The little-known story of how Romesh Ranganathan turned up in an independent German horror movie.
It’s not deliberately name-droppy, but I’ve got to get through the first sentence or two to get to the story. When I first announced that I was doing Film Stories as a print magazine, one of the people – who I didn’t know, but he did it out of the goodness of his heart – who got in touch and offered to help was stand-up comedian and television hero Romesh Ranganathan.
The quite marvellous man has thus been writing a column for each issue where he shares his views of modern cinema. I enjoy it greatly. But an issue or two back, he submitted a slightly different piece. For it turned out that he had a movie secret: on the eve of it being announced he was taking a role in Sony’s upcoming big budget Cinderella film (not in the title role, to be clear), he confessed that this wouldn’t be his first screen credit.
Instead, Romesh quietly appeared in a film that came out in 2014, by the name of Zeit Der Kannibalen. This is, you may have guessed, a German production. An indie movie whose title translates as Age Of Cannibals.
Here’s the poster, to give you a flavour…
At this stage in his career, Romesh – we’re, er, on first name terms now it seems – was building his reputation on the stand-up circuit, and was performing a gig in Edinburgh. As he tells the story, he popped off to watch The Hobbit, and when he returned (many hours later), he got a phone call out of the blue telling him he was in the running for a film role, and that he’d have to do a Skype audition the next day.
To defer to the man’s words, “one day later I was in my bedroom, while my kids played downstairs, doing an Indian accent into my laptop for the director who was calling me from Dusseldorf. I part suspected that there was no movie and that this was actually some sort of fetish thing. He told me that he wasn’t entirely sure what my accent should be but that what I had done sounded close enough and so I was to fly out to Dusseldorf the following week”.
He’d got the role. His character was an Indian businessman, “who, in the process of showing his power to the men he is meeting with, slaps his servant”.
The director of the film, on meeting his new cast member, took him to the make-up artist on the film, pointed at Romesh’s lazy eye, and said “you need to do something about this”.
He was duly taken to the set afterwards, and wrote that “I tried to swallow my concerns about having just arrived in Germany to be asked to slap a teenager in a basement while a stranger watches”.
I read Romesh’s article with flat-out fascination, and realised straight away that I needed to see this movie, not least when he declared that he’d never had a chance to watch it himself.
Three weeks after my order was placed, the DVD duly arrived. And I didn’t have to wait long for some Romesh action.
165 seconds into the movie, we get our first glimpse of the great man, and he looks thrilled. Here’s the opening scene from the film. Be warned: there’s fruity language.
Most of the movie is in German, but it breaks into English a few times. The plot follows two business consultants travelling the world (well, hotel sets). I don’t want to spoil things, as events take something of a turn (the title suggests it might, in fairness), and the movie picked up a fair amount of acclaim on its release (a couple of awards too).
My German isn’t great, however, so I’m here to dissect the Romesh moments. And as it turns out, he returns in the film just over 20 minutes in. I could describe the scene. Or, well, I could show it to you.
Warning: these scene features a swear word and Romesh slapping a child.
That’s, sadly, his final appearance in the film, and his movie debut came to an end with little fanfare, and, unbeknown to him at the time, little interest from BAFTA or the Oscars.
He clearly has fond recollections of shooting the scene in question.
“I was unaware that we were going to have to do this scene about 50 times to cover all of the angles the director wanted”, he wrote. “I slapped that kid so many times. Every take I slapped the kid, he took it, and we did it again. Over and over. He seemed completely unaffected, but I think there may have been some sort of issue as one of the assistant directors came over to tell me that I was only in shot on the first angle, and I had been slapping that boy for no reason”.
“I apologised to the boy, finished my scene and left Dusseldorf”.
The film has never been released in the UK, and given that it’s an indie production, the chances of a subtitled version making it over here are on the slim side.
But when the new Cinderella arrives, and people look at it believed it to be Mr Ranganathan’s movie debut? Well, you now have the necessary information at hand to refute that argument…
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