Based on the bestselling 2010 novel “Why We Took The Car” by German author Wolfgang Herrndorf, “Tschick” is a 2016 German comedy film that depicts two teenagers from Berlin who embark on a road trip through East Germany. Known as “Goodbye Berlin” in English,“Tschick” features Anand Batbileg as Andrej Tschichatschow, one of the two teenagers.
Anand was here in Singapore for the screening of “Tschick”. The film is being shown as part of the 27th European Union Film Festival (EUFF), happening 11 – 27 May 2017.
Popspoken interviews Anand Batbileg, lead actor of “Tschick”, to learn more about his involvement in the film and the experiences he has gained.
Popspoken: How did you come to get casted in this project?
Anand: It was a very funny story. The casting agency was looking for a Mongolian, because Tschick is supposed to be a Mongolian-looking Russian. They sent emails everywhere because they couldn’t find someone for the role. My dad works for the Mongolian Embassy in Berlin.
So eventually the email ended up in my dad’s office. He printed it out and gave it to me. I read it and ignored it for a while, but after two months I decided to give it a shot. So I finally did everything on the last day, at the last minute. After a while they called me to play the role. I sent my information and photos, and they asked me to film a few scenes. So this casting process lasted about two months.
Popspoken: How much of a cultural shock was it for you to move from Mongolia to Germany?
Anand: I realise Germans are so organised. They are like “I gotta get this on time”. Not like Mongolians, we are so relaxed and very slow. It was a cultural shock definitely with the movie. It was something very new to me. I’ve lived in Berlin for 5 years now, and did this movie one and a half years ago. So I kinda know how Germans are like. But this was my first time doing an actual job. I had a responsibility, so it was a very new experience for me. Yeah, I think it was a good experience.
Popspoken: And how did you find the production process?
Anand: The production could not find the fitting roles, so filming started very late. It was supposed to film in the summer, but it started in September. A 2-month filming process, so we had to film from September to November. And the story plays in the summer. So there were problems.
First of all, it was cold, and the trees were not green anymore. So in editing they had to colour everything, and that took a longer time. In October and November, water was really cold in Europe. On the last day, we filmed a water scene. We had to go in multiple times – get out, get dry, and go in again. We had to shoot multiple scenes from multiple camera angles and multiple takes. It was the last day so we pulled through and, I think it turned out great. And everything was rushed as they were trying to finish it soonest so they had less work in post-production.
Popspoken: About the driving scenes – tell us about your experience and how long did that take?
Anand: In Germany, the law is very strict. I was 13 while we were filming, so I wasn’t allowed to drive, of course. I got driving lessons from the stuntman.
Two weeks before we started, they just gave driving lessons so on camera it looks like I can drive. So there was a seat installed on top of the car, on the roof, for the stuntman to control the car from above.
We had multiple models of the car, and one that was modified so that you can sit on top and actually drive the car from on top. So in most of the scenes where they were filming only us, it was only the stuntman doing everything from above. We just had to act as if we were driving.
But sometimes I was allowed to drive. In the shots where you see us in the whole car, that’s when I was driving. I had to act like I was changing gears, sometimes it was very hard to sync everything with the stuntman. He will shift, and I had to do it as fast as possible so it looks authentic.
Popspoken: If you could take a road trip in Mongolia like how you did in the movie, would you and why?
Anand: First of all, Mongolian people are very friendly. It’s almost like a tradition. Normally when people come to your house you just send them away. But Mongolians are very friendly. When somebody knocks on your door, we let them stay overnight or something. So I think such a road trip would be possible. You just take a car, go out to nature and just drive around the place. You will see a house like every 50 kilometres or something. So yeah, I think I could do it.
Popspoken: How did it feel being an Asian in a German film?
Anand: I got along with the team very well. We were like a small family. But there are not many Asian actors in the entertainment business, especially in Germany. There are lots of Asians in Germany but not many Asian actors that represent the Asian community in entertainment.
At first, I didn’t know the importance of my role in the project. I was one of the few Asians in the German industry. But now when I think about it, I’m pretty proud of it. There are not many people who made it to such a big movie, especially in the German industry.
Popspoken: Do you have plans to continue acting in films in the future?
Anand: I think it’s very fun to act. I enjoy it. It was my first movie and I thought it was great. I’m in an agency right now, so I’ll see how it turns out. I’m pretty open to new projects.
Popspoken: Are there any takeaways from the film that you can advise for young Singaporeans?
Anand: Just do what you like to do. For your future. That’s what I learnt. You don’t have to do anything that’s too big. You don’t have to become a millionaire or have a nice car. It’s nice of course, but I think it’s most important if you can live off doing something that you like.
It can be anything you want – as long as you enjoy doing it, pursue that. But it makes no sense to live your life doing something you don’t like, rather than something you like.
I am very grateful to the Goethe Institute for making this trip possible. I enjoy Singapore very much. My advice to young people is just do what you like to do, whatever makes you happy.
“Tschick” opened the 27th EUFF on 11 May. It will be shown again on Thursday, 18 May at National Gallery Singapore to a sold-out theatre.