbai’s icons have changed. Earlier on, VT Station (now CST) and Bombay University were captured to establish that it’s Bombay; now perhaps, the slums have become an identity marker. Baghdadi’s walk will cover Art Deco cinemas such as Metro, Liberty and Eros theatres, the Irani restaurants and the Opera House, to mark the importance of those cine landmarks in cinema from yesteryears.


Eros Cinema is one of the Art Deco cinemas in the area. Pics/Shadab Khan

From March 20 to 30
At Durbar Hall, Asiatic Society of Mumbai, Town Hall. CALL 22660956

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