Mitu Bhowmick: ”˜Indian cinema is growing here in Australia!’


Mitu Bhowmick

Mitu Bhowmick with Hon. Minister Louise Asher

By Neeru Saluja

She is the lady behind bringing Bollywood to Australia. Mitu Bhowmick Lange, Director of Mind Blowing Films has been staging Indian film festivals since more than a decade. The festival not only brings leading Indian film figures to the Australian shores, but encompasses a variety of contemporary, art and masala films.

Mitu Bhowmick with malaika


Mitu with Vidya Balan

With actress Vidya Balan as the festival ambassador and superstar Amitabh Bachchan as the special guest, this year’s festival will be a winner. The Indian Film Festival for Melbourne will kick off on 1 May with the Australian premiere of the newly-restored Sholay 3D, followed by a Q&A with the film’s star Amitabh Bachchan. Other   guests   include   actress Konkona   Sen   Sharma, filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, RajKumar Hirani;   Bollywood siren   Malaika Arora Khan, actress, director, producer and writer Suhasini Maniratnam and many more.

The Indian Down Under has been covering the Indian film festival since a decade and recently interviewed Mitu Bhowmick. A big thanks to Mitu to take out time for us while she was busy preparing for the festival and juggling duties of being a new mum.

Mitu Bhowmick 1

Mind Blowing Films has come a long way since it’s inception, can you please tell us a bit about it’s origin, journey and success.

I had moved to Australia with my husband, a Kiwi, and was quite homesick. I really missed Indian movies so I contacted director Yash Chopra ji and asked him if I could distribute his movies here. I still don’t know why ”“ he wasn’t one for long conversations – but he believed in me, even when I wasn’t sure I did. We released his films in Australia and New Zealand and, later, he gave his blessing to the Indian Film Festival by being its patron.


Your recent release Dhoom 3 broke all records and now you are about to break another record by bringing the evergreen hit Sholay to IIFM 2014.

Thank you! Dhoom 3 was a particular milestone because it was our first IMAX release. It actually beat The Hobbit at the box-office on Christmas day in Australia, which just goes to show how much Indian cinema has grown here, and us along with it.

We are really delighted to open the festival with a screening of Sholay, the most cherished film of Bollywood. Since it’s release in 1975, the spaghetti western-style action adventure film has established itself as a beloved classic of Indian cinema and is critically regarded as one of the best Indian films of all time.

Till date, which has been your most memorable experience while hosting a festival and producing a film in Australia.

Breaking a world record at Moomba during the Indian Film Festival was very special. Seeing two thousand Aussies and Indians all dancing together…and then seeing that played on the Indian news outlets and showing that Melbourne is a great place, that’s really what it’s all about. ”˜Salaam Namaste’ was the first Indian film to be completely shot in Australia, so
that was amazing to be a part of that too.

What are the plans for the upcoming film festival?

All the favourite events are back. The Western Union Short Film Competition is a personal highlight as we discover new filmmakers and help get them noticed. While IFFM is unusual in that it is a cultural festival as much as a film festival in some ways, it still comes back to great filmmaking and we look forward to seeing what these young filmmakers do in the future. The Telstra Bollywood Dance Competition in Federation Square has to be seen to be believed!                                                                        

Can you tell us a bit about your personal journey in films and background.

I started out in TV, producing episodes, so I knew a bit about production. Then I met my husband in Delhi and we immigrated to Melbourne. I’m lucky as my background meant we can help Indian productions when they film in Australia and we were very excited to line produce Salaam Namaste, Chak De India, Bachna Aye Haseeno  and Main Aur Mrs Khanna when they came here. Melbourne is a great city to shoot in and it’s always great to see how the stars and filmmakers who come here for the festival react. They love it. Of course, tax breaks make the difference because cities around the world compete to attract big films, but we’re ready when they are!

How do Australians perceive Indian films?

Many still think Indian cinema is 100 per cent musicals and part of what IFFM is all about is broadening their understanding. For example, Indian indie cinema is going through a huge renaissance at the moment and we show films from across the whole spectrum, and even from India’s neighbours like Sri Lanka. The audience here is maturing though because there are many second generation Indians here and they have Aussie husbands and wives,
girlfriends and boyfriends and their mates. I think that partially explains the success of Dhoom 3 here. It’s fascinating to see the mix in the audience sometimes. Non-Indians sometimes want something different, and Bollywood blockbusters are a really fun change from the norm for Western eyes… and ears!  

Does the NSW government give equal support as the Victorian government re: the festivals?

No, the Victorian government sponsors the festival in Melbourne which is fantastic. Elsewhere it’s purely a Mind Blowing Films initiative. The festival isn’t a money-spinner, I always make a loss because it’s expensive to put on but it’s my passion so the heart wins on this one.

Who is your target audience?

Everyone. From Indians who know the stars and the movies to non-Indians who want to experience something new, or already love Indian cinema but don’t get to see it very often on the big screen with a crowd. Australia is multicultural so it’s meant for everyone. Also, this is Indian cinema’s chance to shine for a wider audience and that’s something we can all be
proud of. I would hate it to become insular – what would that achieve? The festival really started in the wake of the student attacks. I didn’t want India to only hear about that because that’s not the whole story, not by a long shot. This is a way to remind the world that Australia is a multicultural country and our love of cinema is just one thing we have in common. So we want everyone to enjoy the festival, and reassuringly they do!

What message would you like to put across through your films to Australians and Indians?

We have more in common than we have differences. Movies, sport, food, triumph, adversity… the list goes on. You will see it all at the movies.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the festival. It might not seem like much but we hope that each one of us helps to strengthen the relationship between Australia and India and that can only be a good thing. See you at the movies!

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