I’m a big fan of Bollywood: Oliver Paulus
Swiss filmmaker Oliver Paulus, who has completed shooting for Tandoori Love toplining Vijay Raaz and Lavinia Wilson last December, talks to Arindam Chatterjee about his passion for Hindi cinema.Updated: Jan 16, 2008 18:12 IST
He stumbled upon Switzerland in Bollywood while watching a potboiler, somewhere in India, 17 years ago.
Over the years, Indian film crews searching the perfect locale in Oliver Paulus’ home country strengthened his resolve to pay tribute to Bollywood.
Paulus, who completed shooting Tandoori Love toplining Vijay Raaz and Lavinia Wilson, last December, hopes to release the film this year. The film has been shot in Diemtigen, Interlaken, Jungfrau and Lake of Lucerne and Germany and Jaipur. Over to him:
How was Tandoori Love conceptualised?
During my first trip to India, I came across Switzerland in a Hindi film. The effect of this amusing discovery was the subliminal inspiration for Tandoori Love, even though I wasn’t a film director at that time. <b1>
I started writing a story about a Bollywood crew shooting in Switzerland several years ago. But it was almost impossible to get such a project financed. In 2004, Cobra Films financed the screenplay and in January 2005, I returned to India for more research. I spent weeks observing Indian cooks, to do justice to the character of the cook and to gain an understanding of different regional cooking philosophies.
Why the title Tandoori Love?
The movie is a declaration of my love for Indian cuisine. It is also as spicy as Indian cinema. It’s a comedy about an Indian cook, Rajah (Vijay Raaz), who falls in love with a Swiss waitress (Lavinia Wilson). He charms her with his culinary skills. There is a lot of culture clash in the movie. However, like music and dance, the art of cooking travels beyond cultural boundaries.
Don’t you find the mainstream movies in Bollywood banal?
Bollywood is an extremely commercial industry. Most of the productions use the same conventional formula and the same faces. Nevertheless, I’m a big fan of Bollywood. Though the stories and the narrative principles are often uniform and predictable, I am touched. The movies are deeply emotional, full of joy, music, colour, kitsch and luscious pathos — elements that are rare or even completely missing in most European movies.
In Tandoori Love, we have tried to combine Bollywood elements with an European way of story telling. It’s a comedy with a little grotesque slapstick and subtly caricatured figures.
Tell us more about the characters.
The characters should be taken seriously, regardless of the impossible and absurd situations. They are not stereotypes but clearly defined individuals, closely associated with reality. They have a past, their strengths, weaknesses, dreams, and feelings. Even though the plot builds on grotesque and fast-paced moments, there is a profound seriousness about it.
Particularly, Sonja’s inner conflict and Rajah’s seemingly futile struggle for her love have existential depths. Tandoori Love also aims to convey the drama of a young woman compelled to choose between two men. One offers her a safe life-plan, while the other has passionate love.
What about the songs in the films?
The songs are designed for an international audience not used to watching songs. The songs therefore had to be accommodated to European taste. There are relatively fewer and shorter songs. The music is both contemporary and inspired by traditional, ‘typically Indian’ compositions from Bollywood’s golden age in the 1960s and ’70s.
We’re also using succinct elements of traditional Swiss folk music, such as alphorns, choirs and yodelling.
Tell us about the Swiss film making industry.
Switzerland is a very small country. There’s no market for something like a commercial film industry. So, most of the movies are either independent, low-budget productions or international co-productions like Tandoori Love.