Anupam Sharma – Festival Director of the AFFI: Australian Film Festival of India.
Encore Magazine listed him as one of the fifty most influential people in Australian film.
As well as a festival director and television personality, Anu is a renaissance man: director, actor, producer, and author. He is also most excellent fun, and we talked earlier in the year as Anu was calling for contestants on the SBS show Bollywood Star, a series he would later appear in, as the head judge.
Last year was a big year for Anupam. As well as loads of projects on the go, it was the inaugural year of the AFFI. This year, the AFFI teamed up with more Aussie/Bolly heavyweights to bring a huge festival of Australian film to Indian audiences, not the least of which was a Baz Luhrrman retrospective, apt because stylistically you don't get much more Bollywood in the way of Aussie films.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love this part of the world, so I really wanted to find out how the second AFFI went, and it has just wrapped up.
G: Anu, the Australian Film Festival of India is a big festival. How long does it take you and Peter Castaldi (co-director) to put all the elements of something that straddles two countries together?
A: It is a labour of love and a constant process. As a media and film professional yourself you know all our projects and work is 24/7, and that is why we love it. Last year was an amazing start, with the support of so many great people, including Hugh Jackman. We knew we wanted this year to be as successful, so we were working on it almost immediately upon closing out 2011.
G: We both love Bollywood (who doesn’t?), but do you think Australian film is a good match for Indian audiences?
A: Geire, I think Australian films are a match for any audience. I treat Bollywood and Australian cinema like two different flowers. We can love both of them, both of them have their unique fragrance, and liking them is not mutually exclusive. This year we started with Dehradun, Delhi and Mumbai, then the festival will tour across India through the Federation of Film Societies of India, and the wonderful support of our patron, Mr. Kiran Shantaram. The films were really well received. It was great to be able to run an exclusive Baz Luhrmann retrospective. His films are so lush.
G: Tanzeal Rahim was at AAFI 2012 with his horror Muirhouse. It’s done so well all over the world, including Cannes this year. How was it received?
A: Audiences liked it. One Indian lawyer from Britain was shaking with fear. More than the film, the audience, and the festival team, love Tan's friendly, creative, and supportive attitude. There were some issues with light in screening and he was such a good sport.
Muirhouse debuted in 2012 at Marche Du Film, Cannes. Following Cannes it won Best Foreign Feature Film at the Fright Night Film Festival in Louisville USA. Muirhouse is the only foreign film to have been invited to attend the crème de la crème of horror festivals, Shriekfest in LA, where it enjoyed rave reviews from horror genre die-hards.
Listen to me interview Tan direct from Cannes at 3am in 2012 below.
G: I was tweeting about the AFFI, and Jaimon Joseph, an Indian Journalist and blogger, told me he was rushing off to see Muirhouse in Delhi that night. The next day he got back to me and said he was so scared he had to leave during the film. That’s the mark of a good horror in my books.
A: That’s great. It sounds like he enjoyed it then.
G: Yeah. Sadly, it took ten years off his life. Anu, you mentioned the Luhrmann retrospective, that was sure to be one of the great highlights of the festival.
A: It was. Definitely. We were also thrilled to screen Bollywood Star back to back with the retrospective, and of course the amazing documentary on Dr. Kiran Bedi Yes Madam Sir, plus the documentary from my Perth friend Pria Viswalingam Decadence. There were so many highlights. But none of these would have been possible without the support of our amazing sponsors. I’ll give them a plug, because festivals don’t get made without extensive collaboration: DNSW (Destination New South Wales), the AIC (Australia India Council), Screen NSW, UNSW (University of New South Wales), Screen Australia, , Silver City, Uttarakhand Government , Print MEDIA Partners, Garhwal Post, Zee, Amar Ujala the Federation of Film Societies of India, but a special cheers to Satish Sharma our Indian co-producer, Karan Mandhian and Liella Vergara who Peter and I believe worked super duper hard to make it possible.
G: Anu, what’s your next project? Have you recovered from Bollywood Star yet?
Anu: (Laughing) You can never recover from Bollywood Star. Having had a long relationship with Bollywood, Bollywood Star is the one night stand you never forget.
Coming up, I’m looking at some very interesting multimedia projects, two features with Bill Bennett and John Winter, A feature by Thushy Saathi called UnIndian and a book we have just optioned called Chilly, Chicks,and Heartattacks.
G: There’s no rest for the wicked.
33 Postcards Directed by Pauline Chan, and starring Guy Pearce.
Part of the AFFI 2012 selection of works on offer across India.
© Geire Kami. All Rights Reserved. Australia 2017.