Behind The Scenes’ flagship event Matsuri dissected cinema from various perspectives by holding a debate competition, trivia and screening of a well-curated lineup of student cinema.
On the first day, along with a screening of movies, an enthralling debate on the recent inclusive standards issued by The Academy to be considered for the Best Picture Oscar took place as well.
The lineup of short films made by students was headed by ‘Maya’, a film that brilliantly weaved in auteur cinema into a simple storyline. An enquiry into the psyche of a girl who grapples with a revelation made by a stranger she met online, Maya is minimal and personal. The craft of the filmmaker was really visible as she pushed the possibilities of medium — especially with sound design and lighting — to hook the audience. Maya’s momentum and flow of screenplay resonated with Fellini devoid of all the avant-garde.
‘Elakki’, a Kannada short film, was simple, soulful and heartful. Filled majorly with outdoor scenes, Elakki tells the story of a young boy forging a bond with an old shopkeeper from his neighbourhood. Even though the movie falls flat at several junctures of the narrative, deft editing and a warm colour tone makes it a pleasant experience.
Misplaced in Monochrome
If Gasper Noe ventured on to make a short film that captures the essence of India’s urban youth, it’d look eerily similar to Varun Menon’s ‘Misplaced in Monochrome’. With a thoughtful title that’s revealed only after the prologue, the filmmaker uses the narrative technique of defamiliarization to construct a word of contrasts. Varun contests a lot of themes and juxtaposes them against each other without withering away from the central plot. The movie discusses God and homosexuality, gold and gays, all in the backdrop of the scintillating city of Manipal. Misplaced in Monochrome alters Bergman’s idea of a God that hides amid vague promises and invisible miracles without falling for the traps set by the mainstream idea of God.
‘Udaan’ is about how the unwritten tenets of the patriarchal world smash the aspirations of women. Without succumbing to the tendency of plunging the movie in a melodramatic tone, Udaan is about a father and daughter sitting across from each other to discuss the daughter’s future. The movie is simple and straightforward and rarely resolves to any gimmicks that would dilute the central storyline.
Matsuri’s debate finals was centred on a very divisive and sensitive topic — Is the Academy getting overtly political with its new inclusive standards? There were some sharp points made by both sides and it was a fine display of clever retaliation strategies.
Shreyas, who spoke in favour of the Academy, drew relevant examples including that of Gal Gadot and Chadwick Boseman to illustrate the impact of a more inclusive Hollywood. He asserted that Oscars are held in high regard all over the world and it’s time for reform so that there’s a fair representation of the underrepresented in global cinema.
Vaishnavi, who spoke in favour of the motion, tried to bring a new angle to the debate by citing how the Academy’s decision could backfire considering how the new standards would tamper with the creativity of filmmakers.
Avani Hegde, a student of MIT, countered by reiterating the racist undertones of Oscar history. She argued that most of the recent “Best Picture” Oscar winners have already met the criteria issued by the Academy. She opined that such a move by the Academy opens up the avenues of storytelling to a large number of people.
The hosts decided to throw in a surprise for the participants as well as the audience by ending the debate and initiating a discussion on who’s more important — actors or directors.
In his opening statement, Shreyas pointed out how the role of the actor is limited and the director has to align the entire movie. Simran chose actors over filmmakers as they render soul to the world created by filmmakers. Avani responded by mentioning the classic bathroom scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ as an example of how Cinema is a director’s craft.
However, it was disheartening to see most of the discussion being based off Marvel and DC movies as the equations between the actors are very different for mainstream-commercial movies.
The second of the three-day event saw a repeat round of screenings of the short films played on Day one. The films — Maya, Elakki, Misplaced in Monochrome, Udaan, Tainted, I Am, Expect the Unexpected, Door is in Your Hands, Reyna and The Days that Got By — were viewed by a fresh set of eyes as well as those who enjoyed some of the features thoroughly and wanted a glimpse of them again. These films, again, were well received; notable titles included Misplaced in Monochrome and Door is in Your Hands.
