With a special focus on voices from the South Asian subcontinent, the 2023 Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival promises another round of really interesting Indian Movies. The recap section, which pays a special mention to the films that go lost within the festival circuit due to the pandemic and the festival taking a hiatus, has also gotten a space to shine. However, in the following list, I will take a look at those Indian Movies that I feel the most intrigued about at MAMI 2023; feel free to choose from these, or better – venture out and go blind on some of the others on that feature on the lineup. They will either surprise you or leave you reeling.
1. A Match | Director: Jayant Digambar Somalkar
Genre: Drama | Runtime: 1h 44 m | Original Language: Marathi
Sthal (A Match) delves into the life of a young woman, driven by an insatiable desire to carve her own destiny in a society where deeply entrenched patriarchal norms limit the autonomy of women, leaving them with no alternative but arranged marriages as the sole avenue for self-improvement.
Winner of the NETPAC Award at TIFF, The Quint calls Sthal “a story that tugs at your heartstrings, a pace that keeps reminding you just how layered our lives are and a cast that gives its all to the film (you won’t believe that most of them were facing a camera for the first time), Sthal stays with you. It might haunt you, but the film stays.”
2. Kennedy | Director: Anurag Kashyap
Genre: Action/Crime | Runtime: 2h 22m | Original Language: Hindi
An insomniac ex-cop who dwells in different circumstances looking for redemption. The ex-cop, who is presumed dead for a long time, operates secretly for the corrupt system.
In his review for Variety, Guy Lodge says, “Though the film’s visual design doesn’t make good on the kitsch comic-noir styling of its opening credits, it’s shot with varnished verve by Fonseca, while Chhabria and Kattar’s agitated editing ensures the film always feels busy..”
3. Agra | Director: Kanu Behl
Genre: Drama | Runtime: 2h 12m | Original Language: Hindi
Guru, a troubled young man, lives in Agra and works in a call center. He is in love with Mala, one of his colleagues. But Guru still lives with his parents, confined to his mother on the ground floor of the house, while his father lives on the greener upper floor with his mistress. His mother’s plan to set up a dental clinic on the terrace for his cousin Chhavi urges him to propose to Mala in order to get his room on the terrace. Then Guru gets the whole family together to introduce them to Mala. But nothing happens as expected.
In our review from Cannes, we said, “Agra does not leaven its severity, sculpted (Samarth Dixit and Nitesh Bhatia’s taut editing) in such a fascinating, occasionally oblique manner that sparingly shows how the fault lines were drawn, the brunt of experiencing violence, learning its vocabulary intimately enough to inflict it on others.”
4. Joram | Director: Devashish Makhija
Genre: Action/Adventure/Crime | Runtime: 2h 14m | Original Language: Hindi
It follows a father who is on the run with his little baby girl to escape the ghosts of his past and the forces that want him dead.
In her review for Screendaily, Namrata Joshi says, “Like Oonga, Joram deals with urgent political, social and economic concerns. Here, however, Makhija designs the film like an edge-of-the-seat revenge drama, a cat-and-mouse chase and a survival thriller all rolled into one, the action and emotion rising to a crescendo in the tension-filled finale.”
5. Dilli Dark | Director: Dibakar Das Roy
Genre: Dark Comedy | Runtime: 1h 40m | Original Language: Hindi
New Delhi, despite its new nomenclature, bears the weight of centuries, witnessing the rise and fall of rulers and settlers. It embodies diverse cultures where the struggle between insiders and outsiders persists. Amidst this resides Michael Okeke, a Nigerian navigating the city’s complexities. He faces stereotypes and prejudice as part of the African diaspora. Striving for a corporate career, he reluctantly turns to drug couriering due to circumstances. In this pursuit, he finds refuge in Maansi, a non-judgmental godwoman. Yet, her moral ambiguity mirrors Delhi’s intricate relationship with race and identity, reflecting the city’s multifaceted nature in justifiable brevity.
