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Mumbai through the lens of two filmmakers: Top shorts from Jio MAMI Film Festival

Updated on: 06 November,2023 02:44 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Ainie Rizvi |

The city of dreams has something for everyone. Capturing the true spirit of Mumbai are two films who have bagged Gold and Silver awards under the category ‘Dimensions Mumbai’ at the Jio MAMI Film Festival

Mumbai through the lens of two filmmakers: Top shorts from Jio MAMI Film Festival

Mumbai steals the spotlight at award-winning shorts from Jio MAMI Film Festival. File/Pic

Mumbai has been a cherished cinematic muse since the dawn of Indian cinema. From Nargis starrer Shree 420 (1955) to the gritty drama of Bombay (1995), to the modern tales of Gully Gang (2019) and Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022), the city has served as a stage for diverse films.

It doesn't just symbolise an urban setting, but also lends a cosmopolitan backdrop, making it a cinematic fixture. Regaling us with the city’s lived experiences and traversed spaces are two new short films that have emerged as champions under the category ‘Dimensions Mumbai’ at the Jio MAMI Film Festival. We take a look at how the city’s corners, gullies and beaches become a canvas to craft timeless stories.

Gold Award Winner: Nightingales in the Cocoon

Praveen Giri

Praveen Giri's (24) Nightingales in the Cocoon confronts poverty head-on and mocks the notion of hardships attached to Dharavi. Dark, daring and unapologetic – the film’s world establishes Mumbai as a stage, and its residents, the performers. Only the stage is as scalable as one’s social class and the ability to dream.

A slum dweller or a B-town actor – The Maximum City promises a main character energy for each of them. And through his lens, Giri manages to capture this bare essence of Mumbai. Set in one of the slum pockets of Dharavi – the film is about two boys oblivious to the vices of being poor.

‘One man's trash is another man's treasure’ – becomes the running theme of the film. A couple exits Dharavi in a bid to start a new life in Navi Mumbai. Their house clearance renders a keyboard in the dumps, which the boys chance upon while frolicking. From then on, the story takes a euphoric turn.

“Many artists are born in slums – call it ‘chawl’ as the locals do. A dearth of food and shelter fans their flames of unwavering passion. Those living in slums, take their dreams very seriously. Unlike us privileged lot,” Giri tells Midday.

He draws comparisons with the affluent sections of society, who are relatively more resourceful and well-rounded in their experience. Despite the privilege, one reaches their wit’s end striving for success in Bollywood. And if they can’t make it – they still get to sulk in their crafty couches.

Whereas, a life in slums is bound to cut corners. It can get dark and murky in Mumbai’s ghetto, making one reorient their focus. Much like how Nightingales do, singing ethereal lullabies concealed in the shadows of the night.

Dancing to their own tunes, the boys dish a stark commentary on how even inside a cocoon – one can spark light. The grimness is here to stay, so why not change the way we see it? “They are happy. They take what they get and turn it into what they want,” remarks Giri. 

Sewn like a poem, the film’s subtext reprimands those who dwell on scarcity, nudging them to look within for the gold mine they are seeking.

Giri hailing from Madurai in Tamil Nadu, shot this film in 2022 while interacting with Tamil migrants. A lover of landscapes, he has made five more short films and one mid-length feature. His latest feature film ‘Mankhurd’ is a political drama set in Mumbai’s suburban areas.

Silver Award Winner: Halfway

Kumar Chheda

Kumar Chheda's (23) Halfway is not your typical romantic film. No dreamy escapades, no heartbreaks – just a real conundrum that echoes Mumbai’s iconic problem: Distances. Both – geographically and emotionally.

The film personifies Juhu’s 6-kilometre sand stretch as the trajectory of a relationship. Just as one can enter the beach from multiple gates, a queer couple find themselves at opposing entrances of Juhu. A metaphor to reflect how they're on different pages of their relationship.

Flowy, chaotic and reassuring like a sunset – the film decodes the dilemma of finding common ground in a romantic relationship. Unfolding via live conversations and music, it walks the user through the beach and a profound lover’s tiff. 

Made like an analogy – for every beat, there’s a rhythm, an answer to every question, a resolution to each conflict. By opting for simplicity, Chheda has crafted a film universe wherein a lot is happening place within a single shot. Much like how Mumbai is with its erratic yet efficient rhythm.

Chheda skillfully conveys the very spirit of Mumbai, where chaos prevails even when one is caught up in a standstill. All the objects in the film move constantly: People, birds, waves and even the planet (as we watch the sunset). Yet the characters remain static, as they grapple with the inert halt in their journey.

“I wanted to depict the banality of love with Mumbai as the backdrop. It’s a story that will resonate with Mumbaikars – the moment you ask someone to meet at Juhu Beach, you don’t know where to exactly enter from,” Chheda tells Midday.

You can access the beach through multiple entrances: from the lane adjacent to Granth Book Store, via the main Chowpatty area, through Dakshinayan, or using the lane next to Prithvi Theatre. Alternatively, one can enjoy a view of Silver Beach from the Sun and Sand Hotel's porch.

Come evenings, thousands flock to Juhu. No matter which gate they come from, they all seek the same thing – the sight of sunset. And, in order to make it work – it boils down to the mutual willingness to meet in the middle.

The film is not a cinematic specimen, but it transcends the ordinary. It’s an unfiltered spatial and aural journey of wandering along Mumbai's shores – wherein one can eavesdrop on a myriad of stories flowing in parallel, blending into a cacophony that culminates with a soothing sunset.

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