‘Bollywood is a cinema of attractions and entertainment: Amit Sarwal’

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University of Newcastle is gearing up for the two day event to celebrate 101 years of Indian Cinema.  The event will include ‘Bollywood 101 Film Festival’ on Feb 20 at the Tower Cinema and ‘Bollywood and Its Other (s)’ conference on Feb 21  at the TV Studio, ICT Building, DCITT, University of Newcastle, Callaghan.

“It is a great opportunity for all the Bollywood aficionados as besides enjoying the film festival they will get an opportunity to interact with the people behind these films. So it would be great exposure full of fun and information”, said Dr Amit Sarwal.

Dr Amit Sarwal is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation and is co-convener of this two days event celebrating 100 years of Indian Cinema and Australia-India cinematic links at the University of Newcastle (20th& 21st February 2014). Apart from academic research, Amit is also interested in films. In 2004 he co-wrote a script for a short film on AIDS –‘Us and Them’, directed by young Delhi based Ad filmmaker and friend Anant Gupta. Currently he is developing a script on early Indian hawkers in Australia.

Amit Sarwal opines that Bollywood is all about entertainment.

“2013 marked the hundred years of Indian cinema. On May 3, 1913 Dadasaheb Phalke presented to India its first silent film, ‘Raja Harishchandra’ and since then the industry has grown many folds with more than 23 million people watching Bollywood films in India. Most films are heavily inspired from international cinema. But in that moment of ‘inspiration’ Bollywood creates a cultural adaptation packaged with romance, melodrama, action, costumes, songs and dance extravaganzas that suits Indian audiences desires and their understanding of the world around them”, said Sarwal .

Bollywood is the informal term popularly used for the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai, India – one of the largest centres of film production in the world. The term “Bollywood” originated in journalistic circles in the 1970s as a portmanteau derived from ‘Bombay’ (the former name for Mumbai) and ‘Hollywood’.

Speaking about the Australia-India cinematic links, Sarwal said, “Reception of Indian cinema in Australia has changed over the years. In the early years, only development based films made with the support of Indian government were showcased in Australia to avail Colombo Plan aid. But post-1960s, Indian cinema has played an import role in creating perceptions about India in Australia be it the Greek subtitled or dubbed versions of Indian classics like ‘Mother India’ or screenings of these films in Hindi at the Indian High Commission on special occasions or in private parties of Indian-Aussies. Since, late 1990s a lot of projects have materialised between the Indian and Australian film industries including features films, music videos, TV commercials, and film festivals”.

“Today, many leading Australian DOPs, stunt directors, and post-production companies are now working in India. It is through Bollywood films, filmmakers, actors and their acknowledged or unacknowledged iconic representations and contributions that new journeys and adventures are being charted out in these two countries. The latest Indian-Australian twist to Bollywood is Pallavi Sharda. Other prominent actresses who have made it to the B-league are: Tabrett Bethell, Tania Zaetta, Kristina Akheeva, Emma Brown Garett, Shubha Verma, Anusha Dandekar and Vimala Raman,” he added.

“With a growing Indian diaspora in Australia and popular demand to screen movies in multiplex cinemas, in addition to availability of cheap VHS or DVDs of latest films, Bollywood has grown into a globalized culture industry or tool in India’s soft power armoury and successfully transcended the confines of India. Various Australian state tourism bodies have supported Bollywood productions in broadcasting positive messages about Australia’s reputation as a welcoming nation”, added Sarwal.

Explaining about his area of Research Amit said, “My current area of research is ‘Cross-Cultural Diplomacy: Indian Visitors to Australia, 1947 to 1980,’ an examination of how Australia and India viewed each other in the aftermath of decolonisation”.

“In a paper published in 2011, titled ‘Aussies Go Bolly: Australian Journeys through Indian Cinemascape’, I have traced the journeys of some Australians who established successful careers in the Hindi film industry.  In 1940s an Australian actress, Mary Ann Evans aka Fearless Nadia, became a superstar of Indian cinema with her Hunterwali films – the “Original Stunt Queen of Bollywood,” said Sarwal.

“Around same time an Australian architect, ballet dancer and stage manager Louise Lightfoot worked with filmmaker K. Subramanyam at Chennai (formerly Madras) and also published widely in the Indian press on Kathakali dance and Indian cinema. In 1960s Australia’s leading cinematographer Tom Cowan also shot films in South India. In 1980s, another Australian, a civil engineer by qualification, who designed sets for Hollywood films, and model-turned-actor Bob Christo had a very successful run in almost more than 230 Indian films as a villain and in his career became synonymous with the evil face of an “angrez” (Englishman) in Bollywood, ” he informed.

Speaking about the two days event at Newcastle university Dr Sarwal said, “The film festival will feature three short films/documentaries and one Bollywood film.  I Am Megha, a 2011 Indian anthology film by Onir (presented by Raj Suri), Dancing to the Tunes of Bollywood – a documentary by Dr Vikrant Kishore and Indian Aussies: Terms & Conditions Apply – a short documentary by well-known filmmaker Anupam Sharma. The highlight of this evening would be Raajneeti (Politics), a 2010 Indian political thriller directed and produced by Prakash Jha, which stars Ajay Devgan, Nana Patekar, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Arjun Rampal, Manoj Bajpayee and Naseeruddin Shah in the lead roles. The film is being screened courtesy Prakash Jha Productions and Screen Hunter Central Coast. On the second day there is ‘Bollywood and Its Other (s)’ conference. Overall it will be a nice experience for all the Bollywood lovers”.

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