Mumbai Film Festival Opens With Glamour From Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Honors for Luca Guadagnino and Mani Ratman

Mumbai Film Festival Opens With Glamour From Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Honors for Luca Guadagnino and Mani Ratman

Following four long years of pandemic shutdown, India’s Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival made a triumphant return Friday night with a glitzy opening ceremony packed with stars from the Hindi and South Indian film industries, including Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Kareena Kapoor, Jim Sarbh, Sonam Kapoor and Bhumi Pednekar, along with Tamil cinema legends Kamal Haasan and Mani Ratnam, among many others. Held inside Mumbai’s shimmering new Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre, which opened just in March, the ceremony featured two hours of impassioned speeches and the dolling out of awards, all of it presided over by Chopra Jonas, this year’s festival chairwoman. 

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In her opening remarks declaring the festival officially open, Chopra Jonas emphasized the role of women in the Indian industry, saying: “We’d like to acknowledge the pivotal role of women in front of the camera and behind – we have some of the most amazing women, some of them here tonight, whose contribution to cinema is unparalleled.”

Unique among major international festivals, the Mumbai leadership team is made up entirely of women team, including festival director Anupama Chopra, co-director Maitreyee Dasgupta, artistic director Deepti DCunha and executive director Isha Ambani. 

The two biggest moments of the night were the Excellence in Cinema Awards — de facto lifetime achievement honors — presented to Ratnam and Italian arthouse star Luca Guadagnino, both of whom will deliver masterclasses at the festival this weekend. 

A showreel of Guadagnino’s work — I Am Love, Call Me By Your Name, and the upcoming Challengers, starring Zendaya — was played before Chopra Jonas presented him with a trophy, praising his filmography for its “stunning portrayal of deeply human relationships — the nature of love, identity, and the cinema of desire.”  

Guadagnino noted from the stage that he was visiting India for the very first time — he had spent the afternoon sightseeing around Mumbai with former Venice and Rome film festival head Marco Mueller, also on hand for the event — while hinting that he already felt inspired to try to make a film in the country. 

“So many arresting images already have come to me,” he said, adding, “I like nuance and I like to see what happens when people interact in a space, so hopefully one day I will be able to achieve that here.”

Ratnam’s statue was presented to him by Haasan, with whom he last collaborated on the Tamil cinema classic Nayakan in 1987. The two screen legends then delighted the crowd by revealing that they are at work on a new film together, titled KH 234, which will be produced by Ratman’s Madras Talkies and Haasan’s Raaj Kamal Films International. The duo didn’t reveal story details for the project but said a teaser trailer will be released on Nov. 6. Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman and acclaimed cinematographer Ravi K Chandran are also on board for the film.

The Mumbai Film Festival has returned with an expanded format and a renewed sense of purpose. Across its 10-day duration — Oct. 27 to Nov. 5 — the event will screen over 250 films with an ambitious focus on South Asian cinema. The festival’s main competition jury this year is chaired by Indian-American filmmaker Mira Nair (Monsoon WeddingSalaam Bombay!). Her fellow jurors include Australian director David Michod (The King), Filipina filmmaker and actress Isabel Sandoval (Lingua Franca) and film critic Edouard Waintrop — all of whom were on hand at the ceremony. 

In one of the night’s more moving moments, the festival also honored three tireless female champions of Indian cinema — Aruna Vasudev, Nasreen Munni Kabir and Uma da Cunha — each presented with a lifetime achievement award for their work — off-screen and off-set — as journalists, critics, subtitlers and programmers. 

The festival’s opening film late Friday night was veteran director Hansal Mehta’s crime thriller The Buckingham Murders, produced by and starring Kareena Kapoor. The film, which is told in English and several South Asian languages, stars Kapoor as a grieving British-Indian detective who is assigned the mysterious case of a murdered child in the U.K. county of Buckinghamshire.  

“(The Mumbai Film Festival) has gone through many ups and downs over the years, but there is a lot of passion behind the festival this year and it’s only growing,” Mehta told The Hollywood Reporter in a brief chat shortly before the opening ceremony. “We are all excited to see where it goes,” he added.