My morning started with a nice breakfast, which was more organized than the last one, as I was ready to explore and had some time in hand. People from our group kept bumping to each other in every corner of the hotel. By now, we mostly know each other. I hear that the other person from India is joining the group from today. We meet at the hotel lobby by 10 and started towards the Goethe Institute where we were invited for a breakfast meeting with the people working there. Of course since some of us had the breakfast already at the hotel, we were not keen on the breakfast part of it. But yes, we were excited to meet the people at the institute. As usual, we walked a bit, got in to a train, then traveled underground and walked a little bit and there we were at the Goethe institute.
Mostly every office space has a separate place where you can keep your coats, bags etc. most of the people here carry so much warm cloths that the rooms are usually full! But it is always well attended and well organized. I kept my things in there and got in to the room where the people from Goethe institute were already present. We all joined them for a breakfast. But unlike as I had imagined, it was a very informal meeting. I didn’t know how to talk to the people around there, as I didn’t know anyone of them there. I guess this is my personal problem. If I am in a new atmosphere, I take a lot of time to start talking to people. I take my own time to know the situation around and then jump in to action. Many times it has happened that I have lost the opportunity because I was thinking when I was supposed to be making the decisions! Anyway, some of the group members started talking to some of the people there and there was lots of breakfast, coffee, juices and talking all around. I too somehow intruded few conversations and tried to talk to some people.
When I did talk to people, they were very cordial. They were keen to talk as well. I met a Zambian festival director with whom I spoke a lot about possible film exchange from Karnataka to Zambia. It would be fun to see their films in our state and show ours in their country. He said that he gets lot of Bollywood films there but he was not aware of other types of films we make. Unfortunately, regional cinema is suppressed so much while showcasing Indian cinema that people hardly know that they exist! Looking at this, I felt that I should stay in Kannada no matter what and make films and bring them to the festivals like this to show the other side of Indian film industry.
Then I met two Indians in the same room. One of them is the head of Goethe institute in Kolkatta and the other was a filmmaker, festival organizer from Ahmadabad. Spoke to them for a while and then headed to have lunch at the Potsdamer Platz. The lunch was heavy. It was salads and some orange juice. After that I wanted to explore the film market.
The film market was at two places. So I walk with Martine to the first one. He too had some work there. So he left me there and walked away to meet his friend. I started exploring and talking to people there. It was a huge set up. The film market is a place where many production companies, countries come and showcase their films and try and push them to various festivals, or distribution tie ups etc. lots of business happens here. I was wondering how we could push our Kannada films in these kinds of places. We make some real nice films. But we don’t have a mechanism to push our films in such places. Unless we push our films, we will never have a place in the world cinema. What we would be producing might end up being hyped up home videos! I stroll for some time and saw a notice that the Indian stall was in other place. So I hopped on to one of the transportation cars between these two places and go to the other place, which was near by.
After a while of searching I reached the Indian stall. The information and broadcasting ministry sets it up. It helps Indians who are there for the festival to set up meetings, sit and talk etc. yet I feel that its too little what the government is doing to promote its films to the world film market. If only we could explore the world market rightly, our producers from the regional languages would make so much more money and that would trigger an entire film movement in India. May be, if we do it right, we can even solve the present problem of Kannada film industry too!
Anyway, from there I walk to the session organized for our group at the DFFB. The program was a talk by one of the organizers of Berlinale. Unfortunately, since I had not much interest on what are the German cinemas to look forward at this festival, I didn’t find it much interesting. We wouldn’t be able to watch films anyway!
Then I come to the hotel room to rest for a while before I catch up My Name is Khan (a Karan Johar film staring Shahrukh Khan) I had a dilemma about watching this film here for a long time. But then I have decided to go for it as it’s sold out for continues fourth show! I want to see what in those films do the German’s like! They make – watch – appreciate serious cinema. They also live very seriously. So what is it in Bollywood cinema do they appreciate. I want to know that so I decided to go to My Name is Khan. I hope that this would give me an insight in to how Indian films are received in foreign countries like Germany.
I just came back from Urania Theater where My Name is Khan was being screened. It was actually not too difficult to get to the theater only if I had followed the instructions given by my guide. In my tendency to cross check, I asked the help desk at the hotel as to the best way to reach this place. And they suggested me a single train that I had to catch from a little far away station. I walked in the cold! It was about a kilometer away from the hotel. Walking that distance in cold was too difficult. My hands started becoming number and I had strange feelings in my chest. But fortunately by then I had reached the station. Once on the train, it was simple to get to the cinema.
I was amazed to see the crowd at the cinema for a Shahrukh Khan film, that too at the Berlinale. Back home in India, we give so much importance to this festival and here I was in the queue to watch a Bollywood film! The cinema was packed. (Believe me, it’s the 4 show of this film already at the Berlinale!) Two German girls came and sat next to me. I spoke to them about why they wanted to watch this film. They said they wanted to watch other films, but they were all sold out! What a reason to watch this film! Anyway, then came a boy of my age and sat to my left. Lights went off and film started. It was 160 minutes of none stop Bollywood! It was good to see Neha Parti’s (my junior from FTII) name as associate cameraperson in the beginning title. But the film was way too over the top for me. The boy next to me kept jumping out of his chair with anger! I felt very embarrassed to sit there. The film was shot nicely, edited craft fully but was very naïve in scripting.
After the film, I wanted a quick exit from the cinema to get back to hotel safely. It was 11 in the night and I was out on the cold roads of an unknown city. But strangely the boy sitting next to me was walking towards the same train station where I was heading to. I had to ask his help to find my train. He willingly helped me. Then he wanted to talk to someone about the film, he spoke to me! He started saying bad things about the film. I said sorry for this film. He said… don’t be sorry, you are not responsible for all Indian films. I tell him to watch Umesh’s Vihir tomorrow and I tell him that that film would give him a different view of Indian cinema. He says, he knows that Indians are very sensible. He spoke highly about Satyajit Ray, Ghatak. I wonder where these people get the films of Ray and Ghatak! Everyone seems to have seen them! Anyway, that boy, Daniel came till the station where I had to get down. We had a good time talking to each other about the festival experience and film making experience. He turned out to be a film student from Berlin (he studies editing here) when we left each other, he was happy that he spoke to me and I was happy that I could tell him that this is not Indian cinema is all about. But then I wonder what can I do to change this?
Richard yesterday told me in our conversations about Indian cinema, that mostly in Germany, people consider Bollywood as a different genre. Its structure of being a fairy tale works well with the audience here. After being fed with Hollywood realistic cinema, he thinks people are happy to watch unrealistic, over the top, Bollywood films. I guess probably it’s the reason for the success of My Name is Khan at Berlinale. It’s after all business for them! But I sit in the silence of my room and wonder, for a country which produces the highest number of films in the world, is this all we can do? Can’t we project anything else as Indian cinema? The images of Vihir’s photographs along with My Name are Khan’s photographs at the I&B Ministries stall comes to my mind. I have to get to some sleep to get rid of these haunting images. Good night for now.