You'd expect the opening ceremony of the city's namesake film festival to be cheered on by applause and revelry. But the curtain raiser of the 12th Mumbai Film Festival organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI) was exactly the opposite. From a jeering crowd to multiple faux pas, the organisers probably wish Thursday night had never happened.The problems began when hosts Minissha Lamba and Prachi Desai called jury members on stage. Starting with director Jane Campion and actor Yoon Jeong Hee, they were all set for the welcome speech until Campion pointed out that they had forgotten to invite the third jury member present, Suhasini Mani Ratnam, wife of Raavan director Mani Ratnam. While Suhasini smiled her way through the debacle, the audience was less than forgiving.
Next up was an eyebrow-raising performance by the Terence Lewis Dance Company. It included fisherwomen, traffic police men, angry motorists and beggars breaking into dance. "If that performance took place at the city's smallest college festival, it still wouldn't have made it past the elimination phase," says Karan Agarwal, scriptwriter. "Why would you have a dance performance to the Chicago soundtrack at an Indian film festival. It would have made more sense to give that platform to young filmmakers. It might have been amateurish, but it couldn't have been worse than what we saw."
Even jury member Suhasini expressed her disappointment. "The energy was ruined by the western influences that suddenly appeared in the middle of the event. We should stop trying to ape the west and do something original.” The crowd obviously agreed with Agarwal and Suhasini, booing loudly when Lamba predictably asked how they liked the performance.
The final nail in the coffin was when there was interference on the screen when Social Network, the opening film, began. While most guests were heard loudly proclaiming their embarrassment, Tanuj Garg, CEO – Balaji Motion Pictures remarks, “Every festival starts small and grows with time. Given that MAMI is in its formative stage, the organisers have been extremely successful in placing a fair bit of international trade on the table for Indian film corporates to network. The effort is commendable. The unfortunate hooting from the audience following the dance act seems trivial in the bigger scheme of things.”