The Metropol Kino cinema hall in the bustling city centre of Stuttgart is in a festive mode. Red carpets show the way to the entrance hall, and rose petals are strewn on the tables in the centre. Huge posters of Indian cine stars Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan adorn the walls. This is the venue of the Indian film festival ‘Bollywood and Beyond’ in Stuttgart organized by the Film Office of Baden Württemberg. The festival was started five years ago as part of the partnership between the two cities of Stuttgart in Germany and Mumbai in India.
Bollywood cinema has conquered the world
The festival aims at promoting awareness in Germany about Indian cinema and culture, said director Oliver Mahn: “The final goal is to bring people together. To give them information about other people, other cultures, I think that it’s very necessary in our globalised world to know something about the circumstances of other people. I think we can bring a bit more information to the audience as well as to our guests from India -- a lot of them are in Europe and Germany for the first time so they have also new impressions.”
The popularity of the festival is a sign of the growing Bollywood fan following in Germany. Be it through national television channels such as ZDF or RTL, the big screen in multiplexes or even the growing DVD market, Bollywood films have become a hit among Germans of all ages.
But unlike in other Western countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom, the fans are not only Non-Resident Indians, but primarily German speaking people. According to estimates by the German-language Bollywood magazine ‘ISHQ’, there are nearly two million German-speaking people who are interested in Indian movies, music, culture and traditions.
ISHQ publisher Naseem Khan explains this phenomenon. “There is a need here. The Western lifestyle is very technical and structured and the people really love to go away from this very strict and cool society and fly into a Bollywood film, which is so rich in emotion. There is a market here. Many people love it, so it works.”
Colourful world of India
So with Bollywood hits such as Jodhaa Akbar, Chak De! India, Taare Zameen Par and also many popular regional films, the colourful world of Indian cinema is well represented.
A few yards away from the cinema hall is the “Street of India”, where people can taste different kinds of Indian cuisine, and buy Indian products including embroidered bags, scarves, jewellery and Bollywood DVDs.
At one of the food stalls is Harsha Oza. Born and brought up in Mumbai, India, Mrs Oza has lived in Germany for 29 years. With her stall on the Street of India, she sees herself as a proud representative of Indian culture.
“I want to show that India is not only Punjab or north India, it is every part of India; and every part of India has a different tradition, a different culture and a different food tradition that I want to present.”
More than glitz and glamour
As the name suggests, ‘Bollywood and Beyond’ also aims at giving people a glimpse of the world outside of the glitz and glamour of Bollywood. This is done through short films and documentaries on more serious issues such as AIDS, female foeticide and other socio-economic problems more specific to India.
The Tea Talks, or discussion rounds, give detailed information about various aspects of India such as the political structure, Ayurveda, or the changing face of modern India.
But of course, there is also time for fun. From the workshops in classical temple dance or Bollywood dance and the classical Indian music concerts to the Indian Vibe Night with famous DJ Punjabi MC, there is something for everyone.
For those with an open mind, ‘Bollywood and Beyond’ is not just enjoyable but it is also a valuable learning experience.