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Bollywood Fanboy

Peter is a die-hard fan of Indian cinema and Bollywood. Based out of Amsterdam, he works as a visual effects artist when he is not watching an Indian flick or dancing to a Bollywood number! Read on our interview #10 below -

Keshav: Hello Peter, thanks for taking time for this interview.

Peter: Yes. Finally, we found the time so it’s good.

Keshav: So, what do you do for a living?

Peter: Normally, for my work? I work at a creative post-production company or creative production company. There we create advertisements for television, movies and for social media - because everything now is social media. So, yeah, I work as a visual effects artist at the company. I am responsible for manipulating videos. Make it look better by changing things, removing things, adding things, combining things, finishing it with the titles and the logos that the client wants, that kind of stuff. It’s actually more like photoshop sometimes, but then with video. That’s my job in a nutshell. Yeah.

Keshav: You would know what attracted me to your profile for this interview - your obsession with Bollywood!

Peter: Yeah, I was thinking that.

Keshav: Did you get that as part of your work?

Peter: No. It’s a separate thing. Only once we did a commercial for an Indian client. So that was fun, cause then I could talk to them about my Bollywood passion.

Keshav: So before I jump to Bollywood… Are you allowed to tell me who your Bollywood clients were, or which ad did you work on?

Peter: It was for Tata. It was with Messi, the footballer and it was in a stadium. It was a couple of years ago and I don’t remember the details, but it was a fun commercial for Ogilvy, India. So, the creatives from Ogilvy came from Mumbai to Amsterdam to sit in on the finishing sessions.   It was an interesting experience.

Keshav: That sounds big!

Peter: Yeah, it was a big one, but I was not personally working on it. Everyone knows in the office that I have passion for India and Bollywood, and I actually had some Bollywood DVDs and books in my office cabin there. So, when the Indian clients came there, I showed them my little office and they were very impressed, so it was fun.

Keshav: Great! So now tell me, how did you get your passion for Bollywood?

Peter: It was a process. I think I’ve always had an interest in world music, mostly Middle Eastern, Indian or Asian, that kind of stuff. That is part of what attracted me to it, but I think it was just the discovery. I remember once with a friend, we rented a Bollywood movie and it was so bad. This was because it was with Dutch subtitles and they did, I think, a literal translation, so none of the subtitles made any sense, grammatically it was all wrong. I think we watched ten minutes and then we said, what is this crap, and we stopped. Then a couple of years later (it was that in that pre Netflix era that you download everything) I think I downloaded a Bollywood movie called ‘Bride and Prejudice’ it was with Aishwarya Rai.  This was an adaptation of the famous movie and book ‘Pride and Prejudice’. It was a bit of Bollywood movie but also catered to Western people. It was a bit more musical like.

I liked every piece of music, yeah, the colorfulness, obviously energetic dancers.  What also attracts me to Bollywood is very big group of dancers that you see, like Wow! That’s so great.

And then after this positive experience I started to do some research on IMDb, the internet movie database and someone on the forum mentioned the movie ‘Om Shanti Om’, I think it was 2007 or 2008. So, I downloaded the movie. I watched it and after that movie I was sold. Let me tell it to you that Om Shanti Om was like a milestone, a changing point for me. The whole story about reincarnation and the theme about movies, so it’s a movie in a movie, that I found really new. I was not used in seeing that in other kinds of movies, and the music was amazing. I remember the song ’Main agar kahoon;, It was so great, I put the volume very loud and listened to it again and again. So, it started with Om Shanti Om, and Bride and Prejudice was a little teaser.

Keshav: And Om Shanti Om was too dramatic even from Bollyood standards!

Peter: Yeah. I think so because it was something am not used to and, you know, you don’t see that kind of storytelling and that kind of values, and traditions in Hollywood movies or other cinemas. So, for me it was new… I liked it!

Keshav: So, do you have any favourite Bollywood actor?

