My friends Hansa and Sankalp and I have been trying to go to movies together every once in a while, followed by drink, dinner and dissection. We try to keep it on the Western Express Highway, so perhaps this isn't a seriously serious movie club.
But we do all take His Himmness Remix Reshammiya seriously. And looming on our horizon was Aap ka Surrroor - The Real Luv Storry. So the three of us along with our friend Nandini Ramnath, went off with ritualistic fervour to see the film soon as it was released.
Now, it's my intention/experimetn that this not be a blog where I comment on literature, cinema etc but stay resolutely mundane so I won't go into the delightful absurdities of the film or the absolute illogic of its narrative twists. No, I won't even talk at length about Hansa and me standing on the steps to watch the opening song (Mohtarma!).
Because this is really about my travels.
Earlier in July I was in a place called Stuttgart in Germany for a film festival. Part of the activity arranged for us was a "location tour" which I realised on embarking was not about pleasure but business - a round of how Stuttgart and the surrounding regions of Baaden-Wurtemberg were good locations for film shootings.
It is then I discovered that a Bollywood film has already been shot there.
It was none other than Aap ka Surroor.
I was catatonic as I stood on the steps of the Opera House where HR gets arrested.
On the street where he sang "ye tera mera milna (aa aaa aa)."
I then had the great fortune to see
The Making of Aap ka Surroor!
The filmmaker Gabriele Ammerman had made a highly enjoyable, affectionate film which managed to potray the ridiculous working methods of Bollywood, milking them for humour without becoming offensive or superior. And for the first time, as the film began, I used a camera in a picture hall, to take a shot of the screen.
Also met this lady, who was an extra in the song (Mohtarma!) where she had to carry this card (which is one of the M's in HimMesh, or is it HiMmesh).
I was also an important person suddenly because I WAS THE ONLY ONE THERE WHO HAD SEEN THE FILM. For once in my life, I was on the edge.
Why wasn't the film playing in the city where it was shot? Seems the producers had done some not so nice Bollywood type things there (we all know what that means, who have spent many phone hours calling places for our payments). But the Germans weren't bitching. "It's a mystery" said the filmmaker, the person from the Film Commission, the persons from the festival. "They have become completely uncontactable to us." Shock, right?
Well, we all trip on pop culture I know. But really, it's time to remember what a stinking, feudal, graceless, dishonest structure it's often based on and think about that a bit more.
So it was hard to just get a kick from being there although I instantly sms'd Nandini, Sankalp, Hansa.
Meanwhile I have a copy of "The Making of Aap Ka Surroor". It's worth doing a screening of some sort.
The festival meanwhile was fun, resulting in the usual drunkenness, new friends - Surya, Barbara, Pooja, Rita, Gabrielle- and revelry (three cheers for all alchol and also for good DJ's so hard to encounter)- ending with a 2.30 a.m. sandwich from a gas station, sitting on the hotel steps. These pictures have been taken by Barbara, who lives in Vienna and has a Bollywood website (babasko.blogspot.com). In the process I discovered two superb drinks - whiskey ginger (whiskey with ginger ale) and radler (beer with apple juice, sort of like a shandy).
Also in Stuttgart, living in a castle apparently( called Schloss Solitude, sigh), was my friend Sarnath. However, this picture proves that living in a castle does not mean you can take bad kulfi from German-Indian stalls into the cinema and so Sarnath and Tina stood outside wolfing theirs down.
I had wisely eaten none. Would you, from stalls like this? (actually i ate several bad pakoras from this stall, but never mind that).
Since the festival wasn't huge, I could actually watch quite a lot of films. I saw Vanaja which I thought beautiful. I know I said only a few lines ago I wouldn't say things about cinema etc. - but I was struck by this film principally because of it's maturity and for want of the right English word, lack of chichhorapan. A lot of the films we end up being asked to watch seriously now are extremely shallow in terms of form and content and are made by people who seem to like the idea of being filmmakers more than making films. They make one short that goes to a festival and start acting like they've arrived when in fact, it's merely a nice thing which should encourage one to continue on the difficult path of making work that says something honestly, substantially and with increasing skill. Then we're asked to excuse them because they're young and after all it's a first film. I feel like saying - yes, I too once made a first film. It's a nice enough film but it's a small thing and I certainly didn't take it so seriously and nor did I expect anyone to. On the other hand there are others who have made amazing first films - I don't need to list their names - so the first film justification is neither here nor there. How can we afford to lose the fundamental ability of self recognition - no matter what the success of a film, surely the maker should always know it's true merit (subjective thing, but still). Anyway enough ranting.
But at this festival I saw two wonderful first films so that solidified my rant I guess - Vanaja, which is solid, serious, made with lots of love and attention, with an actual screenplay and marvelous work by all concerned, although it's a little long and seems unsure how to end (but instead of suddenly behaving like a drunk man at a self indulgent party, has the grace to sort of meander elegantly and taper off). The other film was Chetan Anand's Neecha Nagar, which is just fantastic - politically complex (which shows that complex left politics are a function of approach not time period), well written, superbly shot.
Ok enough. Promise to myself - from now on only posts about birds, flowers, rain, food, furniture, time pass. Tourism pictures of Stuttgart and Italy follow.