From Fearless Nadia to formula-free scripts, German filmmaker and curator Dorothee Wenner tells Sravasti Datta what makes Indian films fascinating
Dorothee Wenner, well-known German filmmaker and curator, became fascinated with Indian cinema after she watched Fearless: Hunterwali Story, a documentary film on Fearless Nadia, the original “stunt queen of Bollywood”.
“I was initially interested in the historical aspect of Indian cinema. But I eventually found myself getting drawn into the Indian film industry and it made me want to come back to India every time,” says Dorothee who is the delegate for films from India for both the Berlinale and the Dubai International Film Festival.
Star Biz, a hyper-realistic documentary, by Dorothee and Merle Kröger, was screened recently at the Max Mueller Bhavan/Goethe Institut, Bangalore. Speaking about the film, Dorothee says, “I always find it interesting that in India, I find myself forced into conversations about Adolf Hitler, soccer and Mercedes. I don’t emotionally connect with any of these topics, but I understood that Indians have a fascination for the Mercedes. The Mercedes has played an influential role in the mutual perception of both countries,” says Dorothee.
In Star Biz, the Mercedes is used as a symbol to examine the appropriation of consumer and luxury goods from Western countries to India. It also depicts the coming together of the German car industry and the Indian film industry in Mumbai and Berlin.
Germany’s perception of India, Dorothee says, has changed dramatically, and Bollywood has played an important role in this change of perception. “Fifteen years ago, India was perceived by Germany as a slum. But through the economic rise of India, the general perception of India has changed and is now considered a country of economic opportunities. There is this intrigue about Bollywood. I have met people who have been so influenced by Bollywood, that they have learnt Hindi, have made friends with Indians and even visited the country,” says Dorothee.
The structure of the Indian film industry, Dorothee says, has changed over the last few years. Thus, reflecting the evolution of India. “The film industry has undergone a transformation because of urbanisation, a change in architecture and how multiplexes have become the centre for a diversity of audience. Digitisation has also allowed for smaller films to be made. There is also a new generation of filmmakers emerging who want to make films outside the formula.”
Urban audiences have developed a sensibility for different kinds of films, says Dorothee. “They have an understanding of European films as well as regional films.”
Dorothee has visited Mumbai frequently and has made a documentary on the ladies’ special train in Mumbai. “I had a friend who once told me I want to stay in Mumbai because it reminds one of the New York of the 1980s!”