The schedule is out! Less than four days to go for India’s most anticipated film festival – the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival With Star. In its 18th edition, MFF will once again attract enthusiasts such as yours truly from all over the country, who’ll make it a week-long pilgrimage – a delegate can watch up to five films a day (imagine that), even attend masterclasses (Cary Fukunuga and Jia Zhangke) and still return the next morning with a coffee in hand, determined to repeat the beautiful cycle.
Being a MAMI veteran myself, here are a few handy general tips to be able to optimize your experience and enjoy its line-up to the fullest:
TICKET BOOKING SYSTEM
You can book your tickets (yes, tickets for each show) of a day on night before the previous one, as soon as the clock strikes 12. For that, you’re going to have to be awake with a superb internet connection, because all the big-ticket titles can get booked out within less than two minutes. By 12.03 AM, it can all be over – and I’m not exaggerating. You’ll need your delegate pass, code and, of course, this website open on your computer/phone/Ipad every night, like a 100m dasher on the start line. This can be a joyous feeling in itself, especially after being successful where others fail. Also, you can’t just show up for a show and stand in the line – the tickets, which will be sent to you by SMS on your given cellphone number, must be shown on entry to the hall. This is the system most international festivals use, and Mumbai is no less any more.
For suburban dwellers, it’s going to be the combination of PVR Citi Mall and PVR ICON (both in Andheri), multiplexes within two minutes walking distance of each other, with 10 screens between them. Most of the main titles play here, and are often packed because half the industry and crowd packs into this cluster. It’s also the place where you’ll actually feel the aura and excitement of a film festival and bump into many familiar faces. The stretch between the two is littered with small pubs and restaurants (Alfredo’s, Carter’s Blue, TAP, Chocolateria San Churro), as well as some in the lane across the road (Pop Tate’s, Brewbot, Hometown Café etc), as well as Infinity Mall’s food court – which will be a good stop for light lunches, drinks and snacks in the rush between shows. Then there’s PVR Phoenix, a haven to hang around in all day without ever going hungry or thirsty. The halls will never be crowded, and it seems like a good place for those living on the other side of Bandra to visit. The atmosphere isn’t as infectious, but if movie-watching is the only thing you want to do, why not? There’s Regal cinema in town, the biggest of them all, if you’d like to be in Colaba all day, where the opening film and closing film will play, along with many of the famous titles. If you are absolutely desperate to catch some you’ve missed out, it’s good to head out to PVR Ghatkopar and Sion to limit the damage. Do NOT book a 10 AM show in Andheri and the 12.30 PM show for Regal just because it looks good. It’s not humanly possible, and then you can’t book that same film again – so don’t waste your ‘slots.’ You have one chance; do not blow it on a whim.
If you want to truly survive the onslaught, it’s important to stay as close to a venue as possible, plan your daily schedule well in advance, be ready at midnight every night, and show up to each screening 15 minutes in advance. That way, it’s possible to watch up to 5 films a day, or 4 at the worst. Last year, I caught 25 films, which is an average of almost 4 a day, and came out alive. Remember, you won’t get to watch these films on a big screen anywhere else, ever. Unless you have a cinema hall of your own. Be smart, don’t be lazy, push yourself out of bed on time, don’t count on that extra hour of sleep (save it for a boring film), and do not get disheartened if you’ve made a wrong pick and realize it only during the movie. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s rare that one gets to be disappointed four times a day. Also, the opening ceremony is on the 20th (Thursday), and the films start on Friday (for which you can book tickets on late Wednesday night). The weekend will be packed with the biggies, so plan accordingly.
Festival favorites like Personal Shopper, The Red Turtle, I Daniel Blake, Manchester by the Sea, Neruda, Swiss Army Man, The Commune, Una, The Unknown Girl, The Neon Demon, Goodbye Berlin, The Woman Who Left and many more will encounter the kind of lines and rush you’ll have only seen at Dadar station at peak hour. Again, this is no exaggeration – even if you’ve booked those films. There’s always a non-booked line (for those who forgot to book online or overlooked it; you’d do well to reach two hours in advance for these), and a booked line for the alert ones who’ve stayed up sincerely.
It’ll be nice to catch a horror film or two from the After Dark section, but make sure you don’t stay up all night or go on a food-alcohol binge just because you enjoyed your day. Know when to stop, and remember that this is ONE week only; your priorities are the films, not the socializing and networking – which can wait till after the 27th.