Garlands, coconuts, puja... These aren’t the prerequisites for an offensive caricature of India, but the reality you’re likely to see on the first day of a Bollywood masala movie.
Camera Threat, a 30-minute short film directed by German filmmaker Bernd Lützeler, is both a homage to, and a celebration of one of this country’s proudest exports: Bollywood films.
“Set in the dreary nooks of Mumbai’s film industry, stuck between star-cult, superstition and the daily gridlock, Camera Threat explores the ambivalent, and sometimes paranoid relationship that this film city has with the moving image itself. Seated on a casting couch, two actors are getting trapped in their impromptu conversations on the unwanted side effects of a world that no longer bothers to tell facts from fiction,” reads the film’s logline.
The film premiered at the Berlinale in February and made its Indian debut in Kochi in March.
Writing for The Wire, Tanul Thakur describes the film: “Camera Threat, among other things, is an ode to Hindi masala film. And just like the cinema it doffs its hat to, Camera Threat, too, juggles different aesthetics. There are random shots from B-grade movies and old Hindi films; there’s footage of an old film party; some bits, like the scenes between the actress and the director, have been written and performed for the short. In several scenes, the celluloid and digital images are superimposed on each other; in some, they’re juxtaposed. In some scenes the split frames remain static, in some they shift. At times, half of the screen blacks out mid-scene. The camera in Camera Threat acts like a truant: restless, rebel, carefree.”
In an interview with The Wire, director Lützeler spoke about how he first became acquainted with Hindi films, two decades ago after watching Shah Rukh Khan’s Chahat. “Watching such an alien film without subtitles, without understanding the dialogues or the cultural background, was quite different and crazy,” he says. “It was the opposite to the cliché of India promoted in Germany at that time, which was incense, meditation, and smoking pot.”
Over the next few years, he would visit India regularly, collecting “16 mm negatives from Chor Bazaar, 8 mm films shot by tourists in India in the 1970s and the ’80s, VHS from the ’90s,” and his own “digital video and contemporary material”.
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