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Sex, Kites and Aamir at the Berlin Film Festival

Last updated on: February 16, 2011 16:06 IST

Sex, Kites and Aamir at the Berlin Film Festival

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Aseem Chhabra

Aamir Khan looks unrecognisable at the 61st Berlin Film Festival, as he sports a beard for a character he is going to play in director Reema Katgi's yet-untitled film.

Khan is on the international jury of the festival (the first for an Indian actor), headed by actress Isabella Rossellini.

On the opening night last Thursday, he wore a black sherwani. But since, the actor has shown up at press screenings in casual wear. He wears earrings too, perhaps an ode to his Lagaan days!

Khan has never been on an international film festival jury so far, and the actor may be enjoying it. But there is no mass hysteria surrounding Khan's presence in Berlin, partly because his beard makes him unrecognizable.

Germans seem to know the other Khan -- Shah Rukh -- much better. Last year SRK was at the festival with his director friend Karan Johar and co-star Kajol for the world premiere of My Name is Khan. 

There were many young German girls standing in the snow carrying placards declaring their love for Shah Rukh. And his films are very popular on German television.


Image: Jury members Guy Maddin, Isabella Rossellini, Jan Chapman, Nina Hoss, Sandy Powell and Aamir Khan attend the 'True Grit' Premiere
Photographs: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
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Sex, Kites and Aamir at the Berlin Film Festival

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Aamir and Kiran Rao were seen at one Indian event -- the European premiere of Bengali director Q's Gandu. In a brief conversation before the film started, Khan said he would shave the beard before Katgi's film. His role in the film (it also stars Rani Mukerji) is of a cop and his character will have a moustache.

Rao mentioned that while she had been seeing films and also discovering Berlin with friends, Khan's jury duties required him to see all the films in completion. Their favourite film so far has been the Iranian entry in the main competition section, Nader and Simin, A Separation, directed by Asghar Farhadi. 

The film -- an exceptionally well made drama that captures class, ethics and morality issues -- received strong applause at the press screening and later that night, at its official premiere.

An Iranian film at the Berlinale brings to mind the condition of filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who is currently serving a prison term in Iran. Panahi was supposed to be on the jury at this year's Berlinale and the festival has officially kept an empty seat in his honour.

Many have spoken out against Panahi's imprisonment. Even Khan made the following statement in an interview with Variety: 'It's very sad. Freedom of speech should never be taken away.'


Image: Kiran Rao and Aamir Khan
Photographs: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
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Sex, Kites and Aamir at the Berlin Film Festival

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Gandu is a shocking yet meditative exercise in alienation, coupled with explicit sexual rap lyrics and some very intense sex scenes. It is a visually powerful film -- mostly shot in black and white, and the first of its kind in India. 

Gandu has been shown in the US at the South Asian International Film Festival in New York and recently at the Slamdance festival in Park City, Utah. 

The audience has been known to walk out of the film's screening, due to its shocking content and the situation was no different at the Berlinale. But those who stayed back gave Q a strong applause (the filmmaker's given name is Kaushik Mukherjee, but he prefers to be called by the 17th letter in the English language alphabet). 

Later at the Q&A, the director was asked whether the film could be shown in India in its original form. "The last time we checked, no," he said. But he added that college students had established Gandu fan clubs in some parts of India, simply based on watching the film's trailer. "We have to find a way to get the film to them," he said.

Q was also asked why the film carried so many and such explicit sexual scenes. His response was: "It is extreme cinema. When I make a film about a young man's frustrations, then 70 percent of it has to be about sex."


Image: A scene from Gandu

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Sex, Kites and Aamir at the Berlin Film Festival

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The after-party for Gandu was held at a smoky bar called Bohnen Gold. The back room was packed with many young film personalities from India, including the Gandu team -- actors Anubrata, Rii and Joyraj. 

Also present there were actor and filmmaker Aamir Bashir, who recently showed his film Harud at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, and Prashant Bhargava whose family drama Patang opened at the Berlinale last weekend.

Patang, starring Seema Biswas, Nawaz and Sugandha Garg is a visually stunning family drama set against the backdrop of the Uttarayan kite festival in Ahmedabad.

This year Bollywood does not have much of a presence at the Berlinale. But there's talk that Vishal Bhardwaj's 7 Khoon Maaf will be premiered on Thursday.


Image: A scene from Patang

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