Diplomats are usually perceived as stuffy folks with stiff upper lips and nuanced views on all matters. Not so the German ambassador to India, Michael Steiner, who has unleashed on the world a Bollywood-style video that sees him cavorting with his wife Eliese Steiner and former foreign minister Salman Khurshid.
The eight-minute video is a remake of the song “Kal Ho Naa Ho” from the 2003 film of the same name that has the envoy, his wife and Khurshid portraying the roles that were played by Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Saif Ali Khan.
Complete with cheesy sequences of the two sixty-something men wooing Eliese Steiner in set-ups straight out of a Bollywood movie, the video features the envoy gamely lip-syncing to the lyrics of the hit song.
In a sequence shot at India Gate, Steiner appears in a white outfit similar to the one worn by King Khan in the movie before switching to a stylish sherwani to dance with his saree-clad wife. And there’s even a cameo by activist Madhu Kishwar, who plays Steiner’s mother in a hospital sequence.
The video, directed by Sumit Osmand Shaw of Baanyan Tree Productions, describes itself as a case of “loving Bollywood too much”.
"This is why Michael Steiner, German Ambassador to India, and Salman Khurshid, former foreign minister of India, without taking themselves too seriously, plunged into uncharted waters," the embassy said.
The video was titled "Lebe Jetzt" because the expression, in German, means exactly what the song "Kal Ho Naa Ho" asks people to do: Live right now to the fullest!
Besides the sequence at India Gate, the video was largely shot within the German Embassy. Karan Johar and Sonu Nigam, who composed the music for the song, sent video messages from New York and Mumbai to mark the video’s launch.
Steiner, 65, said working on the music video was tough and had renewed his respect for actors.
"There were three difficulties - one, the only acting that I did was in my school some 50 years ago, second, I don't know Hindi so lip-syncing was very hard and third, Germans are not known for their sense of humour," he said.
"It was a challenge. These actors are masters and I had to imitate them. I realised that you cannot imitate Shah Rukh Khan. He is such a perfect actor. We wanted to show our respect to Bollywood and these fantastic actors. They are very popular in Germany."
Khurshid, who is a leading lawyer and a senior leader of the Congress party, said he agreed to appear in the video because it was an attempt at "soft diplomacy aimed at nurturing people-to-people contacts".
"Young people in Germany are excited about Bollywood and this was a peg on which we could see how India and Germany can work together," Khurshid, 62, told Hindustan Times.
He described his acting turn as "very demanding but enjoyable". He added, "I had to get away from law to do this but they were very good as they filmed all my scenes in one day."
The event was attended by Saif Ali Khan, his mother Sharmila Tagore and Javed Akhtar. (Photo courtesy- india.diplo.de)
Sharmila Tagore said it was fun to see Steiner doing Shah Rukh Khan’s role and Khurshid playing her actor-son Saif Ali Khan.
"Bollywood has been a wonderful ambassador of Indian culture and Indianness all over the world. Many years ago we were slightly rubbished but everybody knows the potential of Bollywood now. Also, the theme of 'Kal Ho Naa Ho' resonates with the youth," Tagore said.
Saif described the video as a "unique diplomatic effort", saying he enjoyed watching the envoy.
Javed Akhtar, who wrote the lyrics for "Kal Ho Naa Ho", joked that he always knew politicians and diplomats were good actors and the video provided ample proof to back up his belief.
Steiner described Bollywood as a cultural institution. "This is the one instrument to connect to the world and it is a very good instrument. Me and my wife are Bollywood addicts. She has seen more than 150 Bollywood films...we have seen them together," he added.
(With inputs from agencies)