ENRICHED MINDS, ENGORGED BODIES
NOV 24, 2008 – STEPPING OUT OF THE AIR-CONDITIONING in the multiplex, it is hot, hot, hot. I’m beginning to see the sense in khadi kurtas being identified as the de rigueur outfit of the arty cinephile. So what if people snigger? At least, you feel as cool as the films on show, right? On the other hand, dressed in heavy black T-shirts were students from Whistling Woods, Subhash Ghai’s film institute. Are they in mourning about spending all those lakhs as course fees to educate themselves about filmmaking from the man who’s just come out with Yuvvraaj? Or are they simply furtive escapees from Mumbai, the centre of Bollywood, where they are sure to be mocked about their involvement with a film that wouldn’t have made sense even in Ghai’s heyday?
WITH THE FILMS PROVIDING NOURISHMENT FOR THE MIND, what about the body, you may wonder. For that, we are at the mercy of the various fast-food stalls that have sprung up with alarming alacrity, with nary a healthy eating option in the near vicinity. “Mumbai Bhel Puri and Delhi Chat,” screams one. “Shirodkar’s Mom-made Canteen Food,” says another. “Bade Miyan’s Seekh Kabab and Chinese,” announces a third. “Test Me: Caterers from Pune,” pleads a fourth. (By the way, “Test Me?” For a place serving food? Seriously?) But if there were an award for Most Entertaining Signage, the winner would undoubtedly be Shalimar Restaurant, which claims, “We accept outside catering?” (Uh, so how does this work? We take our own food and eat it at the stall?) And in the middle of all this lies a stall for “Kingfisher Premium Packaged Drinking Water,” never mind that the, cough-cough, drinking water is suspiciously amber-coloured. Perhaps the aim is to leave the moviegoer not just enriched in mind, but also engorged in body.
YOU KNOW THOSE PEOPLE WHO SAY THEY’RE visiting the pyramids, and then pop into a tatty photo studio with a ghastly Egyptian backdrop and say cheese? I became one of those people when I told myself I was going to sit on the Peacock Throne, and subsequently plopped my behind on an impossibly curved piece of furniture, in blue, by the sidewalk opposite the screening area. In case you don’t remember, the raucously beautiful (or is that beautifully raucous?) national bird is also the symbol of the national film festival. (The plum prize is, after all, The Golden Peacock.) And hence the festival-themed seating shaped like the bird, with the backrest designed along the lines of a gorgeous plumage? A little excessive, perhaps, but then the films being played do compensate with their austerity.
THE ORGANISING COMMITTEE HAS HELPFULLY HANDED OUT a screening schedule, with timings and theatres and movie codes, and I must confess the last time I felt like this was when I was at college, scratching my then-more-bountiful head of hair over which courses to enroll for, and under which professors. As always, I’m the obsessive-compulsive nerd, carefully scanning the chart so that at least a smattering of different countries are represented on my list, and that the work of older filmmakers is balanced with a healthy intake of the new. And so I’m shocked when a couple of ladies, by my side, seem to be going about the process with no greater science than if they’d been blindfolded and turned around thrice and asked to point randomly at a film. Their clinching criterion? “Yeh achcha hoga.” I’m speechless.
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