Peter: Well because my journey started with Shahrukh Khan, he has been in a special place but, to be honest, I don’t like his recent movies that much. I mean as a person and businessman I think he is amazing, but his acting is not my favorite nowadays. So, I don’t have one actor but overall I like Nawazuddin Siddiqui a lot.

Keshav: That’s a very general opinion of Shahrukh Khan these days…

Peter: Yeah, I mean … I have great respect for him, for example in the movie ‘Zero’ I saw some great visuals, and it is very heavy in visual effects so I can relate to it with my work. So, I know how much crazy work is put behind every frame, so from a movie making perspective and visual effects point it was amazing, but story wise and acting wise no, not that much.

Keshav: Which is the best movie of Nawazuddin

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Peter is a die-hard fan of Indian cinema and Bollywood. Based out of Amsterdam, he works as a visual effects artist when he is not watching an Indian flick or dancing to a Bollywood number! Read on our interview #10 below -

Keshav: Hello Peter, thanks for taking time for this interview.

Peter: Yes. Finally, we found the time so it’s good.

Keshav: So, what do you do for a living?

Peter: Normally, for my work? I work at a creative post-production company or creative production company. There we create advertisements for television, movies and for social media - because everything now is social media. So, yeah, I work as a visual effects artist at the company. I am responsible for manipulating videos. Make it look better by changing things, removing things, adding things, combining things, finishing it with the titles and the logos that the client wants, that kind of stuff. It’s actually more like photoshop sometimes, but then with video. That’s my job in a nutshell. Yeah.

Keshav: You would know what attracted me to your profile for this interview - your obsession with Bollywood!

Peter: Yeah, I was thinking that.

Keshav: Did you get that as part of your work?

Peter: No. It’s a separate thing. Only once we did a commercial for an Indian client. So that was fun, cause then I could talk to them about my Bollywood passion.

Keshav: So before I jump to Bollywood… Are you allowed to tell me who your Bollywood clients were, or which ad did you work on?

Peter: It was for Tata. It was with Messi, the footballer and it was in a stadium. It was a couple of years ago and I don’t remember the details, but it was a fun commercial for Ogilvy, India. So, the creatives from Ogilvy came from Mumbai to Amsterdam to sit in on the finishing sessions.   It was an interesting experience.

Keshav: That sounds big!

Peter: Yeah, it was a big one, but I was not personally working on it. Everyone knows in the office that I have passion for India and Bollywood, and I actually had some Bollywood DVDs and books in my office cabin there. So, when the Indian clients came there, I showed them my little office and they were very impressed, so it was fun.

Keshav: Great! So now tell me, how did you get your passion for Bollywood?

Peter: It was a process. I think I’ve always had an interest in world music, mostly Middle Eastern, Indian or Asian, that kind of stuff. That is part of what attracted me to it, but I think it was just the discovery. I remember once with a friend, we rented a Bollywood movie and it was so bad. This was because it was with Dutch subtitles and they did, I think, a literal translation, so none of the subtitles made any sense, grammatically it was all wrong. I think we watched ten minutes and then we said, what is this crap, and we stopped. Then a couple of years later (it was that in that pre Netflix era that you download everything) I think I downloaded a Bollywood movie called ‘Bride and Prejudice’ it was with Aishwarya Rai.  This was an adaptation of the famous movie and book ‘Pride and Prejudice’. It was a bit of Bollywood movie but also catered to Western people. It was a bit more musical like.

I liked every piece of music, yeah, the colorfulness, obviously energetic dancers.  What also attracts me to Bollywood is very big group of dancers that you see, like Wow! That’s so great.

And then after this positive experience I started to do some research on IMDb, the internet movie database and someone on the forum mentioned the movie ‘Om Shanti Om’, I think it was 2007 or 2008. So, I downloaded the movie. I watched it and after that movie I was sold. Let me tell it to you that Om Shanti Om was like a milestone, a changing point for me. The whole story about reincarnation and the theme about movies, so it’s a movie in a movie, that I found really new. I was not used in seeing that in other kinds of movies, and the music was amazing. I remember the song ’Main agar kahoon;, It was so great, I put the volume very loud and listened to it again and again. So, it started with Om Shanti Om, and Bride and Prejudice was a little teaser.

