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IFFI 2017: Madhur Bhandarkar’s Mumbai Mist weakest link in BRICS anthology

Release Date: 21 Nov 2017

Cinestaan Rating

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Blessy Chettiar

In Mumbai Mist, Chandrakant and Charlie become friends and the two have a blast, as they both learn precious little things from each other.

Madhur Bhandarkar’s Mumbai Mist was screened at the ongoing 48th International Film Festival of India in Goa as part of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) package to promote films from the nations. Made under the ‘Where Has Time Gone’ theme, the five films sought to highlight different aspects of communities in these nations.

The films premiered at the BRICS Film Festival in China and were shown at Busan Film Festival in South Korea.

Apart from Bhandarkar, other globally-feted storytellers like Brazilian Walter Salles (of The Motorcycle Diaries fame), Chinese director-screenwriter Jia Zhangke, Russian director Aleksey Fedorchenko and South African filmmaker Jahmil XT Qubeka were also part of the project. The collaboration project known as the ‘Magnificent 5’ was a creative idea formed when leaders of the five countries met in India in 2016.

Mumbai Mist follows Chandrakant (Annu Kapoor) who has seen better days. Blessed with a family and everything he could need at his age, Chandrakant spends time taking long walks and listening to the Awara (1951) soundtrack on a gramophone.

That his son and daughter-in-law are always busy is not lost on Chandrakant. While he holds no grudges, he wishes to find solace in his grandson, if only he could look up from his cellphone and acknowledge his presence.

On a walk, Chandrakant encounters Charlie (Master Devrath), a street urchin, who teaches him to operate a cellphone. Chandrakant a.k.a. Chandu and Charlie become friends and the two have a blast, as they both learn precious little things from each other.

Chandu even throws a small party for Charlie’s slum friends on the latter’s birthday. Their friendship is heart-warming, but too sappy and loud. Even as Charlie and Chandu start spending a lot of time together, the latter makes sure his family members do not get a whiff of this unusual friendship.

Some moments like Chandu buying Charlie a pair of shoes, only to later realize even Charlie got him a pair of slippers, stay with you. Charlie is nonchalant about habits like stealing, which seem normal behaviour to him as he grows up in a rough neighbourhood. Charlie even buys Chandu a book because he liked the pictures in it. Turns out it is a marketing book! It’s the thought that matters, as they say.

Mumbai Mist is full of such light moments. But, thankfully, it runs for less than 20 minutes.

When Charlie goes missing one day, Chandu takes it upon himself to locate him. He files a police complaint, and goes around Charlie’s locality hoping to find him. Eventually his health fails. As Chandu’s pyre burns, a voice-over tells his family how Charlie gave Chandu the little, yet precious gift of time. Chandu even leaves a small fortune for Charlie, asking his family members to find him.

Annu Kapoor as the elderly gentleman is a delight, though this reviewer felt he went overboard with his performance in certain scenes.

Master Devrath is the real hero of Mumbai Mist. He finds happiness in little things, and makes a lasting impact with his effortless portrayal of Charlie.

Bhandarkar’s story seems like a weak link among the stories; about manmade disaster (When The Earth Trembles by Brazil’s Salles), a spectacularly shot abusive love story (Breathing by Russia’s Alex Fedorchenko), China’s new two-child state policy (Meeting The Spring by Zhangke) and sci-fi and rebirth (Stillborn by South Africa’s Qubeka).

When The Earth Trembles is an account of a mother and son, who are battling in their own ways when their village gets washed away as a nearby dam breaks. Director Salles uses a manmade disaster and its aftermath to subtly highlight the harm humans are doing to themselves. Even as some of them try to pick up the pieces after being stuck in a relief camp for months, the apathy is poignantly evident.

Breathing is eccentric, as a nurse suffers at the hands of an abusive lover. She gets her revenge when an accident leaves the drunk man at the mercy of his girlfriend and her beloved accordion. The visuals of snow dumped far and wide are stunning.

In Meeting The Spring, a middle-aged couple rediscover their relationship as the Chinese state’s one-child policy is withdrawn. Now that they have government approval to have another child, do they really want to? Chinese performing arts are used cleverly to take forward the story and infuse humour.

Stillborn is a futuristic tale of a woman who works at a “remnant” lab. When she finds a watch, she’s determined to go back in time and be reborn. Stillborn felt disconnected and often incoherent.

Bhandarkar’s Mumbai Mist is the weakest among these brilliant films. We wish there was better representation from India for the BRICS anthology.

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