In her lovely floral chiffon saree, Rani Mukherjee candidly proclaimed she was trying to look every bit the Bollywood star to the thousands of fans that gathered at Federation Square on Saturday, August 11. To the men dressed in warm winter clothes, she remarked they looked every bit like the Bollywood heroes she romanced in the snow. If this was not enough to break the crowd into laughter and applause, Rani sang a song from her father Ram Mukherjee’s film Hum Hindustani ringing in a patriotic spirit ahead of India’s Independence Day. Clearly, she had by the end won the heart of every Melburnian who had gathered to witness the flag hoisting ceremony and Telstra Bollywood dance competition as part of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) 2018 celebrations.
Rani leads the galaxy of stars who have arrived in Melbourne to be a part of this iconic festival which is now embedded on the city’s cultural landscape. The festival opened on August 10 with the movie Love Sonia. The Tabrez Noorani film deals with the hard-hitting subject of sex trafficking. Festival Director Mitu Bhowmick Lange said it was a conscious decision to have this as the opener as “cinema should also make people uncomfortable and think.” The cast of the film Richa Chadha, Mrunal Thakur and Freida Pinto were all present for a Q&A session with the audience. Packed with Master Classes, Q&A sessions, the festival has been a delight for lovers of cinema.
The celebration also got a fillip with Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews announcing a 3-million dollar Indian Cinema Attraction Fund if elected, to make sure that four films are at least made right here in Melbourne and Victoria over the next four years.
Running into its seventh year, IFFM shows Melbourne’s connection with Bollywood and Indian cinema is deepening by the year.



Why do people love you?
I have no idea, you have to ask people. I guess it must be because I am honest.
How big is your wish list?
Very big because I am ambitious. I am content but I am not satisfied. Artistic satisfaction is something that is rare and it is a very personal journey for me. I feel now I am getting the hang of my craft, of what I love doing and the kind of stories I would like to tell. So I always feel I am beginning and it will be a lot of fun henceforth.
How does the rat race or pressure affect you?
If you have to be in the rat race, you will always be a rat. But I want to be a cat. I have never been somebody who is competing with someone to be ahead of the game. I want people to look back 10 or 20 years and see my filmography and my contribution to cinema, my contribution to roles for women – that is more of a goal for me, not doing one hit film with one superstar or being glamorous for a few years.
Are you engaged?
No. Ali and I have just gone public with our relationship but not engaged yet. It doesn’t stop anybody from working anymore, so…
Any message for Australians?
Dear people of Australia, you are amazing, please continue to be amazing. I really like that the government is taking the concept of inclusion and diversity so seriously.

Is it hard work, luck, or being at the right place at the right time for you?
Everything put together. My biggest inspiration is my father who has been in the industry for 30 years. He came from a small village in Punjab to Mumbai as a struggler at the age of 23 and paved his way. I follow his motto: Give your hundred per cent to your present and the future will be better than what you want it to be.
If not an actor, what would you have been?
I think I would definitely be on a film set. I don’t know what I would be doing exactly though. For me, that’s my definition of paradise. I feel at home when I am on the film set. I am most enthusiastic, most excited and most alive when I am on a film set.
How much potential is left in the tank?
I believe the journey has only just started. There is much more inside me that I myself have yet to explore. This is just the third year in the industry and there is a lot to learn. I am just touching the waves of the shore right now.

(The festival ends on August 22. Log on to www.iffm.com.au for more details)


Rajkumar Hirania’s “Sanju” walked away with the Best Film honour here at the Westpac IFFM Awards night on August 12, where Manoj Bajpayee won the Best Actor for his yet-to-release “Gali Guleiyan” and Rani Mukerji was named Best Actress for her performance in “Hichki”.
Rani, who impressed with her performance as a woman faced with Tourette’s Syndrome in “Hichki”, walked away with two honours at IFFM as she was also bestowed an ‘Excellence In Cinema’ award.
Veteran actress Simi Garewal, looking elegant as ever in her trademark pristine white, gave away the honour to Rani, who has been a part of the film industry for over two decades.
Overwhelmed by the honour, Rani thanked her fans world over for loving her and her work through the years.
Hirani won the Best Director for “Sanju”, a biopic on the life of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, while the IFFM Vanguard Award went to actor Ranbir Kapoor for his “breakthrough performance” in bringing alive Sanjay’s tumultuous life journey on-screen.
The director said he is happy with the recognition for the movie and is excited about showcasing the movie at La Trobe University here, with “Sanju” co-writer Abhijat Joshi and actor Vicky Kaushal.
Vicky won the supporting actor honour for his well-deserved performance as Kamli in “Sanju”, and Richa Chadha won it too as she won the jury’s heart with her power-packed role as a brothel owner in “Love Sonia”.
The jury members for the fest, launched by Mitu Bhowmick Lange, comprised Simi Garewal, Sue Maslin, Jill Bilcock, Nikkhil Advani and Geoffrey Wright.
Wright, known for the Russell Crowe-starrer “Romper Stomper”, said that he was mighty impressed by the variety that Indian cinema currently has on offer. He said he feels that “perhaps it has gone from recreation to being serious cinema”.
India’s colourful and diverse culture was very much a part of the awards celebration as there were the beats of the dhol, performers dressed in traditional Indian classical attires, Odissi dance, Bhangra and more.
Composers Sachin-Jigar added the chutzpah with some of their Bollywood tracks.
The inclusion-themed ninth edition of the gala gave a Diversity Award to Freida Pinto, who shot to fame and prominence first with her role in Oscar-winning drama “Slumdog Millionairea. In her upcoming film “Love Sonia”, Freida is seen in a never-seen-before avatar.
The Equality In Cinema Award was given to “Mahanati”, the widely acclaimed Telugu and Tamil film on the life of south Indian actress Savitri, who made a mark in the 1950s and 1960s.
Actor Ali Fazal, who was the jury of the short film competition, chose “To-let” as the Indian winner and the Australian winner was “Found”, which is on Islamophobia.
Richa also gave away the IFFM Heroes Award, which celebrates real life heroes who have done good deeds.

(TIW & Agencies)