Bollywood stars flock to Melbourne for 40th Indian Film Festival

Indian cinema is known for songs, dance and bright colours but changes are being made to the iconic brand of cinema and they are on display at this year’s Indian Film Festival of Melbourne.


The festival is well known for bringing some of Bollywood’s biggest stars to Australia and this year is no exception, with veteran Anil Kapoor visiting Australia for the first time.

Mr Kapoor is keen to promote Indian cinema’s shift.

“Indian films, Bollywood films, are kind of a mirror and they reflect the progress in our country,” he said.

As the “Quiz Master”, Mr Kapoor’s role was pivotal in Slumdog Millionaire and he believes film can play a pivotal role in changing society. Particularly in relation to recent acts of violence against women in India.

“Things are better,” he said. “The law is much stricter, people are more aware, they’ve been educated, so things are changing. And that’s what is going to be reflected in our films.”

The festival is trying to represent that change with its overarching theme of “Equality”.

In the festival’s line-up is a particular focus on gender equality, a topic movie star Simi Garewal is passionate about.

Ms Garewal believes India has some way to go to bridge the gender gap.

“It’s a very hard battle for India to fight that whole patriarchal system, because basically our politicians, our law makers, are patriarchs,” she said.

Ms Garewal said she believes Indian women are too often held back.

“If she wants to work, why can’t she work?” she said.

“She should have a right to do whatever she likes. It’s her body, her life, and she should have a right to live it the way she wants.”

“Indian films, Bollywood films, are kind of a mirror and they reflect the progress in our country.” 

As one of India’s strongest women of the silver screen and television,  Ms Garewal believes the film industry must play a role in reversing inequality.

“Films are so powerful, they’re so influential. We could have easily passed the message, covered in candy.”

“When you show our top hero – one of our leading heros that everybody’s crazy about – show him respecting a woman and talking about how important it is to respect a woman, and to treat her as an equal.”

With a career spanning 38 years, featuring 150 films, Anil Kapoor knows a thing or two about the importance of female protagonists in Bollywood. His own daughter, Sonam Kapoor, has become a leading lady.

The striking 30-year-old said film runs through her family and she’s never known anything else.

In the past 10 years, she’s been in 11 films.

“My roles that I’ve chosen actually are very strong, female roles,” Ms Kapoor said.

Something her father is very proud of.

“I worship women, I love them,” he said. “And I’m so proud, because I have two daughters and they’re both independent and doing well for themselves.”

The film festival’s launch coincides with India’s Independence Day, and true to old-school Bollywood style, it’ll be one big celebration, with a flag raising ceremony, dance competition and awards night.

The festival runs until August 27th.