It seems Aamir Khan can’t put a foot wrong these days. After a string of monster commercial and critical successes – including 3 Idiots – with him in starring roles, 2010 saw the actor go behind the camera, producing arguably the year’s two best films; wife Kiran Rao’s Dhobi Ghat and Peepli Live, India’s official selection for this year’s Academy Awards.
And now, 2011 has got off to a dream start with Khan chosen to the jury of the Berlin Film Festival which runs from 10th to 20th February. Whilst Cannes might win the glamour stakes these days, Berlin plays host to some of the edgiest and most imaginative filmmakers from around the world. And it’s fitting that one of Bollywood’s most popular, successful and original actor/director/producers sits on this year’s jury.
The 7-person jury is headed by the delectable Italian actress Isabella Rosellini and will choose the coveted Golden and Silver Bear top prizes.
Whilst Aamir Khan will be carrying the flag for India and Indian Cinema, three outstanding feature films from the sub-continent will vie for prizes at this year’s festival. The most high-profile of the selections is ‘7 Khoon Maaf’, Vishal Bharadwaj’s black comedy about marriage and its consequential companion, death. The film stars a string of Bollywood A-listers, including Naseeruddhin Shah and Priyanka Chopra as the beautiful and elegant Susanna, a serial widower who’s gone through no less than 6 rather unfortunate – not to mention very dead – husbands and is now on the cusp of getting hitched for a 7th time.
While 7 Khoon Maaf is the big Bollywood ticket at Berlinale 2011, two smaller films are also vying for the Jury’s attentions. The first, by firebrand director Kaushik Mukherjee is appropriately titled ‘Gandu’, (asshole in Hindi), tells the story of a disaffected young man in Kolkatta who channels his angst through rap, sex and copious amounts of hashish. The film has been described variously as extreme, exotic and intense. It has created considerable buzz in the film festival circuit for its explicit scenes of sex and violence and is sure to go down a storm in Berlin.
At the other end of the spectrum, but no less compelling, is ‘Patang’, a drama set amidst the chaotic atmosphere of India’s largest Kite festival. Directed by two New Yorkers of Indian extraction – Jaideep Punjabi and Prashant Bhargava – the film reportedly took six years to complete and is as much about the magnificent festival as it is about the ordinary lives of Gujaratis faced with everything from grinding poverty to ethnic violence.