The relationship between Australia and Bollywood has been blossoming since the late 1990s, and Prateek Chakravorty’s debut feature From Sydney… With Love is set to bring the two even closer.
The first mainstream Bollywood film to name Sydney in its title, and also the first to feature an Australian University in the storyline, From Sydney… With Love is part love letter, part postcard.
On one hand, the romantic comedy tells the story of an Indian woman who goes to the University of New South Wales on a scholarship. Head of the production and company director of the Films and Casting Temple in Australia, Anupam Sharma, explains how the film was borne out of the positive experience Indian producer/director Chakravorty had while studying in Australia.
“It’s his answer to what he calls the lies which have been propagated in India about Indian overseas students in Melbourne,” says Sharma, who studied at UNSW.
On the other hand, shooting spans across iconic Australian locations and landmarks, such as Circular Quay and the Opera House, which are part of three Bollywood-style song-and-dance sequences, including a song written about Sydney (Falling in Love in Sydney).
According to Sharma, the production uses a promotional model developed previously with other Bollywood films such as Sajid Khan’s Heyy Babyy, whereby the filmed locations are treated as a product. Sharma says that From Sydney… With Love builds on this model by adding more potential benefits to specific industries through the inclusion of UNSW throughout the script.
From Sydney… With Love is marketed at middle/upper-middle class youths in India, who are the most likely to go overseas to study. Combine this with the fact that there are 23 million people filling Indian cinemas each day (more than the population of Australia), and you have a relatively inexpensive way of marketing Australia in India and across the world.
The result, Sharma says, is mutually beneficial for both countries. “They give us free locations, we give them exposure through film, which is the most effective way of exposure in India.”
But the attractiveness of Australia to Indian producers and directors goes deeper than cheap and convenient locations. Sharma notes that Indian productions are also drawn to Australia because Australian government bodies are helpful and our two film cultures are mutually compatible.
“The Indians culturally feel very welcome here,” he says, adding that Australian crew are “laid-back” and “closer to the kind of Indian way of working”.
Of course, Indian/Australian productions like this are by no means new. However, recent productions have been utilising different types of co-relationships which inject money into the two industries in various ways. Productions like From Sydney… With Love, for example, are praised by Sharma because they provide work for Australian crew at little expense to the Australian government.
"Bollywood films like From Sydney… With Love or any other Bollywood films shooting here do not get government funding from Australia, so that’s pure benefit and investment into Australian film industry."
Alternatively, Sharma also says there is an emerging shift of focus from Indian films just “shooting here and exposing Australia to Indians and millions around the world” to “collaborations and co-production”, as is the case with the Screen Australia-funded Save Your Legs!
Directed by Boyd Hicklin and written by Brendan Cowell (who also stars in the film), Save Your Legs! is about a travelling cricket team and spans both Indian and Australian locales.
Either way, the Bollywood and Australian film industries can only grow closer, which is something for industry professionals like Sharma to celebrate.
“It might sound corny,” he says, “but I always say that India is the most prolific film industry, and Australia is one of the most professional film industries, and the marriage between the two can only be win/win”.
From Sydney… With Love is currently nearing the end of a five-week shoot, and is due for release in May 2012.