Cinema

Marry Me! and the mishmash of cultures

A still from Marry Me!, a film that comes at a time of debate on tolerance in Germany and India. Photo: Wueste Film Ost

A still from Marry Me!, a film that comes at a time of debate on tolerance in Germany and India. Photo: Wueste Film Ost

German film director Neelesha Barthel loves exploring the clash between cultural values and individual lifestyles, a main theme of her debut film, Marry Me!, screened recently at the MAMI Film Festival here.

The film starts with protagonist Kishori (Kissy) running away from a man who tries to be more than a short affair for her. She rides her bicycle through the streets of Berlin saying, “My life is completely in order as it is.”

That is what her Indian grandmother Sujata (Bharti Jaffrey), suddenly intruding into her life, is completely opposed to.

She threatens to sell the house Kissy lives in and put an end to the bohemian lifestyle of its inhabitants unless Kissy gets married to the father of her daughter.

The film is autobiographical in many aspects as Barthel’s mother is Indian and father German. As protagonist Kissy did, Barthel lost her mother when very young.

Barthel, who admires the way dramatic and comic elements are folded into the plot of Masala movies, wanted to tell a story combining serious aspects such as loss and commitment phobia with a certain lightness. She spent six years on the film.

“I have been on the lookout for what my origins are. I think most people with mixed parentage are,” she says.

The film comes in at a time of heated debate about tolerance both in Germany, where resentments are growing against people of other origins in the wake of the refugee crisis, and in India. Barthel describes these developments as “frightening”.

In her film, she uses stereotypes as comic material. When Sujata arrives in a shabby-chic part of Berlin, she says: “It’s all broken.” “Well, it’s meant to be that way,” says her granddaughter.

“And what is all that dirt?” “That’s street art.”

“My own grandmother is much more open to my lifestyle than grandmother Sujata in the film,” Barthel says.

(The article has been corrected for factual error)


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Printable version | Jun 30, 2022 4:00:01 am | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/neelesha-barthels-marry-me-and-the-mishmash-of-cultures/article7851389.ece