42 QUESTIONS WITH SMRITI KIRAN
In this series, we ask people the hard questions about things that matter – like girl power movies, role models, and #metoo.
This week we talk to Smriti Kiran, author, producer, and Creative Director of MAMI Film Festival.
WORDS BY THE CITY STORY TEAM
1. MAMI is 20 years old. What were you doing in 1998?
Trying to grapple with brutal working hours in the television industry and get sense of a new relationship.
2. Which was the first MAMI you attended and what was that like?
Technically, I have never attended MAMI. The first time I heard about MAMI was when I was being brought on board as a creative consultant in 2014.
3. Did you ever imagine one day you’d be Creative Director of an amazing movement like this?
4. What is the best part of what you do?
The people, the challenges, the scope, the madness. If it is not frantic and wildly satisfying, then it is not worth it, and this applies to all aspects of my life.
5. What ratio of instinct: experience when watching a film helps you decide what goes into the festival?
It is 75 per cent instinct and 25 per cent experience.
6. What does a city’s taste in film tell you about the city?
I would like to assess supply before judging consumption patterns.
7. What’s special about Mumbai moviegoers?
They know their cinema and they are willing to kill to get to it!
8. MAMI is now in Delhi. Are they more likely to be star struck?
Delhi is a beast. We are still wrapping our head around it, but it is a city I grew up in, so I know that it is a beast worth investing in! Dilli ka pyaar dilli ki sardi se bhi haseen hai!
9. Have you ever been star struck?
Always, but I have learnt to keep my shit together when faced with industrial strength charm!
10. Which is your favourite single screen cinema in Mumbai?
11. Which has been your favourite around the world?
Out of the ones I have been to, the massive theatre in Madinat Jumeriah in Dubai.
12. No budget concerns – your dream place to holiday for 3 days, a week, permanently move…
New Zealand and Scotland
13. How do you unwind? (Or do you ever?)
Japanese Katsu Curry, boxers, and a great web series. Or vodka soda, board games, and people I can chat all night with about random stuff!!
14. Best place for a long, lazy brunch?
Pali Village Café or The Bombay Canteen
15. Where do you get the best mimosas in Mumbai?
16. Where do you go for a quick meeting and coffee in the city?
Sequel in Bandra.
17. Where do you recommend going on a girls’ night out?
18. What kind of fitness routine does your schedule allow?
No kind, as you can see! Crossfit will always be a favourite. I would love to go back to it.
19. What is your favourite style of clothing?
Nicely fitted jeans, a low cut kurti, sexiest pair of keds with bling, and lots of bangles.
20. What is a random act of kindness you recently received?
A hand-written note from a person I was least expecting it from!
21. Who is your favourite Hollywood film actor?
Admire their work – Daniel Day Lewis, Nicole Kidman. To date – Chris Evans.
22. Most overrated film this year?
Avengers: Infinity War
23. Most underrated film this year?
24. What representation of women on screen recently has thrilled you?
Tabu in Haider, Bhumi Pednekar in Dum Laga Ke Haisha.
25. What’s a classic girl power movie?
Thelma and Louise and Kill Bill
26. What are you reading right now?
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
27. You wrote The Original Screenplay about the making of the 3 Idiots (Hindi cinema’s most successful film) – have you ever read a Chetan Bhagat book?
Yes! Two of them, actually!
28. What are you learning about Indian writers telling Indian stories via Word To Screen?
I am discovering a lot…The learning has to still kick in!
29. Do you have a story you’ll one day make into a film?
Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ontaatje
30. Are you immune to hype about a film or TV show before you watch it?
Not immune, but I watch regardless of reviews and form my own opinion.
31. Recommend something we should watch…
The Girlfriend Experience on Amazon prime and Easy on Netflix.
32. Have you been told you’re a role model for women yet?
Shockingly, yes, but I am very far from a “traditional role model”. I feel like the naughtiest kid in the class who has been made the class monitor.
33. Who’s been your role model and why?
There are so many people. Young and old, famous and obscure. If I can learn from someone, they are a role model. It is as simple as that. Just like soulmates, I feel it is not possible to have a single role model.
34. Three ambitions you have for the rest of your lifetime…
Fitness, helping people and making a difference, and learning to not friendzone men I am interested in.
35. Fill in the blanks: Teach a man to be charming and you’ll ensure receiving thank you cards for the rest of your life.
36. What a girl wants is…
To eat all the time and not get fat!
37. What's surprised you about the #metoo movement?
The fact that it took so long to happen across the world; the fact that, despite the feeling that it took so long it feels it has come earlier than expected to India; and the fact that it has not gone as wild as it should have. We need to keep the momentum, or this will disappear, and things will become worse for women than before. Too many years of putting up with shit and adhering to age old norms and narratives.
38. Women are well represented at MAMI – how tough has this been to effect?
This has happened organically. Not a conscious decision! Regardless of gender, MAMI needs solid workhorses and mostly the women have been the ones who have stepped up to this challenge.
39. You've had to navigate some grey areas regarding axing certain films at MAMI. What's been the toughest thing to deal with?
Causing pain to people I care about.
40. What's been the dumbest reaction you've seen to the entire situation?
That #metoo is a fad!
41. What's it like working as a troika of boss babes?
This is the singular reason why what we do is possible!
42. You’ve worked across media… what’s the hardest industry to work in today?
Photograph by Tejinder Singh (courtesy Smriti Kiran)