As the sun went down, one of Mumbai’s most favourite tourist destination, the Gateway of India bathed in fluorescent lights, came alive. Glowing radiantly, the monument set the tone for the opening night of Mumbai’s favourite film festival, MAMI, which got its grandest, most splendid and larger than life opening ever in its 17th year.
Organised by Aamir Khan’s wife Kiran Rao and Nita Ambani, the opening ceremony saw a bevy of well-heeled Bollywood stars walking the red carpet. From Hrithik Roshan to A R Rahman, Katrina Kaif to Kangana Ranaut, MAMI saw an attendance akin to any popular Bollywood awards night.
Hosting the show was actress Kalki Koechlin, dressed in bright green and providing the right wisecracks to keep the audience in splits. Chief Guest for the evening, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis congratulated the organisers for pooling in all resources needed to put MAMI on ground this season. Reiterating his government’s complete support towards films, the CM said, “We want to make Mumbai an entertainment hub. We would create state of art facility which would be at par with world cinema. We also want world cinema to come here. Film industry provides employment to four million people and can be the biggest hub of films in the world. I assure you every year, I will try to make the film festival bigger and better and the government will lend its complete support.”
The jury for dimensions Mumbai will be headed by Dibakar Banerjee and joining him will be Juhi Chaturvedi, Radhika Apte, Parneeti Chopra and Suraj Sharma. The Young Critics jury will be headed by Peter Bradshaw and Meenakshi Shede.
MAMI also honoured renowned Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai for Excellence in Cinema in the international category with veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal presenting him the award.
“I am moved by the award. This is my first time here and I loved coming here. India has always been a land of great inspirational thinkers like Satyajit Ray,” said Amos Gitai.
Speaking about the need to give a filmmaker absolute creative freedom, Gitai said, “Filmmakers should be given liberty to speak their mind. He should have the freedom to engage in cultural engagement which in reality is not a flower on cake. Everybody should have a voice and this voice should be maintained.”
The Indian excellence in cinema award was presented to legendary duo, Salim-Javed. While Salim Khan couldn’t be present owing to ill health, son Sohail Khan accepted the award on his behalf. Presenting the award to Sohail and Javed Akhtar was Rajkumar Hirani, who likened Salim-Javed to Shakespeare.
Delivering a rousing acceptance speech, Akhtar said: “It’s the 50th year today since I met Salim. In those days(60s), we used to sit at Bandstand and I had no idea that we would have houses in the same street. In the coming years, we met people like Amitabh Bachchan, directors Ramesh Sippy, Yash Chopra and thanks to all of them we could do something. We have done some good work and we don’t have to be modest about that. We were not scared not because we were brave. But because we didn’t know any other way. Our hero didn’t romance or sing or do comedy scenes. We didn’t see any risk in it. Those were undiluted scripts. We were fortunate to have tremendous talent around us.”
Talking about the secret behind the chemistry they shared as writers, Akhtar said, “Two kinds of people shouldn’t work together. One who are exactly similar because then you don’t need two people. And another, who are totally different. Our partnership worked because we had lots of similarities but differences too.”
Akhtar also remembered how he first saw baby Salman Khan in a pram at Salim Khan’s house and had no idea he was staring at the future Indian superstar. The legendary poet also had a word of advice to the younger generation of writers. “Younger generation should think about what they like and not what others like. Because atleast that way you will have one person who is sure to like your film,” averred Akhtar.
The vote of thanks was delivered by Kiran Rao who declared the festival open.