An exciting new era for Indo-Oz film ventures

Caption: (top) Peter Castaldi, Deborah Lee Furness, Hugh Jackman and Anupam Sharma in Mumbai and (bottom): Director Bill Bennett

By Neena Badhwar

An Australian Film Initiative’s first event in India (AAFI – March 26-27) ended on a high note as famous Indian media house Viacom 18 Motion Pictures became the first Indian film corporate to tap into Australian film industry with director Abhinav Kashyap’s next film tentatively titled Project 18.

Australia’s ace director Bill Bennett (Kiss or Kill fame) announced his next thriller to be shot completely in India. He will produce his film with Anupam Sharma, Sydney based film maker and Australia’s leading expert on Indian cinema.

The announcements were made at a lunch hosted by AAFI with the Australian Consul General as the chief guest supporting these important developments between Indian and Australian film industries and welcoming Viacom18 Motion Picture’s  decision to partner with the Australian film company.

At the end of the inaugural Australian Film Festival and Film Seminars, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures announced that through Abhinav’s film it will formally start collaborations with Australia with long term aims to utilize funding and grants from Australia and investment into Indo Australian projects.

AAFI’s objective by supporting these two pioneering announcements is to provide growth impetus to film trade between the two great countries and provide both film makers the best facilities in either country.

The 2010 blockbuster hit director of the movie ‘Dabangg’, Abhinav said about the news, “I am extremely delighted and honoured that my Project 18 is being shot in Australia which provides me rich spectrum of locations, crew, and other benefits. Cinema has a huge potential, I am sure with Project 18 we will strike a chord. Indian cinema is diverse and rich in its own way to collaborate with another country to encourage knowledge and promote harmony. It is a commendable initiative which will be a huge milestone in Indian cinema.”

The Australian Film Festival took place at Cinemax, Versova Mumbai as part of the FRAMES 2011. The screenings showcased a retrospective on the Australian director Bill Bennett and some of the best movies made by the Australian film fraternity. The initiative being a brainchild of Sydney based film maker    Anupam Sharma (Festival Director), Peter Castaldi (Renowned Film Critic & Festival Director),    Shahnaab Alam (Film Industry Advisor) and Bill Bennett (Ace international) and was able to rope in Media House “Viacom 18” with Cinemax being the screening partner.

Australian Film Festival of India (AFFI) – a two-day festival organized by Australian Film Initiative, a recognized body, featured 20 films including Paperback Hero starring Hugh Jackman and Bennett’s cult Kiss or Kill among others.

AAFI went to India with a vision to promote Australian and Indian film collaborations. Says Anupam Sharma of Temple Films and Festival Director, AAFI, “The initiative started with a single idea of Cinema Sharing Responsibilities between countries and India is our first Initiative solely due to its ever-growing popularity, wide reach and common emotional ties towards cinema. The festival gave the Indian audience a glimpse of our cinematic sensibilities, a land where cinema plays a pivotal role.”

“I am extremely thrilled with the response and sure that we Viacom 18 Motion Pictures on board will help start a new  vibrant chapter in Indo Australian film links.”

Mr. Vikram Malhotra, COO Viacom 18 Motion Pictures said, “Viacom18 Motion Pictures is proud to partner with Temple in developing cooperation between India and Australia in the film production sphere. We are delighted that our forthcoming film, directed by the talented Abhinav Kashyap, will benefit from an extremely film friendly Australia. I am confident that Abhinav, who set the box office ablaze with his first film in 2010, will create a worthy film that will win the hearts of millions of fans in both countries. I look forward to working closely with AAFI in the course of developing stronger links with Australia.”

Festival Co Director and Veteran film critic Peter Castaldi said, “I am excited at the developments after the first festival which has opened up new distribution avenues and increased benefits for both films. This is more than what I had expected from the first film festival and our initiative”.

Director Bill Bennett said about AFFI and India, “It’s an honour that the films that me and my crew have made are being viewed by the Indian audiences; India is a diverse nation even on the cinematic front with choices varying from person to person yet the audiences of India are matured with cinematic sensibilities. Therefore I am excited about the festival which has led the way for a full-fledged partnership between the two nations.”

While talking to TIDU,    Bill Bennett said about India, Indian cinema and his long awaited first trip to India which culminated after many years of uncertainty as a youth, “Finally I went to India four years ago for a holiday. I saw a famous movie of I think actor Amitabh Bachchan and enjoyed samosa and chai. It was a wonderful cultural experience.”

Bill who is planning to shoot a cross cultural film on an Indian theme, said, “The two industries are quite similar though a cultural gap between the two exists. If I need to work in India I need to work in a different kind of way.”

About India he said, “I went to Udaipur with my wife on our 25th wedding anniversary as ‘Lonely Planet’ had mentioned that it is the most romantic place in the world. We were there during the monsoons in July at Lake Palace. To be in Rajasthan can be a very sensual experience.”

“I must say as a teen I was a bit intimidated by India as backpackers from the region told me stories of getting sick and getting robbed and I had this inbuilt fear in me. When I went there first time I kept everything padlocked but I found Indian people to be the most honest and friendly people. My wife and I did some shopping in Jaipur, which we accidently dropped from the autorickshaw we were travelling in. A motorbike driver not only picked up the bag and drove beside us to give it back, he even refused any reward. That would never happen in Australia.”

Regarding a co-production between India and Australia, says Bill, “Anupam and I are working on a film on ‘honour killing’ – based on a true story. We are still looking at financial strategies and most probably it will be shot in Punjab.”

AFFI has surely set a new era in film links between India and Australia with Australia’s handsome X-Men actor Hugh Jackman and his wife Deborrah Lee Furness visiting the event creating a sort of hysteria for the film lovers. Though they both wanted to visit Dhobi Ghat and Kamatipura in Mumbai before they left for Jaipur.


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