Thursday @ the MIAAC

How fortunate we are in NYC to have access to so many cultural events, and even more fortunate for an opportunity to interact with established and up-and-coming filmmakers at events like the MIAAC.

Yesterday at the MIAAC film festival, there were two panels running side-by-side, one with Mira Nair, examining her not-often-seen short films, and the other, discussing the state of the Indian screenplay.   The latter included Suman Mukhopadhyay, Sudhir Mishra and Javed Akhtar and was only attended by some 20-25 people, which made for a very cozy space in the green-lit theater at the Quad Cinema.

After a break, there was a screening of Zanjeer, for which Javed-saab took questions (before, oddly enough, and not after the film).   Remembering back to the early 70s, he told how he and his co-writer (Salim Khan, the Salim of Salim-Javed) demanded that their names appear on the film posters too, and they were told to forget that idea and pronto.   According to the Maestro, they hired 2 jeeps and some 4 men, and had them drive around Bombay late one night painting “Written by Salim-Javed” on all the hoardings for Zanjeer that they could find.   There were laughs all around as he told this story and others.

It’s always a bit dicey to meet people in the industry at these events, because you never know as you approach someone whose work you’ve admired, if you’re going to be met with heavy-lidded, mildly disguised ennui or warmth and graciousness from the actor or director to whom you’re talking.   Javed Akhtar was a very warm presence, speaking directly to whoever asked the question, reminding the audience somewhat apologetically that the special effects and sound may seem a bit dated now, but he urged us to remember the time when it was filmed (1973).

Next up was the Fakir of Venice, a film which I believe has been through New York once before at another event, but which I couldn’t catch ’til now.   I was glad to see it, and Farhan Akhtar’s acting debut (the film appeared ast year, prior to Rock On).

He plays Adi Contractor, a fixer for film productions around India, a man with a lot of connections who can make things happen.   He ends up packaging a Hindu “fakir” for an art installment in Venice, Italy, and bundles himself and the sickly Sattar (who is actually a Muslim building painter) off to that most beautiful city on water, where they are supposed to remain for a week, with Sattar buried in sand, and only his hands exposed, in permanent namaskar position. While he lies there, Adi stands on the other side of a the window, and spins all sorts of tales to the often fawning and gullible public desperate to know more about the legendary Indian mysticism.   (Gee, what is the emoticon for rolling my eyes?) For this movie, unlike Zanjeer, the theater was packed.

Other film folk spotted in and around the lobby yesterday: Rahul Bose, Mehreen Jabbar, Pooja Kumar, Shabana Azmi and Rajat Kapur.

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