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MAMI's Dimensions Mumbai short films review: When the city becomes the character


From local trains to shady hotels, these short films explore ordinary yet interesting spaces of the city. 

Keyur Seta

The Dimensions Mumbai section of the MAMI (Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image) film festival 2018 showcased 16 short films set in Mumbai and shot by Mumbai filmmakers aged below 25.

While the films vary vastly in terms of subject and genre, the common element is that they all present the city as a character.

Here are the seven best films from the 16.

Local Story

Mumbai's suburban trains, colloquially called 'locals', are a world of their own. Deep friendships and bonds have been forged in these locals for decades.

The conversations on the trains range from random banter to serious discussion. The latter is explored here as a passenger shares with a 'local friend' the grief of his daughter's elopement with and marriage to her lover.

The film has been shot and narrated in an innovative manner. The audience only sees visuals of stations approaching after the other as the train moves from south Mumbai to the distant suburb of Kalyan. As the stations pass by, the friends keep talking. And by the time the train pulls into Kalyan station, a possible solution to the family conflict has been formulated.

Local Story sends out a mature message in a creative manner.

Metaphor

This is probably the most unconventional of all the films in the Dimensions Mumbai section. In this black and white film, all we see is a young man repeating one line, again and again. All he says is: ‘Kuchh toh missing hai [Something is missing].'

Yet, the repetition does not bother the viewer one bit because the accompanying visuals are so pleasing. The film's editor can certainly take some of the credit for this.

Throughout the film you are kept guessing what the character is complaining about. The issue is brought up creatively in the very last frame. And yes, cigarette smoke looks so stylish in black and white.

Gajra

A young woman gets into a taxi and calls up her brother to narrate the anguish of her husband beating her up when drunk. The conversation forces the taxi driver to reflect upon his own life.

With this simple device, the film also points out how wife-beating is not limited to the homes of the poor and the uneducated. A woman's social status affords her no protection against this crime. The smart use of non-linear narration is noteworthy.

Exist

This is a very short film which features an office employee going through his mundane routine. Lakhs of office-goers in Mumbai, whose lives are in stagnation, will relate with this tale. They are no more than robots who, as per the title, simply exist.

Apart from saying a lot without using a single word, the film offers a lesson in editing with smart jump cuts, most of which last less than a second but play a crucial role in the storytelling. 

Pawan Kumar Ki Suhag Raat

Space constraint has been a serious issue in Mumbai for many years now. This can be very frustrating for married couples who are forced to live with the extended family in small tenements.

This film is about a man who is troubled by the lack of opportunity to get intimate with his wife. So, they go to a place where rooms are available on hourly hire for couples. 

The film is a realistic portrayal of the plight of such couples. But you will be in for a surprise when you notice the issue of gender equality smartly woven in. Television actor Ashish Roy is hilarious as the owner of the shady hotel. 

Yadavji

Millions of migrants from Uttar Pradesh have made Mumbai their home after coming here in search of a livelihood. Many become taxi/autorickshaw drivers or bhelpuri vendors. The Yadav in this film is one of the latter. He narrates his journey in Mumbai which began in 1987. 

The film feels like a documentary, which is actually a compliment for its realistic portrayal. Yadavji is a triumph of performance and dialogue writing. 

Shehar Ya Tum

Mumbai is full of youngsters eager to achieve their dreams. In the midst of this anxiety, they still manage to fall in love. The guy’s narration of his love story and his lover, who is now his wife, warms your heart. The characters, and their conflicts, are very real. 

The film is narrated through a stand-up act by the guy, which is a masterstroke. His performance plays a big role in generating the desired effect. And the woman does not lag behind.

The Dimensions Mumbai short films were screened at the 20th Mumbai Film Festival on Friday 26 October 2018.

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