The 18th edition of the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2016 came to a close last Thursday. By the end, over 180 films from around the globe were screened over seven days, and the closing ceremony took place at Bandra’s Rang Mandir hall. 
For many film enthusiasts from all over the country, the festival once again rose to become perhaps the most popular one of its kind in the country. It has grown exceptionally over the last few years since it almost got disbanded in 2014 due to lack of sponsors and funds. 

Let’s take a look at the areas it excelled in, as well as the ones it needs to work on:

By allotting only 50% of the tickets for each show online (8 AM every morning), the festival made it far more flexible for newcomers and people who couldn’t quite make the online bookings due to other commitments. This meant that many delegates could go to the booking windows at their venues and reserve tickets from a different quota for this specific purpose. Many weren’t aware of this till the second day, after which many of us were given a second opportunity to take a shot at our favourite films. The others were allotted for walk-ins, which was as per usual, and a stark contrast to how things worked till 2013 – where each show was offered on a first-come-first-serve basis, and the lines would snake for miles, making for some chaos and disruptions at the entrance. Now that everything was digitized on this website’s servers, the flawed show-sms system didn’t have to be relied on, and there were no more ‘proxy texts’ or awkward moments for those caught doing the same. All in all, a step forward.

Though some of the lines for popular titles still went on for miles, this year was a pleasant change for nervous volunteers and organizers; virtually no violent disagreements, angry uncles or disillusioned delegates lashed out due to whatever reasons. The rules were clear and systematic, which didn’t afford many viewers the chance to argue or question the system, which in turn led to friendly queues and respectful nods if things didn’t go a certain way. Of course, there was the odd instance or two of some disquiet in the corridors, but that could be said about all the world-famous festivals across the globe.

MAMI Jo Jeeta - BookMyShow

Compared to previous years, there was an unfortunate rise in the number of ‘reserved’ viewers shamelessly holding onto a seat for friends in the walk-in queue, simply by placing their bags and then denying others who had taken the trouble to book tickets early morning. This was an epidemic of sorts, which angered many reserved ticket-holders, who rightfully argued that this was unfair, and that walk-ins would obviously have to make do with lesser seating arrangements. Volunteers learned by the end to be clearer about these strategies, and even forced some to vacate a seat, but this was only by the 4th or 5th day of the festival. By then, the damage had been done. This has to be dealt with in a firmer manner over the next year, so that viewers understand that once you’re into the hall, it’s each man for himself. The others can get their own seats once they’re allowed inside. And sitting alone really isn’t the most depressing thing while watching quality films.

The day-to-day time-table helped a lot, as compared to previous years where the schedule was complex venue-wise. But a little was left to be desired regarding the physical scheduling of the films this year. There was a time when there were five clear time slots in a day, but this year many major films tended to overlap with one another because of the ambiguous slots. Some films started at 10, while others at 11.30, and the third shows would start anywhere between 2.30 and 5, which sort of threw things off balance for those who wanted to watch more than four a day. The morning slots were often empty at the Andheri venues, making many wonder why there were not enough repeat screenings of the favourites (except Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman). It would help down the line to have defined slots through the day (10, 12.30, 3, 6 and 9), and perhaps work around those markers to smoothen out the flaws.

There were a few popular titles missing, but all in all, the selection made for a satisfying collection – enough for people to not waste slots watching obscure stuff just because nothing else was playing (though that did happen in most 10 AM slots). The popular titles should have perhaps played twice at Regal, but we’ll take what we got – given that there was an enormous demand over the weekend, and it is virtually impossible to watch everything you plan to watch. But the newer sections – especially Spotlight, The New Medium and After Dark – attracted viewers of all ages, giving us a sense that there was something for everyone. The selection seemed to veer towards the ‘twisted’ side this year, giving us no reason to complain, given the sanitized and watered down mainstream cinema we’ve come to expect in our own country.

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