It’s part II of the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) 2023 and it got underway yesterday evening…
TWO OF THE LEAD actors in last night’s opening gala film of the London Indian Film Festival – ‘Berlin’ – added a bit of glamour to the first night of 12-day festival which takes place across five cities in England.
Aparshakti Khurana and Ishwak Singh walked the red carpet and post the film screening at Picturehouse Central in Piccadilly, London joined filmmaker Richie Mehta (‘Delhi Crime’) for a post Q&A discussion.
Despite the film’s title, the action is totally set in India and is centred around a fictional café called Berlin, in the heart of Delhi’s diplomatic district and is a spy drama.
While being fictional, ‘Berlin’ is quite credible as a story and centres around the impending visit of Russian leader Boris Yeltsin visiting in January 1993 and a potential plot to assassinate him as India and Russia looked to negotiate a deal for cryogenic rocket engines. The film says India wanted them to launch satellites but some powers had their suspicions and America is shown in the film as being unhappy about any such deal.
Singh plays the part of a deaf and mute figure who can only communicate through sign language and is somehow caught up in this plot. He is a waiter at the Berlin café, where all staff are deaf and is brought in for questioning.
To probe him through sign language, enter Khurana’s character who is mild-mannered teacher at a deaf school.
Both Khurana and Singh learnt sign language for the film and it did beg the question of why there isn’t more representation of people with different abilities on the big screen.
During the Q&A, Khurana said that he felt there was a change in the industry in India and that it would take time to work through – but he was excited by the possibilities. The film is made by Zee Studios.
There is a third figure in the form of actor Rahul Bose, who also forms part of this story and he is the chief Indian intelligence officer charged with eliciting information from Singh’s mute character. He has reasons of his own for the arrest – which are only revealed later on in the film.
‘Berlin’ travels to Manchester on Friday (October 27) and also screens in at Stratford in East London on Saturday (October 28)
See separate listings for each town (use tabs on home page) – https://londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/
SET IN 1993, writer-director Atul Sabharwal gets great performances from his leads and recreates the dark and murky world of espionage with skill and flair.
Perhaps not the easiest plot to follow, though, it is held together by the intense relationship between Khurana and Singh in the interrogation room, as others listen in and have to follow Khurana’s own voiced commentary.
There is much suspicion all around and other shadowy figures appear who are not well explained but perhaps don’t have to be and to avoid spoiler alerts, let’s just say this is an absorbing, high production value film, if you can stay with it and find beauty and trust in the relationship between the interviewer and interviewee, and the concrete greyness of the world these spies inhabit.
Acv rating: *** ½ (out of five)
Red carpet video interviews – does play properly