Drawing together 50 films in 17 languages, a bevy of Bollywood stars, dance competitions, Q&As, masterclasses and launch of a charity initiative, Melbourne once again ushered in its foremost cultural event of the season, the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2016.
On August 11, festival director Mitu Bhowmick Lange welcomed the guests from India at a press conference and threw light on the festival with its commitment to diversity by including films from the sub-continent as also artistes. Recognising the important role of diversity, Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley said his government was committed to celebrating that diversity “reflected in our arts, culture and festivals”.
Resonating with the theme of Women Empowerment, the festival opened on August 12 with the film Parched, which is a story set in the patriarchal milieu of Gujarat where four women undergo their own journey of subjugation and liberation. Its writer and director Leena Yadav and actor Radhika Apte were present at the opening night where the traditional lighting of the lamp heralded the start to a 10-day non-stop bonanza of activities and film viewings.
Chief guest Rishi Kapoor who was visiting Melbourne for the first time, thanked IFFM 2016 for the opportunity to be a part of the festival. He was equally delighted to visit the MCG, a place he had always fantasised as a child while listening to cricket commentaries. “I hope this tradition continues that we come here and continue to entertain.” Hoisting the Indian national flag on August 13 at Federation Square, Kapoor said he was humbled and never experienced a greater happiness before while singing the national anthem. For the thousands of fans gathered, he had one message: spread peace and love wherever you are!
Perhaps one of the most popular guests was Bollywood’s favourite import from Pakistan Fawad Khan, whose female fans thronged the theatres to have a glimpse of him. Khan expressed his happiness and gratitude at being part of India’s film fraternity which he said treated him like a family member.
Running into its fifth year, IFFM shows Melbourne’s deep connection with Bollywood is deepening by the year.

(The festival ends on August 21. Log on to for more details. Watch this space next week for detailed interviews)

Best Film Award: Kapoor & Sons
Diversity Award for Contribution in Indian Cinema: Fawad Khan
Indian Film Festival Excellence in Cinema Award: Rishi Kapoor
Best Actor (Male): Nawazuddin Siddiqui for Raman Raghav 2.0
Best Actor (Female): Sonam Kapoor for Neerja
Best Director: Shakun Batra
Best Indie Film: Thithi
The above is the list of honours at the IFFM 2016 Westpac Awards Night on August 12. The Melbourne Recital Centre was enlivened by the sound of the dhol as stars arrived to excited fans who did not want to miss out on the opportunity to see their favourites quite literally at their doorsteps.
The energy was more evident as the Empowerment Concert saw three female powerhouse singers pack the punch with their unique voice and artistry. Singers Suzanne D’Mello and Shalmali Kholgade from India and Sara Haider from Pakistan blew the audience away with a medley of choices. They concluded with John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, the most successful single of his solo career.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sonam Kapoor were there in person to receive the awards.
Guests in attendance included talented film director, producer and screenwriter Anurag Kashyap, one of the most accomplished actors Nawazuddin Siddiqui, film director and screenwriter Shakun Batra whose film Kapoor & Sons (which includes Rishi Kappor and Fawad Khan in the star cast) was one of the festival films, and Richa Chadha whose stellar performances in films such as Gangs of Wasseypur and Masaan have made her a name to reckon with, Sonam Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor, Rituparna Sengupta, Richa Chaddha, Leena Yadav, Malaika Arora Khan, Fawad Khan and Shakun Batra.

For RISHI KAPOOR, his journey to stardom began as a child when his father was casting Mera Naam Joker and over dinner asked his mother if he could take Chintu as the young joker (Raju) in the film. Though Kapoor left the dining table unfazed, that night he practiced for the longest time how to sign autographs like a star in the anonymity of his room. As the youngest in the family, Kapoor was called Chintu, a pet name he has come to be known by. And that was how Simi Garewal addressed him on her live chat show Rendovous held at Zinc, Federation Square as part of the festival. Their friendship goes back to antiquity having starred together in their first film Mera Naam Joker (1970). The audience got a peep into the lives of the Kapoors as Neetu Singh joined the conversation with candour.

Bollywood’s controversial but very talented ANURAG KASHYAP generally shuns any form of limelight. But he obliged an intimate group of Melburnians to an impromptu masterclass at Phamish in St Kilda where he talked about everything under the sun. It was in the early 1990s when the film industry was controlled by families and there was no such thing as independent cinema that Kashyap set foot in. He realised it was difficult to get in and the only way he could was by offering his services free and without asking for credit. “I got used for two years,” he laughs. He would go on to become the anonymous face of many blockbusters. Candid in his opinions, Kashyap said his latest Udta Punjab controversy was a strange case where the government was playing a game. Passionate about cinema, today Indian cinema has found an ‘original voice, a new champion and crusader for independent filmmaking’ in Kashyap.

Telstra Bollywood Dance Competition
This is the much-anticipated event of the festival which rocked Federation Square on August 13.
The event was judged by actors Malaika Arora Khan, Richa Chadha and director of hit movie, ‘Kapoor and Sons’, Shakun Batra. The show kicked off after veteran actor, producer and Rishi Kapoor hoisted the Indian Flag.
The dance group winners, who received $1,000 prizes courtesy of Telstra, are:
Under 12 Dance Winner: JJ’s Group
Pre-Teens Dance Winner: Dancing Birds
Adult Dance Winner: Natya Bollywood Dance Group
Telstra People’s Choice Award Winner: Bollywood Dimensions
Alister Park, Telstra Marketing General Manager, took the opportunity to reward its customers with attractive offers and exclusive deals for staying in touch with families back in India whilst enjoying the Festival.
Over 3,000 SMS votes were cast and, courtesy of Telstra Pre-Paid, one lucky SMS voter, Nithya, was picked from the crowd to make a call to her sister in India with celebrity judge Malaika Arora Khan. Telstra has been part of the festival for the fourth year.