Mumbai Musings: Day 6 - The pointlessness of Q&A with audience after a film screening
This week-long column is a contemplation of the films watched by the writer on each day of the ongoing 19th Mumbai Film Festival
There are many perks to catching films at a festival. As previously stated in this space, you get to experience uncensored content. You also get to catch films that will likely never get released in the country, and even if they did, will, by all accounts, not interest theatre owners in Chennai. For instance, I’ll be pleasantly surprised if Jennifer Reeder’s Signature Move (that was screened yesterday at the Mumbai film festival), starring Shabana Azmi, reaches Chennai. Even if it does, you can rest assured that it will undergo much mutilation. The film, after all, is about a Muslim lesbian.
Given that Muslim leaders demanded the banning of Lipstick under My Burkha, you can imagine the horror on their faces when they learn about this film and its unabashed portrayal of a homosexual Muslim woman. There are quite a few kissing scenes, and they are all treated tastefully, unapologetically. But you can rest assured that the self-anointed protectors of culture won’t share this opinion.
But we digress. There is something else at the Mumbai film festival that’s as rewarding as being able to catch uncensored content. It’s getting to see the cast and crew be available for discussions about the film you’ve just seen. Isn’t this what we have always wanted--to ask the makers those pesky doubts you get as you are about to leave the cinema hall? Both films I caught yesterday, Sujoy Ghosh’s Good Luck and Jennifer Reeder’s Signature Move, had a Q & A session organised after the screening.
As beautiful as it sounds--this idea of allowing the viewers to engage with the makers--the rather underwhelming experience in these sessions, over the last few days, has convinced me that it’s perhaps best to restrict these questions to a pre-appointed interviewer.
Some of the audience questions left me wanting to gouge out my eyeballs. During the session with Netflix’s Vice-President, for instance, various people put up their hands only to again and again ask the hapless man if he would accept their scripts. But at least, you could argue this was a legitimate question, for, it’s shocking how many people put up their hands only to be given the opportunity to share their lengthy, muddled opinion about the film, as the cast and crew patiently wait for a question that never comes.
Yesterday, after his Good Luck finished playing, Sujay Ghosh stood, waiting for questions. One man put up his hand, and proceeded to mumble something strange about a secret society and wanted to know if the director was a member, and without waiting for an answer, went on to recommend a book or two that he assured were excellent.
Some others demanded the mic and after getting it, suddenly woke up to the dim realisation that they did not have anything to ask. As actresses Shabana Azmi and Fawzia Mirza (who star in Signature Move) were ready to accept questions, a lady stood up, got the mic, and went on to offer some generic, wordy praise. She finally capped off her uninteresting speech by saying, “Oh, I forgot my question.”
Now I don’t know if an informed interviewer, if given all that wasted, precious time, would have created a fruitful conversation, but I dare say that at least the questions wouldn’t get forgotten.