Meenakshi Shedde: Selfie with Ferrari
I intensely love my job as a film programmer and journalist. It allows me to travel the world, constantly meet exciting people from all over
I intensely love my job as a film programmer and journalist. It allows me to travel the world, constantly meet exciting people from all over. Imagine, I wake up, and I'm in the Madinat Jumeirah Mina A'Salam in Dubai, with the sea right outside my balcony, a swank yacht slicing the blue in the distance. The hotel is so extravagant, that to go from reception to the hotel restaurants, you need to take an abra (traditional boat, but run on batteries here) and glide along its serene canals.
Yes, I'm in Dubai on work. As South Asia Consultant to the Dubai International Film Festival, I do pre-selection of South Asian films for the festival. During the festival, I'm moderator for world cinema, doing Q/As with directors and stars. This year, I will do the Q/As for David Batty's docu My Generation starring Michael Caine (UK), Saudi director Haifaa Al-Mansour's Mary Shelley, Sarmad Masud's My Pure Land (UK), Aktan Arym Kubat's Centaur (Kazakhstan), Azar (Iran), Radiogram (Bulgaria), Anup Singh's Song of Scorpions starring Irrfan Khan, and Dipesh Jain's In The Shadows, starring Manoj Bajpayee. While prepping for the My Generation Q/A with David Batty, on the 60's generation in the UK, I discovered that Michael Caine's mother did jhadu-pota in offices, while his father sold machchi. But he didn't like the smell of fish and wanted to be an actor. When he became a star, he had to beg his mother to stop doing jhadu-pota. She didn't want to, "because she would miss her friends." If the papers find out, my name will be mud, he told her. "It's only when she realised she would hurt me, that I could get her to stop," he said in an interview. This telling, heart-breaking detail made the festival for me.
A day before the fest, I catch up with old Mumbai friends who have settled in Dubai — Bhaskar, Mini, and their son Manu. Bhaskar drives us to Calicut Notebook, which serves extraordinarily good regional Mallu food. There is not one Mallu restaurant in Bombay that can match it. One of their signature dishes is 'Pazhassi salad' with 'pechay' leaves, served with tiny bowls of fried coconut slivers, peanuts, onions, chillies, garlic slices and honey and jaggery sauce. You put a bit of everything in the leaf and eat it like a paan — scrumptious! Most of their dishes have flavoursome kadipatta. Bhaskar tells me of an evocative Mallu phrase: when the CPM used their veteran, VS Achuthanandan for election campaigns, but later refused to give him a ticket, Mallus said, "They threw him like a kadipatta" — you use it for flavouring, then throw it away.
Manu, about 11, is a lovely chap, who has his own news website, and sings songs in various languages, from the beautiful Pakistani national anthem Pak Sarzameen Shad Bad to Ekla Chalo Re in Bengali and Malayalam songs. He tells me the Dubai Police are like supermen, because they ride in Ferraris and Bugattis on duty, and allow the public to take selfies with them. If our Mumbai Police can catch and ensure the conviction of all the offenders of crimes against women, to begin with, they would certainly deserve all the Ferraris they want.
Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival, award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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