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  • Writer's pictureAkasha Usmani

Celebrating the Bollywood influence in Australia

Over the last few decades, Bollywood has become a major soft power export of India to Australia. Here's how.

Indian Bollywood Actress Parineeti Chopra became the Ambassador of Tourism to Australia as a part of the Friends of Australia initiative.

India and Australia’s shared love for cricket, curry and tourism have all contributed to the close ties between the two countries. India is one of the most significant partners of Australia in the Indo-Pacific. Their ties have evolved to a great extent bilaterally, economically and culturally.

The rapidly growing Indian community in Australia has made the cultural relationship between the two countries even stronger. Due to the presence of the Indians in Australia, the Australians are well aware of the Indian cuisines, the Indian saree (a form of ethnic wear) and Indian languages. The growing cultural presence makes one think about the presence of the Hindi cinema in Australia. Hindi cinema, popularly known as Bollywood, refers to the film industry in India that produces films in the Hindi language.

Australia has been the premier location for Indian films, music videos, commercials and soap operas. This cooperation between India and Australia began in the 1990s, the first Indian film to use the Australian picturesque scene was Daud (1997), while it was shot in Western Australia the story was not set there. The other movies that are made in Australia are Prem Agan (1998) and Soldier (1998).

Since then, over the years Australia has seen many filmings of popular Bollywood movies. The films that are shot in Australia have significantly boosted tourism as the country’s tourist attractions are seen by millions of people in India. Bollywood films like "Salaam Namaste" and "Chak De!" were filmed in Victoria, Australia and after their release, there was an 18 percent rise in the number of Indian visitors to the area. Even television soap operas of India are shot in Australia. The famous soap opera called “Bade Achhe Lagte Hain” has beautiful scenic landscapes of Australia.

A number of state tourist organizations in Australia have funded Indian productions and have also employed many Bollywood celebrities as brand ambassadors for Australia to influence and encourage Indian people for tourism in Australia. For example - Tourism Australia, a tourism promotion agency in Australia runs an initiative called Friend of Australia. This initiative features famous Bollywood celebrities and personalities who promise to dedicate their time to promote Australia as a tourist destination. Parineeti Chopra, a well-known Bollywood actress, is the first Indian woman ambassador to be on the Friend of Australia panel.

The government of Australia has been trying to get Indian directors to film their movies in their country. The Government of Victoria was the first state government in Australia to offer incentives for domestic Indian film production. In order to encourage Indian filmmakers to shoot their movies in Victoria, an Indian Cinema Attraction Fund was announced in Mumbai.

Under Film Victoria (an agency for the development of the screen industry in Victoria), a $3 million was assigned to the fund in order to promote high-budget Indian films and television shows to be produced in Victoria.

The Victorian government also took the initiative to launch the biggest film festival outside India. The Indian Film Festival is held every year in Melbourne and was established in the year 2014. The festival screens more than 40 movies in different languages. It is the largest annual festival which is held outside of India. While highlighting the greatest films of Indian cinema, the festival also features some of the most famous personalities of Bollywood, including directors, singers and actors.

Similarly, India has also been a location for Australian films. For example - Holy Smoke (1999), The Waiting City (2009) and many more films have India as an integral part of their story.

Today, many multiplexes in Australia premiers Bollywood blockbusters. There has been a strong and growing influence of Bollywood in Australia. The acceptance of a part of India’s culture has led to a unique friendship between the two countries.

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