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Down Under losing thunder

entertainment Updated: Jan 06, 2010 20:17 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya
Roshmila Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Three days after a 21-year-old accounting student, Nitin Garg, was fatally stabbed outside Hungry Jack’s, the Melbourne burger restaurant where he worked, authorities yesterday admitted to finding a partially burnt body of an Indian male who is yet to be identified in the New South Wales province.

The Australian police have confirmed that 1,447 Indians have been victims of crime in Victoria state alone as of July 2008. Gautam Gupta, president of the Federation of Indian Students of Australia, insists that many more attacks went unreported. His own housemate, Parminder Singh Garg, from Punjab, had been beaten up by drunks at a train station earlier.

Australia attracted approximately 117,000 Indian students in 2008 but fears a 20 per cent drop. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Deputy PM and Victoria Premier John Brumby have unreservedly condemned the attacks, in an attempt to promote the US $15.4 billion foreign education export industry, Australia's fourth largest export earner.

On the Bollywood front, Karan Johar has just completed the first schedule of Stepmom in Sydney despite wanting to shift venue to the US earlier, and Mohit Suri plans to fly out in March to shoot Crook. But Kunal Kohli who had planned to shoot Break Ke Baad on the Gold Coast will not film there but will move to Cape Town. Despite several attempts, we were unable to get an official take from the Australian High Commission at the time of going to press.

Mohit Suri will shoot Crook in Melbourne

Mohit Suri’s next film, Crook, with cousin Emraan Hashmi and newcomer Neha Sharma in the lead, is also a love story about a boy who goes to Australia for higher studies. It has a track on the racial attacks carried out against Indian students in Sydney and Melbourne. Suri insists that keeping that in mind, it would be impossible for him to shoot anywhere other than Melbourne. He is all set to jet off to Australia by the end of March or early April.

On the subject of racism, Suri points out that it is not specific to any one country. “If we were to stop others from going to Australia, we would be just as racist,” he argues, recalling that during his fight in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi had asserted that by bullying a bully, you become a bully yourself.

He goes on to add that the reason for the discrimination against Asians and Indians in particular that culminated in a protest of 60,000 students outside Melbourne station, is not just triggered off by a distaste for brown skin. There are other factors too, like the opening up of the education system that has lead to a tidal wave of students, a majority of them Indians, many of them without credentials, flocking to the country and staying back permanently to take on odd jobs at lesser rates, thereby creating economic imbalance in society.

Suri who was in Australia last year on a research trip for his movie, didn’t face any difficulties himself but met with the leader of the student council responsible for the Melbourne protest, along with some victims and the head of the Film Council in Australia.

He returned home to India with a lot of enlightening information and a pamphlet he had picked up when visiting the place where Indian student, Sukhraj Singh, was hit on the head and went into a coma. The pamphlet that Suri plans to use in his film, says that accommodation is available only for Gujarati students. “Isn’t that discrimination too?” asks Suri.

Kunal Kohli says no to the Gold Coast

Producer Kunal Kohli has decided not to shoot his next film, Break Ke Baad, on the Gold Coast as an expression of solidarity for Indian students who in recent times have been the victims of racial attacks in Australia. “When you film in a foreign country, you tap the local infrastructure and this benefits the government hugely in monetary terms. So it’s only fair that the authorities there take steps to protect our immigrant community from attacks, like the one last week, where a student Nitin Garg was stabbed to death.

Until they are able to do so, I’ve decided not to work in Australia,” asserts Kohli, who has now switched his location to Cape Town. However, he is quick to add that he finds Australians “warm and friendly and hopes the problems for Indian students ends soon.” So will he be recreating Australia in South Africa? “I think I’ll withhold information on that for now or I would risk giving away the plot. All I can say is that a large chunk of my story that you must have gathered from the title is about a break-up and what happens with the couple thereafter, is set in a foreign country,” informs Kohli.

Featuring Imran Khan and Deepika Padukone in the lead, this modern-day love story that Kohli promises will be as “path-breaking as Hum Tum,” will be directed by debutant Danish Aslam.

Films shot in oz

Hindustani/Indian (1996): The Kamal Haasan movie was the first to capture the variety of Australia’s wildlife and the buzz of Sydney.
Dil Chahta Hai (2001): Farhan Akhtar’s directorial debut showcased Sydney Harbour. A song was picturised in the Sydney Opera House.
Salaam Namaste (2005): Siddharth Anand’s first movie is the first Indian movie to be shot entirely in Australia.
Chak De India!! (2007): The climax was shot in Sydney and Melbourne.
Heyy Babyy (2007): Sajid Nadiadwala clinched a deal with Fox Studios Australia making it the first Indian film to be processed in Australia. A promotional video featured girl band Australian Divas.
Singh Is Kinng (2008): Seventy-five per cent of Vipul Shah’s film was shot around the Gold Coast and Brisbane, using an Australian production team (Instinct India).
Bachna Aae Haseeno (2008): Deepika Padukone’s portions were shot in Sydney.
Stepmom (2009): Karan Johar’s Hindi remake of the Hollywood hit had a recent schedule in Sydney.