Keshav: And Om Shanti Om was too dramatic even from Bollyood standards!

Peter: Yeah. I think so because it was something am not used to and, you know, you don’t see that kind of storytelling and that kind of values, and traditions in Hollywood movies or other cinemas. So, for me it was new… I liked it!

Keshav: So, do you have any favourite Bollywood actor?

Peter: Well because my journey started with Shahrukh Khan, he has been in a special place but, to be honest, I don’t like his recent movies that much. I mean as a person and businessman I think he is amazing, but his acting is not my favorite nowadays. So, I don’t have one actor but overall I like Nawazuddin Siddiqui a lot.

Keshav: That’s a very general opinion of Shahrukh Khan these days…

Peter: Yeah, I mean … I have great respect for him, for example in the movie ‘Zero’ I saw some great visuals, and it is very heavy in visual effects so I can relate to it with my work. So, I know how much crazy work is put behind every frame, so from a movie making perspective and visual effects point it was amazing, but story wise and acting wise no, not that much.

Keshav: Which is the best movie of Nawazuddin Siddiqui according to you?

Peter: That’s a hard one because I think he’s just a great actor, but I don’t have a favorite, favorite movie.

Keshav: Did you watch his show Sacred Games?

Peter: Yes, yes. He’s just very good in that one. But no, I can’t say I have a favorite movie of his though.

Keshav: So when you tell other people, like your friends or colleagues in Netherlands that you have this passion for Bollywood movies, what do they think? It’s weird?

Peter: They find it interesting but most of them are not really interested in it. But I have introduced some of my friends a bit to Bollywood, some of them also liked it, some of them didn’t. I'm now based in Amsterdam and have quite a big group of Indian friends so, of course, they are used to watching Bollywood movies, but actually yeah, I watch Bollywood movies with my best friends, I watch a couple of them with my mother so … I try spread the love! hahah!

Keshav: And do you pick out movies from past, like from some 70s or 80s or you just watch movies that are running in theatre?

Peter: No, also some older movies because for me, I like to call it Bollywood but actually I like Indian cinema, as a general. It’s my passion so also some of the regional cinemas and also the history of cinema. I don’t think I watch a lot of black and white movies from the 50s but actually I watch a couple of them, but yeah 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, everything!

Keshav: Wow! Do you have any commentary on how quality of Bollywood movies has changed since, in last, I don’t know, 40 or 50 years?

Peter: Well you see definitely big changes in terms of the image and the sound quality, I remember I watched a movie (I think it was a movie from 1993 or 1992) and there was a fight and you could really hear the fists that sound very fake and the sound was all distorted. Then I realized how 1993 was in Hollywood. That was the year that Jurassic Park got released. Jurassic Park is still a very great movie that stands the test of time so then I thought okay, India was really behind. Now I think the movies are almost (some of them are)  at the same level as Hollywood, especially some of the Netflix series and movies like Bahubali which are so heavy in visual effects. .

Keshav: How about the quality of movies themselves like not from a technical perspective? Like the stories, acting, music …

Peter: Recently I like more of the realistic movies which were not there in the past. In the past it was much more escapist cinema, and very melodramatic. But I liked them then because it was a new thing to me to watch this kind of movies. But after watching a lot of movies, and hearing the same stories, the same kind of comedy tricks even I got tired of those. So now I like more the movies with Vicky Kaushal and Ayushmann Khurrana like the new generation of actors, I would call them.

Keshav: And all these people are making very simple and everyday life, realistic movies these days.

Peter: Yeah, but I really like it because if I watch any Indian movie I’d like to see a bit of India, I am not watching Indian movies to see Indians living in New York and doing the same as New Yorkers do. So, I like more realistic kind of movie where they show little bit of the real India.

Keshav: So, last year was a good year for many of these kind of movies with these actors that you mentioned like …Razi or Andhadhun. Did you watch them?

