There’s a lot to be said for ‘soft diplomacy’. Australia is home to an increasingly large Indian diaspora with many settling in the western suburbs of Melbourne. Part of the allure may have something to do with the films of Anupam Sharma. He’s an Indian director, producer and actor who’s been building the Australian/Indian film relationship since 1998.
He pioneered Bollywood co-productions here and boasts a record number of films, documentaries and advertising productions being shot in Melbourne and regional Victoria.
Anthony Gleeson had a chance to chat with Anupam about his latest film, Brand Bollywood Downunder, the story of the ‘Bollywoodisation’ and globalisation of Indian popular cinema through its love affair with Australia.
‘I was born in India … I used to come to Australia when I was a kid because my grandparents and my maternal family were the first bunch of doctors who moved here in the early 70s in Tasmania.’
‘When I finished year 12 I moved to this lovely country because we had a permanent residency and I studied a bachelor in films, completed a masters in films … and then I realised no Indian films were coming here so like many migrants I said let’s combine the two cultures I have inside me, the Australian culture and the Indian culture…and let’s promote Australia to the world’s biggest film industry India.’
‘It was the right time and the right place with some of India’s biggest Bollywood stars coming and then it kind of got a life of its own and became almost a niche boutique industry. But most importantly promoting Australian tourism, Australian education facilities, and supporting trade between Australia and India.’
‘When a Bollywood film comes people say ‘Oh where did that film go, and a lot of students, a lot of tourists go to that place. It’s good for the economy but good for the diversity of Australia because here they were interacting with a totally different film culture, but also understanding their next door Indian neighbour because this was a time when the Indian diaspora was increasing as well.’
‘People were seeing more and more Indians lining outside a Hoyts mainstream theatre watching a Bollywood film so the curiosity increased. What started as an alien or an immigrant culture is now part of the Australian subculture so when you get a chance go ahead and … watch a Bollywood film and learn about a diverse culture, learn about an Indian next door to you.’