Shyam Benegal to be feted at Mumbai Film Festival
The 20th edition of the MAMI Film Festival runs from October 25 to November 1
Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal will be awarded the Excellence in Cinema Award at the 2018 Mumbai Film Festival — popularly known as the MAMI (Mumbai Academy of Movie Image) Film Festival — today. In a career spanning five decades, Benegal has directed some of the most definitive and path-breaking films broadly canonised under Indian parallel cinema. He is a recipient of seven National Awards, the Padma Shri, the Padma Bhushan and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. Recognised as a cultural icon of India, Benegal has served as a founding member and former chairman of MAMI and continues to oversee the evolution of the festival as a leading cultural institution.
About the reason for founding the festival, Benegal says, "When we started out with the idea of MAMI twenty years ago, our simple intention was to put together a festival of international cinema for the artists and general public of Mumbai. We had the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), but it was mostly restricted to New Delhi and other cities. Thus, we realised the need for having our own festival in our city."
The filmmaker feels the festival has grown enormously in recent years. "They have excellent sponsors now and they showcase films from different parts of the world. When we started out, we were scraping the bottom of the vessel to put together money and requesting people to support us. Today, I can proudly say, MAMI has become the best film festival in the country."
The festival is entirely funded by a public trust and private sponsors. "Most film festivals in India have government participation. For instance, the Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) is organised by the government of West Bengal. The same applies for festivals in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. MAMI is the only film festival that is run by cineastes and film lovers," says Benegal, adding, "Once the government is involved, there are so many rules and regulations you have to follow. You cannot take decisions freely. MAMI, thankfully, is not run by a bureaucratic set-up, which I guess has made all the difference."
On the proliferation of digital content and how this might compete with theatrical viewership, the director says, "There's a certain pleasure of seeing something on the large screen in the environment of a theatre. It is very different from watching a film on your television, cell phone or computer. International film festivals force people to experience cinema in theatres, because they run in theatres. They bring together the cream of world cinema in one place for a great celebration of cinema."
The 20th edition of the MAMI Film Festival runs from October 25 to November 1.