Peter: Yes, yes, I watched those, yeah. Those were a bit more realistic like I said, yeah. So, I liked them. That is now my preferences instead of Zero or that new Salman Khan movie.

Keshav: or Om Shanti Om? Hahahha

Peter: Hahhaha…Maybe if I watched again I would be - Did I really like this?

That can happen, I mean, especially because, it’s like watching 10 years ago so in 10 years your preferences, everything can change, you know, so …

Keshav: If you had to introduce Bollywood to any of your friends, which one or two or a few movies that you will pick for them?

Peter: Let me see. ..Few years ago, I invited a couple of people to my house to watch Sholay. There was only one Indian guy and the rest were all Dutch and other cultures and they quite liked it so if people are open to watching an older movie then I can tell them to watch that. I think Queen is a safe one too.

It’s also shot here in Amsterdam so it has a nice touch from the Netherlands. (Also I was an junior artist / extra in one song)  Let me think...maybe Band Baja Baarat. That was nice, fun and had good songs, and of course Bahubali. Also all those epic movies from Sanjay Leela Bhansali, like Bajirao Mastani. if you tell people it’s an epic movie, then it’s not hard for them to watch, I think because it’s just an epic historical movie, it’s not typical Bollywood thing, except the dances and singing of course haha! So Bajirao Mastani, Queen, maybe Sholay if you want to watch older movie, yeah. 3 Idiots is also a very good movie …

So then let’s start with those. I won’t tell them to watch Om Shanti Om.

Keshav: Sholay it a pretty safe choice.

Peter: Yeah.

Keshav: And how else are you attracted to India besides Bollywood? You traveled recently, I don’t know if that was your first time here. What else attracts you?

Peter: Well, for me the first is the cinema culture. But I also like Ayurveda and I am interested in a bit of Yoga. I think a very nice thing of India is that you still have some traditions so it’s nice mixture of traditions and modern life together. Some people are really attracted to India because of its spirituality or colors. But for me it’s mostly the movie culture and because I have big knowledge of the movie culture I can connect easily with Indians. A big part of the Cinema culture that I like are the songs that you hear every, I mean if you listen to the radio here in the West you’ll hear mostly American songs, but in India it’s like 90% is from the movies.

So, it’s a different take on listening to music there.. What else do I like about India?

Well it’s such a colorful and different country, so if am there I always feel like am in a different galaxy, or different real world sometimes. Some people get a cultural shock, but I just get like a switch from ‘okay, now am in a different life, different world…

Keshav: Yeah, you have to be very open minded to like it.

Peter: Yeah. True.

Keshav: What do you do when you are not working and when you not watching Bollywood movies?

Peter: Yeah. Well not only I like to watch Bollywood movies but I also like to dance, so dance in general and Bollywood dance too. I like to dance Latin styles - Salsa, Bachata and so when am not working or watching movies there’s a big chance that I am going to some dancing events. For example in the Salsa scene and Latin scene, there are a lot of festivals all around the world, where people come together. At those festivals there are dancers/teachers to teach workshops for an hour, 2 hours. In the evening they have a party, yeah you can dance with all the people. So sometimes I do that and yeah, and just meeting up with people, have a drink in Amsterdam, enjoy the weather. But movies and dancing, those are my two main things.

Keshav: Have you ever considered to make a career in Bollywood, like as a VFX artist?

Peter: Yeah, sometimes I think about it but not recently. I am happy at my company now so I am not really thinking to shift to India and be a visual effects artist for a long time. but maybe I can work on some little projects for half a year or something, that is something I would be interested in. So sometimes I think about it but nothing came out of it yet. At my last trip in Bangalore I tried to meet another guy who does the same kind of job as I do (Flame artist)  and works with the same software. It’s quite a niche market so it’s not used by that many people. I tried to meet up with him because I thought, ‘okay he’s living in Bangalore and he’s doing the same kind of job that I do so maybe I can talk to him about it and what it is like to do that kind of job in India but yeah, Bangalore traffic, late work so no! haha!

