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7 Khoon Maaf premieres at Berlin Film Fest

Last updated on: February 18, 2011 14:23 IST

7 Khoon Maaf premieres at Berlin Film Fest

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Aseem Chhabra in Berlin

Priyanka Chopra is missing in Berlin.

Last year, the actress spent many weeks in this German city shooting for Farhan Akhtar's Don 2, with co-star Shah Rukh Khan. 

This year, she decided to skip the 7 Khoon Maaf premiere at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival. Her director Vishal Bhardwaj showed up with co-script writer Mathew Robbins, and actors Annu Kapoor and Vivaan Shah, and defended her by saying that her no-show had nothing to do with her recent income tax problem.

The press conference for 7 Khoon Maaf, unfortunately, attracted very few people from the media. "She is promoting the film in India, while I am promoting it here," Bhardwaj explained.

Bhardwaj has been to the Berlinale before. His second film Maqbool played here six years ago. But the talented director does not have the glamour quotient that Priyanka does. Perhaps that explained the poor attendance.

The film's press screening was just as sparse: there were only about 20 people in the theatre. But that may have been because it took place at the same time as the more popular South Korean film, Come Rain, Come Shine's press show.


Image: Priyanka Chopra in 7 Khoon Maaf

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7 Khoon Maaf's premiere at the prestigious Freidrichstadt Palast had a larger audience. They seemed disappointed by the lack of Bollywood presence at this year's festival too.

"Not even John Abraham?" asked Shilpa Sen, an Indian student in her early 20s, when she heard that none of the film's many actors had come for the premiere. Abraham plays Chopra's second husband in the film.

The nearly sold-out premiere screening drew many Berliners, who are mostly attracted to Bollywood because of Shah Rukh Khan's immense popularity.

"German people like Bollywood films because of the large family dramas and the happy endings," a German journalist said at the premiere screening.


Image: A scene from 7 Khoon Maaf

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7 Khoon Maaf premieres at Berlin Film Fest

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At the press conference, Bhardwaj was all praise for Chopra. "When I cast her in Kaminey, I didn't know her work that well," the director said. "But soon I realised that she is a very intelligent person, she has talent and the hunger to work. So when I was looking for an actor for the role of Susanna, I wanted to work with someone who was hard working but would also let the Bollywood people who surround her, be away for some time."

"Priyanka wanted to take chances, otherwise it would have been very difficult for another mainstream actor to play this role," he added.

The Berlinale is the first major international festival of the year and a good indication of the films to open during the year.  This year's festival featured nearly 300 films in three major sections -- Competition, Panorama and Forum, plus a complete retrospective of works by Swedish master Ingmar Bergman, as well as a special presentation: the 35th anniversary restored version of Martin Scorsese's 1976 classic Taxi Driver, shown in 4K digital projection.


Image: A scene from 7 Khoon Maaf

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In the past few years, Indian films have been showing up in larger numbers at the international festivals -- a direct correlation to the emergence of new indie films in India. In 2010, there were six Indian films at the Berlinale. This year, the number was down to four. 

"There is no quota for Indian films," said Meenakshi Shedde, who is the India consultant for the Berlinale as well as the Dubai International Film Festival. "It depends on many factors, including the quality of works from other countries."

One Indian film -- well, actually a British production -- that drew attention at the Berlinale is The Bengali Detective, director Phil Cox's documentary on a private detective in Kolkata who takes up varied projects: corporate, adultery and even murder cases. 

But Cox's very likeable and colourful protagonist Rajesh (or Rajeshji as the director refers to him) also sings and dances to Bollywood songs, and is a caring husband and father. Cox has taught at Kolkata's Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute and was drawn to the idea of making a film on a private detective after he began to discover that it was a booming profession in parts of India.


Image: A scene from The Bengali Detective

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Rajesh was a real find and it is sometimes hard to believe that he is a real character and not a figment of the director's creative mind. That would explain why Fox Searchlight was drawn to the film at last month's Sundance Film Festival. 

The film production and distribution company behind the Oscar winning hit Slumdog Millionaire has bought the narrative screen rights to The Bengali Detective.

The 61st Berlinale ends this weekend. The festival will announce its awards on Saturday. Front-runners include the much talked about Iranian film Nader and Simin, a Separation and American filmmaker Joshua Marston's harrowing Albanian film The Forgiveness of Blood

While this year's festival was light on strong films, there is enough competition in the acting categories. Critics especially seemed to like Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave in the violent Shakespearian drama Coriolanus and the ensemble cast (Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore and Stanley Tucci) of the riveting Hollywood film Margin Call -- a tale of a troubled investment banking firm.


Image: A scene from Nader and Simin, a Separation

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