[12 February 2010] I guess I woke up when it was 7am in India but it was still too early in the morning for Berlin. So I forced my self to sleep. Slept for another 5 hours and woke up from a straight 10 hours long sleep! I am sure Rashmi would be jealous of me. I open my window and find the snow from the night settled on the cars, rooftops and human beings who walked on those roads. It was lovely and I click some pictures of those.
Our scheduled meeting was at 9:30 and I didn’t wanted to be late. So prepared my self and went down to the ground floor to know where we were meeting. It was in the hotel conference room called Saloon 2. I quickly headed to the hotel restaurant to get some breakfast, as there was only 15 minutes left for the meeting. But then the canteen was huge! I almost got lost in it and had bit of difficulty in knowing, which one of the displayed items were vegetarian. Ah! Vegetarianism! I was told it might be difficult to find veg food in Berlin. But thankfully lots of people in Berlin are vegetarians (some for even fashion!) so I didn’t have much difficulty through my next days in finding some vegetarian food. Names in the display were all in German language. However, I finish my breakfast as quickly as possible with some juices, bread – jam and some corn flakes. I rush to the meeting spot.
We met the officials (other than the 4 guides we had) from the Goethe Institute for the first time. They were all very cordial. We also met the complete (almost) group of our program. Next one and half hour was spent in explaining about the things we would be doing for the next 10 days. It sounds exciting. Mr. Sohail Hashmi who runs a production company in Pakistan (who is also the grand son of the person who has written the national anthem to Pakistan! He is a part time actor and radio anchor too) sat next to me and while introducing session, he expressed his happiness that he was sitting next to an Indian. Poetically nice politically true!
After the introduction session, we were guided to the main section of film screening venue and shown around about where to meet and where to find things for the Berlinale. It was exciting and confusing. It was snowing the entire day. It was a nice experience to make a snowball and throw at our friends from the program. But soon I realized that touching the ice in bare hands will freeze my hands. I had to struggle a bit to bring the temperature under control! But then a lesson learnt in the hard way I guess. Ha.. ha.. ha.. Soon we booked our tickets for the day and the next day at the ticket counter of the festival. Since we are accredited people, we had separate counters and it was sort of easy to get tickets.
I ask Natalia if I could contact my old friend Richard (I met him during the student exchange program between FTII and IFS, Cologne – Germany in 2006. He is a German film director. Our friendship brought him to India and he wrote a script about India! A sweet guy with great sense of humor) and meet him as we had some time. Natalia happily offered me to call him from her cell phone. Richard was just next-door! So he came to meet me in 10 minutes. It was amazing to see him after two years. But it was like yesterday that we had met! Thanks to Emails and Skype, we know each others world so much that Berlin was almost the next city for me sitting in Bangalore some 10 flight hours (some thing like light years) away from Berlin. Then we quickly make plans to meet later during the day and we part from the location. I had to catch up with the rest of my group at the lunch. That lunch was planned in a near by restaurant.
The lunch was lengthy but delicious. During the lunch meeting, I was sitting across the table with a senior film critic from republic of Belarus, Mr. Maksim R. Zhbankov. We generally spoke about the film conditions in our countries. It was sad to know the kind of problems they face to make films in their country. He said that its mostly government controlled film making in their country. I am amazed to realize how lucky we are to be in a country where people simply love films and it’s so much more free from the government control! We are critical about censorship in our country. But then that is only against pornography or extreme violence. But then these countries have censorship on the political content it self! I guess this is surely something to be happy about our country, India!
After the lunch, Nicolas, one our guides from Goethe Institute accompanied me, to Alexander Platsa Train station from where I had to catch the train to Richard’s place. Along with me came a little but very beautiful Bolivian actress, Ms Ivette Mercado Zubieta and film critic from Peru, Mr. Sebastian Pimentel Prieto. They spoke in Spanish with our friend from Goethe institute. I intruded and introduced my self. Soon the entire conversation turned in to films from our countries! About Big Bad Bollywood!
Sebastian was very interested in Indian films. He had seen Satyajit Ray and Hritwik Ghatak! I was impressed. He told that they don’t have a film industry in their country. The actress said that she is a star in her country but then they have mostly video films. I was reminded of my Tripura experience. All these days I felt that my film was getting delayed, but looking at these people, I felt so much at ease. I could at least think of making films in my country! Better late than never! But at the same time, I am saddened with the quality of work we produce in India when we have so much opportunity to make films! I guess these people are so creative and enthusiastic about the medium because they have so much problems, issues to talk about. They have seen worst wars in the world, they live in such extreme weather conditions, and they live in such little numbers in such little countries. Their market is so small. Uff! I am happy that I live in India where films are almost a necessity for living to each individual citizen! We must do something to improve our standards and don’t let this great opportunity go by. It was still snowing and suddenly we realized that we were in the middle of huge ground filled with ice completely. We made some snow balls and threw at each other’s. I click some pictures. I wish Rashmi was here with me. It would have been so much fun!
I take the trains as guided by Richard to his house. First I traveled by trains which traveled over the roof top and then changed it to the train which moved on road along with the traffic (something like trams in Kolkatta but much faster) got down at the station as told by Richard. Then walked the alley. It was and old German alley! The history is seen so much in every bit of it. I like it instantly. I found the flat he lived in and got to his house! Oh! La! It was like the flats we see in the world war films. Amazing. Richard’s friend Martine was there and we introduced our self. Richard was talking over the phone for some time as I saw his baby. Bruno, Richard’s son was sleeping happily clad in warm cloths in a heat controlled flat. Richard showed me around the house. Katrine was sleeping. The house, Richard tells me is more than 100 year old. And has seen the world wars! I am pleasantly surprised. The architecture is so lovely and historic I was thrilled all the time I was in there. Later some more of Richards friends come in. it was a lovely little gathering we had there. Katrine too woke up and we were all excited to just see each other after such a long time. Richard and Katrin are a beautiful couple and they have a very cute little baby. I wish them all the happiness in the world. I had great time at their place. It was about 6 when I realized that I have to get to the cinema theater soon if I have to catch the film I was planning to watch. I bid good-bye to the Richard and family and his friends and hit back to the road.
Train travel back to the Zoo Plasta was easy thanks to the map from Richard and helpful people by the roadside. I watched my first film in the festival. It was a nice film about a complicated relationship. I guess the element of alienation was interestingly brought in to the film. Title of the film was: Kawasakiho Ruze. I had the company of Mr. Hasmi for this film. After the film we had a quick dinner at the near by Korean eating-place. We spent about 3 Euros each for vegetable noodles. It was nice and filling.
We reached our hotel easily and came back to our rooms. Its 11 o’ clock here in Berlin and I guess I will go to bed in some time. So I shall stop the day’s writing here. Good night.