When I compare the visual effects work in Dutch commercials or more international ones with the Indian  ones, then I think in India they take more risks, do a lot more of funny things, very over the top and as a visual effects artist, it’s nice because you can think big, and do a lot of things. In Netherlands the clients are more like safe. ‘Oh no, we are afraid, so please keep doing the same you already did last couple of years’ but in India they are, ‘oh just add a song, just add some sparkles, just do some crazy, crazy things’, yeah. So, I think it would be interesting, but I haven’t met the right people yet or … yeah, will see, maybe in the future. I Am hoping for it.

Keshav: Fantastic!

Peter: Yeah.

Keshav: You mentioned regional Indian cinema earlier. How does that compare to Bolywood for you?

Peter: Oh yeah. We started with Bollywood and I think most people watch Bollywood, but I also like regional cinema nowadays. If I compare some of the Tamil and Telugu movies then I think some of them are more interesting, especially the music, in comparison with Bollywood’s. In my opinion, in a lot of the commercial Bollywood movies, every song sounds the same. The same kind of beats as the movie before which was popular and if I listen to … yeah, some South Indian songs for example on Spotify there’s lot more melody and soul in it, I feel. Not always but in comparison I think I can make that observation.

I have even watched some of the Kannada movies, and there’s quite a big Kannada community here in Netherlands, around Amsterdam. A lot of people are working as expats here in the city and, recently there was an Indian singer, Vijay Prakash, and he came to Amsterdam for a concert and I also went there of course, because everything Indian that happens, I will be there, so that was fun, I was the only white person in the whole concert!. Before going to the concert I never heard about Vijay Prakash. I have heard a lot of Indian singers before, like Shreya Ghoshal is one of my favorite, Sonu Nigam, Udit Narayan as well. But Vijay Prakash I never heard of him but when I heard his songs, I recognized a lot of them from Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, he sang the  song Jai Ho in Slumdog Millionaire and also a lot of songs that I never heard before.

Keshav: it’s interesting that you watch regional Indian movies as well. Even in India if somebody watches Bollywood, they may not watch movies from other languages usually.

Keshav: How do think about Bollywood dance?

Peter: I started my dancing career in Bollywood dancing 10 years ago. First I started watching the movies but I was watching it alone so I thought okay, very nice movies, very great but I want to share it with some people or what else can I do with it to meet people, yeah, share my passion

So, then I went to a Bollywood class and then I stayed at the school for I think 3 or 4 years, it was a small school in The Hague, a small city in Netherlands which has a big Suriname Hindustani community. At the dance school, there were no NRIs or no real Indians but there were the Surinamese Hindustani people. The teacher, Sandhya Maniessing, and the school Ghunghroo ki Pukar, was very traditional with a lot of hand movements, so for me it was like for the first time, okay, what is this? Also she had a lot of contacts and somehow, she got invited to all kinds of events, and I went to those events with her, even backstage with Shahrukh Khan when he was in the Netherlands. I even did some event hosting for Sonu Nigam, when he gave a concert, all kind of things happened so that was very fun.

Now I live in Amsterdam, I go to a Bollywood dance group and it consists almost exclusively of Indian expatriates so it’s a different experience. It’s nice to see those two differences, Suriname Hindustani people, they are still quite traditional with the dances and with the costumes and Indian expatriates they are quite more modern of course, because in India also life went on through the years and a lot of progress happened.

Keshav: Fantastic! And it’s been a great time interviewing you!

Peter: Yeah. I hope you got some useful information because I doubted myself. Sometimes you start talking about one topic and you end up in this, in this, in this, so I wish you lot of good luck to make something out of it!

More from Peter –

  • Favourite Bollywood movies – Dil Se, Karz, Dabangg, Bombay (likes movies by Mani Ratnam)
  • Favourite South Indian movies – On no.1 Sagara Sangamam – about a Bharatnatyam dancer, played by Kamal Hassan, Alai Payuthey, Muthu, Engeyum Eppodhum, Vaaranam Aayiram

Check his youtube channel at – https://www.youtube.com/petervanrij

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