If Mumbai has MAMI, then Goa has ESG and the IFFI.
I was living in the maximum city until February this year. In fact, my first rented home (room) in Mumbai was at the intersection between Lower Parel, Worli and Prabhadevi. Or what is respectfully called Upper Worli by many. Like anyone else moving into the city with a head full of romantic images woven by Shantaram or ‘Wake up Sid’, I too was on my way to discover my own corners and haunts in the city. One of those was the famed Deepak Talkies, touted as a former “shady cinema” by a local.
When I moved in, I witnessed the end of the theatre’s transformation into a hub of good cinema that is Matterden today. Next to this, a ten minute walk from my residence, are Regal and Eros, with many stories and memories attached to each place.
What intrigued me about Deepak was the strange elephant statues right in the centre. Image source: mid-day.com
When I moved to Goa in March this year, I knew about the international film festival that the city hosts. But my desire for quiet evenings spent watching good films in the company of like minded cinephiles wanted something more than the festival splashed all over the media. Looking at the theatres around me, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to experience the similar charm of watching good cinema in a theatre with fellow enthusiasts. The reason wasn’t so much the small number of theatres or the distance, but that these films do not generate as much revenue. So even if they are screened, it would be one show a day for a week until the next popular change takes its slot.
I remember even in Mumbai, I had to travel 25 km to watch ‘Parched’ even though the area I was living in then had two malls with multiplexes. After failing to watch `A Death in the Gunj’ which was screened for a week at 12:20 pm every day, I was resigned to the fact that perhaps it was platforms like Amazon Prime Video that would help me (I managed to catch Death in the Gunj on the same).
But despair changed to hope. In May I discovered the Goan treasure trove of ‘parallel / alt’ cinema, or good cinema. Also known as the Entertainment Society Of Goa or ESG. Since the International Film Festival Of India (IFFI) is hosted by Goa, in 2004 the state government established the ESG as the main agency organising the IFFI. This has helped to develop Goa into a hub of cultural activity. I had my eyes on ESG from day one when I spotted it crossing the road near Panjim market along the Mandovi river. It’s difficult not to notice the beautiful building, especially since the main bus stop for local buses heading towards Dona Paula is right near the gates of ESG.
The venue where the film festivals are happening. Image source: esg.co.in
Since the past two months, ESG has become a kind of a reserve, where walking into the blackness of the theatre feels like you’re getting transported into the world of the stories playing out on the screen. The same endearing experience as Mumbai!
Another stereotype that bust in these two months was the kind of people who go to watch these movies. In my mind, lovers of a certain kind of cinema dress a certain way, have a certain personality. Goan cinephiles who shared this love for films broke all those preconceived notions. I met so many varied people – locals, migrants and tourists - coming together for the same film.
Initially at ESG I was hosting the 64th National Film Award Winning Festival, that screened 40 different films from all over India in 13 different languages. So I was able to catch only 5 out of those. But I’m glad I did. Another plus, which was much appreciated by my friends who were new to the concept of film festivals, was the fact that they do not charge any admission fee. But the watch time and experience remain just as good.
Poster of the film, ‘Cycle’. Image source: marathistars.com
The film I watched that evening was a Marathi one called `Cycle’, that was awarded the 64th National Film Award for Best Costume Design. I was short on time and unsure if it would be worth my time. Seeking serious documentary films, I had become averse to the genres of family drama and comedy - which is what this film fell under. But I decided to stick around for 30 mins. And the film did not fail to deliver, with a phenomenal role by lead actor Hrishikesh Joshi. Set in post Independence India, it left the audience with a lot of food for thought about the idea of destiny, astrology, belief and the pursuit of happiness.
The ESG is hosting the 2017 European Union Film Festival till the 8th of July. So far I have watched a 93 minute Slovenian drama, that makes me believe the festival will not disappoint. If you are in Goa around the time, do visit. You’ll be surprised to see many fellow cinema lovers fill up seats for a Hungarian film that no one would have otherwise heard of.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Shivranjana Rathore
Cover photo credit: itsartjunk.com