Dilli Dark, which is the debut film of Dibakar Das Roy, will have its world premiere at the 2023 MAMI.
6. Against the Tide | Director: Sarvnik Kaur
Genre: Documentary | Runtime: 1h 40m | Original Language: Hindi
Two lifelong friends, both deeply connected to the sea and their Indigenous heritage, find themselves grappling with an ocean in the throes of a relentless decline. As the sea that has sustained their families for generations continues to wither, their once-unbreakable bond begins to fray, torn by the weight of their shared desperation. In the face of this existential threat, their paths diverge, each determined to secure a future for their struggling families, but through contrasting means. The timeless strength of their friendship is tested as they navigate this turbulent journey, one that weaves a poignant tale of resilience, sacrifice, and the indomitable spirit of a people in the face of an ailing sea.
In our review, we said, “Against the Tide must be admired for the potency of its narrative, which places a community within its socio-ecological reality and essentially establishes how climate change affects all class groups, albeit with varying degrees of intensity.”
7. Which Colour? | Director: Shahrukhkhan Chavada
Genre: Drama | Runtime: 1h 36m | Original Language: Gujarati
Which Colour? offers a captivating perspective into the life of Razzak and his family, skillfully observed through the lens of everyday experiences. This narrative takes you on a journey alongside the family as they deftly navigate the intricate and unassuming layers of social and political forces that shape their world.
In our review of the film, we said, “Director Shahrukhkhan seamlessly projects a diverse set of themes by analyzing the rich and poor in this zoomed interaction, from the choice of games the cousins play to the construction of ideas presented by Razzak’s sister. There isn’t a right direction that can shift the audience to elect, as the limelight of the segment lies on the power of human nuances.”
8. All India Rank | Director: Varun Grover
Genre: Comedy | Runtime: 1h 34m | Original Language: Hindi
“In the backdrop of the late 1990s, All India Rank unfolds as a poignant dramedy that follows the journey of 17-year-old Vivek. Plucked from the comforts of home, Vivek is thrust into the rigorous world of a prep school, all in pursuit of his dream to conquer the fiercely competitive IIT entrance examination, often hailed as ‘the MIT of India.'”
In our review, we said, “Grover relies on an oft-used template – the coming-of-age story – and turns it on his head, making us introspect about our own shortcomings and blind spots.”
9. Ancestral | Director: Vinod Rawat
Genre: Drama | Runtime: 1h 26 m | Original Language: Hindi
Ancestral (Pushtaini) delves into the life of Bhuppi, a struggling actor desperate to secure his last shot at stardom, only to find himself ensnared in a humiliating scandal. His journey forces him to confront his past as he returns to his hometown and embarks on a trek through the breathtaking mountains. Along the way, Bhuppi encounters a diverse cast of strangers, each sharing in their own unique adventures, all while remaining oblivious to the transformative power of the journey that lies ahead.
Pushtani, which is the debut feature of Vinod, who serves as the film’s actor, director, writer, and producer, will have its world premiere at MAMI 2023. Shot in the picturesque backdrop of his ancestral village in Uttarakhand, the film features an ensemble of non-professional actors, including Vinod’s own family members, adding an authentic and relatable dimension to the story.
10. Stolen | Director: Karan Tejpal
Genre: Drama, Thriller | Runtime: 1h 32m | Original Language: Hindi
In the heart of an impoverished tribal community, a harrowing incident unfolded as five-month-old Jhumpa Mahato’s baby is ruthlessly abducted. This heart-wrenching event drew two brothers, Gautam and Raman, into its turbulent wake. Their noble attempt to rescue the child unwittingly thrust them into the intricate web of an ongoing investigation.
After assisting on a couple of big-budget Hindi movies, Karan Tejpal will be making his feature-length debut with Stolen, which will have its World premiere at the 2023 Mumbai Film Festival, making it one of the few Indian Movies that you must check out the 2023 MAMI.