The 21st Jio Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image (MAMI) Mumbai Film Festival with Star was declared open on Thursday night at Mumbai’s Rang Mandir auditorium. The opening ceremony for the cinematic extravaganza, which shall continue until 24th October, also introduced its new chairperson, Deepika Padukone.
The red carpet was rolled out with the typical razzmatazz of a Bollywood gala, but walking it were more than the everyday Mumbai celebrities, as the makers behind some of the more niche cinematic presentations screening at the competition, including indie debutantes and breakout directors, took center-stage at the carpet, bringing their films to the glittering nucleus of the country, under the spotlight and into the heart of the mainstream.
The ceremony was hosted by the sharp-witted Soha Ali Khan and attended by Deepika Padukone, Karan Johar, Taapsee Pannu, Vishal Bhardwaj, Kiran Rao, Kalki Koechlin, Kabir Khan, Deepti Naval, as well as international guests such as IMDb Founder and CEO, Col Needham, and filmmakers like Ari Aster and Hany Abu-Assad, who is also the President of the film’s International Jury this year.
The festival also introduced its newly appointed chairperson Deepika Padukone who took up the chair duties for the first time this year.
Speaking about her appointment Deepika said, “Cinema has the power to evoke empathy, foster kindness, and experience innocence. In the age of digital streaming and social media that is slowly but surely isolating us, MAMI binds us without boundaries, inhibitions or fear. As an artist who believes in the power of cinema, we need this now more than ever before.”
Addressing trepidation about her appointment as the chairperson for the Mumbai Film Festival, Deepika further added, “Many believe that I’m too young, too mainstream, too tall, and I am only what I am wearing, but I am here for two reasons. I’m here because I want to learn and I’m here because I want to give back.”
This year the festival recognized the talent and contribution of celebrated actress, artist, director, and photographer Deepti Naval and presented her with the Excellence in Cinema Award.
Taking the stage with Deepika Padukone and Vishal Bhardwaj, an emotionally overwhelmed Deepti thanked the Academy for the honour and said, “I used to wonder for many, many years what it feels like for people to walk on the stage and get all these awards. I didn’t know it felt like this. It’s wonderful.”
As Soha Ali Khan introduced the various juries for all the categories of the Film Festival, a variety of names that ranged from stalwarts of Indian cinema to international film executives, to even school-going children, the sentiment towards approaching the film festival was perhaps best captured by the Founder of The Black List, Franklin Leonard when he was asked about what makes a film truly universal.
Said Leonard, “What makes a film truly universal is its specificity. Tell a story about human beings as they are and the rest of us will recognize our common humanity in them.”
The 21st Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival will screen films across numerous venues in the city between 18th and 24th October and will showcase 190 films spread across 49 languages.