Door is in Your Hands
This short film by Rimzim Productions plays with concepts like willpower, internal chaos and self-help and portrays it in a unique manner. The protagonist is trapped in their head, unable to find a way out of capture. Every moment is clouded with chaos, fighting faceless demons and being haunted by sourceless noise, broken only briefly by rare moments of joy. The film explores the protagonist’s struggle and their attempts to break out of the monotonous, despairing loop.
Days that got by
A simple short film by Naqaab Filmmaking, eloquently written and produced, showcases a time period that is all-too-familiar (and painful) now — the first lockdown. It starts with the protagonist leading their usual life and winding down from a regular college day when news of the nationwide lockdown breaks. There’s a change in lifestyle after that; socializing meant video calls with friends and family. The hurried breakfast while running late to college and the fast-paced life, replaced by a full meal for a person isolated by a pandemic, with the clock seemingly infinitely slowed down. An all too-relatable era — beautifully toned and portrayed — was understood and loved by the viewers, who had all been through the same situation.
The trivia finals, Lights! Camera! Question! also took place on this day, with participants across colleges. Film enthusiasts had a good time showcasing their in-depth knowledge of their favourite media, and went up against fellow aficionados for the win.
The final day of Matsuri 2021 was kicked off enthusiastically by the hosts as they welcomed the participants and the audience back for the last leg.
After two consecutive days of witnessing unparalleled talent and hard work, it was time to announce the three occupants of the podium, chosen by the judges after careful deliberation.
The final leg saw Days That Got By by Naqaab Filmmaking bag the second runners up position. A very well-deserved position for a film of such exquisite production and direction.
All in all, a film that made us ask questions deep within and reflect on life as we know it.
Following this came another accolade to Naqaab Filmmaking as they bagged the first runners-up position as well. This time with their beautifully written film, Misplaced in Monochrome. A fantastic production revolving around queer acceptability within the society as well as love, and human connections in general. Revolving around hues of red and blue, Misplaced in Monochrome found their place in a spectrum of well-received success.
Naqaab Filmmaking is MIT’s very own filmmaking club and has so far been a club whose name will be remembered for a long time among the participants and the judges.
The announcement of the winner of the film submissions took a backseat as the winners of the various other events lined up to be announced.
The Cinema Roundtable, in collaboration with Leaders of Tomorrow, was the debate competition of the event. The winner of the event was Shreyas Kashyap from MIT, Manipal. Close behind was the runner up Avani Hegde from MIT, Manipal as well.
LIGHTS! CAMERA! QUESTION!, in collaboration with LDQ Manipal, was the Trivia competition of the event. The winner of the event was Harsh Gambhir from MIT, followed by Aman Agarwal from IIT Roorkee.
Abhinay, in collaboration with Ada Dramatics, was the acting competition of the event. The winner of the event was Agranya Raj Singh from MIT, followed by the first runner up, Azher Mehmood from MIT and the second runner up, Simrat Singh from MIT.
Posterverse, which was the poster making competition of the event where participants had to recreate famous movie posters, was won by Akshita S from Whistling woods International.
Sampadana, the film editing competition where participants had to switch up existing movie trailers and genres, had the following winner; Bhanu Prakash P from The National Institute of Engineering, Mysuru.
Spellbound, the writing competition, was won by Pavaman S Suraj from CMR National PU College.
After giving the credit where it’s due and congratulating all the winners of the events, the climax of day 3 brought with it the crux of the event — announcing the winner of the film submission.
The audience already knew what to expect as Rimzim Productions from Wilson College, Mumbai, bagged first place with their absolute masterpiece, The Door’s In Your Hand.
A monochromatic film in terms of cinematography, but one that spoke in loud colours at the end, The Door’s in Your Hand had the audience hooked from the start. The film surpassed language barriers as everyone found themselves relating to it.
It ended with the message, “Only we can help ourselves.”
On that optimistic note, after three days of showcasing and encouraging pure artistic talent, Matsuri wrapped up its last act, and the curtains fell.
Written by George Fernandez, Aditya Kapur and Ishita G for MTTN
Edited by Ishita G for MTTN
Featured Image via Behind the Scenes