Arriving at the theater for GULLY BOY, the audience was already in the groove. They were bouncing up and down like we were headed off to a rock concert. Standing in line in front of the Friedrichs Palace on this misty evening was anything but dull. The line to this film was the longest film I have ever seen. It was so extremely long that it went out the door, wrapped around the building and the end of it was nowhere in sight. The crowd was dressed to dance and talking nonstop with a buzz and humming sound of happiness that even though we had to wait a long time, no one minded. Oh did I forget to mention that two-thirds of this audience was from India or of Indian decent. I did happen to see the red carpet which was on the other side of the building but thought I should get in line and not wait.
We had to wait 45 minutes longer due to the red carpet. Somehow they felt the need to sign every autograph possible. It didn’t matter. It only built up the anticipation more. I was sitting next two older French ladies from Paris who started showing me all the lovely things they had bought in Berlin: Socks, shawl and even underwear. I had to laugh; I had never felt so close to strangers before. Who said the Parisians aren’t friendly? The film team arrived and the film began but did anyone feel the need to turn off their mobile phones? Ahhh…no! The Berlinale staff even tried to get people to do so but the minute they had their backs turned, on went the phone again. I felt like I was watching THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. When something dramatic happened the whole audience would react. When singing occurred they reacted again. There was laughing clapping and probably even crying although in the dark it was hard to tell.
GULLY BOY is not a typical Bollywood movie. 22 year old Murad (Raveer Singh) lives in a ghetto in Mumbai and is currently studying. His parents see opportunity for him as a driver of a rich family. He sees himself taking a different path. He falls in love with the idea of becoming a rap singer and is interested in the Hip Hop scene. His secret girlfriend Safeena (Alia Bhatt) tries hard to support him but is wondering if he quits school, is he on the right track? Female Indian director Zoya Akhtar captures the socio-economic problems that have developed in the ghettos of Mumbai and portrayed the challenges that disenfranchised youth of one of the minority groups among the Indian population.
The night ended way past midnight since the entire crew came on stage and gave a wonderful show with more rap music and dance. The crowd went crazy and they signed even more autographs as the crowd followed them out the cinema. I have never seen a crowd so full of endorphins. I am sure no one slept that night but spend the entire evening on twitter and Facebook chanting to millions about their experience. There is no doubt that this film is a sure win at the box office this year.
Philippine director Kadit Tahimak (real name Eric De Guia) arrived with his son in full costume. He looked like a wild-eye Shaman who just made a long track from the Philippine islands to Berlin. His lovely long knurled grey hair gave him a sense that this man is wise and we should listen to him. We all sat quietly as we watch the photographic session of Tahimak and his son and we soon realized this elderly man must be related to the Monty python crew. He was hilarious and spontaneous and clever. We all watched the film which is one of the best films I have ever seen.
It was from 1977 called MABABANGONG BANGUNGOT (THE PERFUMED NIGHTMARE which opens with Kadit Tahimak playing the part of a Philippine jeepney driver who tells his story about his love of becoming an astronaut. Idolizing the American space program, Tahimak befriends an American entrepreneur who helps him leave the country and with the opportunity to work in France. His adventures take him not only to France but to Germany give him the chance to make political and social economic critiques on using a low budget. This film is inspirational since he is willing to experiment in flashbacks, old film clippings, dream sequences, outrageous costumes mixed with old Philippine traditions. It is packed with so much information and surprises us that a simple jeeney driver could be so talented and has such a sophisticated political humor that we believe every story he tells us.
When his film was finished, Tahimak arrived singing a graduation song and holding a wicker camera award showing that he had finally made it. He told us that the baby in the film was indeed his son who was standing next to him and that he had met his wife in Munich. He said it had been 40 years since he had been at the Berlinale. He gave a wonderful talk about what inspired his film. How he managed to bring a jeepney here to Europe and how he had to avoid TUV in order to keep driving the vehicle. He also spoke about working at the Munich Olympics in 1972 where he recreated the mascot Daschund “Waldi” out of seashell (Made in the Philippines) to sell. Things went well until the hostage crisis happened and after that everything fell apart including the fact he was totally bankrupt and owned 8000 seashell dogs. Since then he has made several films and said that of course the Philippines have changed. Manila has now grown so vast that much of what was in this film does not exist anymore. The entire time he talked no one left and everyone loved his humor. I was sitting next to one of his countrymen who said that he lives on the North Island. He said his house is crazy. There is not a straight line to be seen in it. He also said he is one of the funniest people that he knows.
Both these films brought something more than just a movie. The culture was alive in the audience and everyone learned something and had fun at the same time. Perhaps this is the direction that the film industry needs to go and not to give in to Netflix.