Bringing Bollywood to Melbourne

Words by Gabriel Rehmtulla
Photography by Gabriel Rehmtulla

Reflecting on the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne.

When one thinks about India, perhaps the first picture that comes to mind is the Taj Mahal – a colossal monument dedicated to love, a white marble mausoleum built by grieving Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. A story of romance that inspires millions across the globe, Indians included.

Another such beauty that has bloomed from India is that of it’s thriving film industry – Bollywood. Its century old origins and evolution into a unique musical style of storytelling with colourful dances and lengthy runtime – Bollywood movies have established a genre of their own. It has also become the world’s largest film producing industry with more than a thousand movies produced each year, influencing even Hollywood to adopt that form of musical-motion-picturisation in some of their movies, like Moulin Rouge.

Melbourne being the melting pot of all cultures, includes migrants from the Indian subcontinent who brought their famously spicy cuisine, fashion fusions, dance styles and films to blend with the existing vibrant tapestry of multiculturalism. Indians by nature love to celebrate almost everything life has to offer. To celebrate “light” there is Diwali, to celebrate “colours” there is Holi, countless other festivals fill the Indian calendar.

In 2012 the Victorian State Government formally acknowledged the potential of Indian cinema and founded the annual Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) to form a bond with the thriving industry. Mitu Bhowmick Lange, the owner of Mind Blowing Films has been organising the colourful festival since March 2012.

A carefully curated selection of Indian documentaries, art house films and box office hits are showcased each year, highlighting particular social issues. IFFM 2018 aimed to focus on inclusion, raising awareness about many social issues, including segregation of cultures. 

Australian filmmaker, Kauthar Aboulalim, won the short film competition, exploring the impacts of islamophobia on women in her movie Found. Jeyachandra Hashmi from India won the same competition, her short film To Let brought attention to the humour that can be found in segregation.

Many celebrity artists have attended IFFM to greet their Aussie fans; like Aishwarya Rai, Amitabh Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra.

Thousands of attendees at the 2018 IFFM belted out the Australian anthem, followed by the Indian national anthem, just after the Indian flag was hoisted by Bollywood star Rani Mukherji at Federation Square. The moment was a beautiful message of the ties between Australian and Indian cultures, an exchange of artistic expression. Premier Daniel Andrews announced on the day that $3 million would be put towards growing India’s film presence on our shores.

Films will always have the power to take us away from reality into a fantasy world, but on the other hand they create an awareness of what real life can be like. This industry has spread out around the globe, each culture’s film industry growing in isolation and developing in different parts of the world. In the present day, modern technology has enabled these different niches to amalgamate and create something new and something better. And this is what India brings with her to Australia – lights, colour, music, art, technology, beauty and romance.

This is Bollywood in Melbourne.

Actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan with her daughter Aradhya Bachchan and actress Simi Garewal.

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