GFF Double-Bill: Beyond Bollywood With Monir Mohammed!

And ... take two! The seventh Glasgow Film Festival kicks off TODAY and runs until February 27 with a packed programme of screenings and events. Among the many elements that comprise GFF 2011 – including retrospectives of Meryl Streep and Ginger Rogers, and a raft of superhero-related movies – there was one strand in particular that jumped out for TATTGOC: Beyond Bollywood, a celebration of Indian cinema sponsored by Mother India.

Yesterday, GFF co-director Allan Hunter guided us through the Beyond Bollywood programme. So today we thought we should check in with Monir Mohammed, the proprieter of Glasgow's legendary Mother India family of restaurants (which includes the three awesome Wee Curry Shops), to find out why he was sponsoring this particular strand. In other words, it's part two of our GFF double-bill!

Hello Monir! Thanks for taking the time to talk to TATTGOC. So how did Mother India get involved in sponsoring the Beyond Bollywood strand at the GFF?
We have actually been working with the Glasgow Film Theatre on quite a few things over the last 10-15 years. I've got a real soft spot for that cinema in particular, and the people who run it, and sponsoring something is a nice thing to do – nicer than just sticking an ad in the paper. I think there is definitely some crossover between the clientele of our restaurants and people who go to the GFT. And, of course, we've got The Wee Curry Shop round the corner on Buccleuch Street and it's always full of people who are going to the GFT.

This sponsorship as part of the festival was a slightly bigger thing but it's been a good thing to do. The GFT appreciate it, and they always keep trying to promote us, so we are very happy with it.

(Click here to continue reading ...)

Will you get a chance to get to any screenings at the Glasgow Film Festival?
I hope to, but I don't get out to the cinema as much as I used to. When I was younger, a long time ago, I used to go once a week, back when it was a choice between the Odeon and the ABC. Recently I haven't been going out as much because ... because, well life simply gets too busy!

I think when you’re younger, the films maybe seem more exciting to watch. And as you grow older, they perhaps don’t seem that good anymore. You want to see the classics, you want to watch the films where you know the storyline and you know the acting is good. There are certain scenes that come together so well, they really make the whole film ... and you can watch them again and again. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched The Godfather! I think my wife is getting sick of watching it though. 

What were some of your most memorable cinema-going experiences back in the day?
When I was working full-time in the restaurants, I used to go on my day off – back when they had a double-bill on at the Odeon. Usually there would be one film that was no bad, and one that was a bit more classy. But there was one day I went along and the double-bill was Taxi Driver and Midnight Express. And I still say that was one of the best days I've ever had; two brilliant films at the Odeon.

The Beyond Bollywood strand is screening new films like Road, Movie and classics like A River Called Titash.  But if you were put in charge of your own personal film festival, what three films would you like to screen?

I think Indian films are very clever and they can genuinely change your way of thinking about life. I think part of the reason that many people in India are nice and so humble has something to do with the films that they watch. They are often about family, and the characters who are moral and good eventually come out on top. This has no connection to the restaurant, but there is a classic film called Mother India. It's about a mother and her relationship with her two sons. The mother's wedding was paid for by her mother-in-law, who borrowed money to get her son married. And all through the life of the mother she faces great hardship because she can’t pay the interest off to the moneylender because it is too high. It’s very sad but also uplifting. [Editor's note: Mother India was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1958, but lost out to Fellini's Nights Of Cabiria.]

The next film would be Dosti, which means "friendship". It is a classic black-and-white film about the friendship between two boys on the street – one is blind and the other is crippled, and the blind boy is a fantastic singer who starts singing on the street to pay for the education of the crippled boy. Sometimes Bollywood acting can be pretty awful but the acting in this film is fantastic, and the two young boys who acted in it only made this one film.

It also has around six classic songs in it, really beautiful songs that are actually part of the story of the film. They have become classics. [The song from Dosti in the clip above is Jaane Walon Zara, sung by Mohammed Rafi]

The third film would be Twelve Angry Men – unbelievable. I'm talking about the original film, not the remake. Henry Fonda is an amazing actor, and the tension in the room where everyone is getting sweaty is amazing. One of my favourite parts is at the end when Fonda is walking down the steps and the other juror asks "what’s your name?" and they shake hands. That’s what the jury is all about, they're talking about somebody’s life but they don't even know each other's names. It’s fantastic.

And if they were going to make a film of your life and the story of Mother India, who would you like to see play yourself?
Balbir! [Laughs]. Or perhaps Charan Gill. But if it had to be a Glasgow actor, I would choose Peter Mullan ...

Finally, Mother India recently won Best Restaurant at the Glasgow Restaurant Awards, where you were up against some pretty stiff competition. How did that feel?
It felt fantastic, it was a big award to win considering all the good restaurants in Glasgow – not just the Indian restaurants, it was all the restaurants. It was actually quite overwhelming. But when you win awards, people expect a lot when they come to the restaurant, so it also adds more pressure.

Thanks Monir! That concludes TATTGOC's double-bill ... now click on through to the Glasgow Film Festival website to buy some tickets.