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Day 3 at MIFF2013 began with a talk with Costa-Gavras hosted by Daniel Kothenshulte. Every time we spotted the man at the festival we have been impressed by his vitality. And he was just as energetic and interesting in his answers to the questions about his career as he has seemed on the ground.

We already had tickets to see his latest film Le Capital and that was an interesting way of bookending our day at the festival. But the first film we watched today was Sulemani Keeda, an independent effort by debutant writer/director Amit Masurkar.

Sulemani Keeda

On the surface Sulemani Keeda is about Mainak (Mayank Tewari) and Dulal (Naveen Kasturia), two slacker screenwriters peddling a screenplay to anybody who will listen in Bollywood. In truth it is about the three day romance between Dulal and Ruma (Aditi Vasudev) that begins with a chance meeting in a bookstore and ends…well, you’ll have to watch the movie to see where this relationship goes.

The film benefits greatly from the chemistry between Kasturia and Vasudev, and there is nary a false note in their entire relationship. You have to be as exhausted by Bollywood romance as I am to appreciate exactly how surprising and wonderful that is. In patches, Kasturia’s interactions with Tewari are also enjoyable. Case in point: the scene where Mainak is debating the wisdom of Dulal’s sporting facial hair when they are out together. He thinks it will lead to ‘brand conflict’ which is a confidently nutty take on guys distinguishing themselves from each other when wading into the dating pool.

There are interesting bits of irony sprinkled all across the film, and the audience we watched the film with also seemed to derive a few belly laughs from the hijinks onscreen. For me, the real star of the movie was the blossoming romantic relationship between Dulal and Ruma. Kudos to Mr. Masurkar for pulling off a depiction of youthful attraction without ever being loud or boisterous.

Le Capital

We’ve spent the past few days watching renowned film director Costa-Gavras in action at the Mumbai International Film Festival 2013 – giving interviews, talking to fans, patiently posing for photos and, climbing stairs. The 80-year-old Greek-born director can climb up a flight of stairs faster than a lot of people half his age and this should provide a clue to the kind of energy he brings to his filmmaking.

Le Capital, based on a novel of the same name by Stéphane Osmont, is set in the world of banking and tells the story of executive Marc Tourneuil (Gad Elmaleh) who is made CEO of a large European bank when the existing CEO has a health scare. The board of directors imagines Tourneuil to be somewhat of a puppet and a temporary CEO until they find a better solution, but he has other plans. Thus begin the power games and manipulation. In the mix are the aggressive American banker Dittmar Rigule (Gabriel Byrne), almost earnest executive Maud Baron (Celine Sallette), mercurial supermodel Nassim (Liya Kebede) and Tourneuil’s supportive wife Diane (Natacha Regneir).

In a talk at the festival this afternoon, Gavras highlighted how he preferred the word ‘suspense’ to ‘thriller’ when talking about his films. Suspense indicates a tension caused by the constant question of what happens next and this was the driving force behind Capital as the stakes rise and Tourneuil makes moves harder and faster than even he can keep up with, all the while becoming more obsessed with a supermodel who catches his eye. At one point in the film Tourneuil describes the sharply suited men in the room as “grown up children” and this is an apt explanation for the motivation behind almost everything that transpires – grown ups behaving recklessly and impulsively like out of control children. Only with other people’s money and lives at stake.

The message of greed and its fall out is pretty front and centre throughout and it should have felt heavy handed, yet somehow it doesn’t. The film moves with remarkable energy and we didn’t once feel its 114-minute runtime. The actor Gad Elmaleh, who we’re used to seeing in comedic roles, was thoroughly convincing as a cold, ruthless Tourneuil. His constant refrain when his bewildered wife asks why he needs more money, is “More money brings more respect”. Hard to argue with that, even as you can see him turning into the kind of villain responsible for the financial crisis that ruined lives across the world. That you can relate to any part of such a character is a sobering and disturbing thought.