Bollywood study tour

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QUT students head to Mumbai to learn about the world’s most prolific entertainment industry

Mumbai beckoned Queensland University of Technology (QUT) students, for the second year in a row, as they experienced an insightful three weeks of all things Bollywood.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, where I gained a lot of industry knowledge,” says Kayla Leeworthy, a final year Bachelor of Creative Industries student at QUT. “I have been thoroughly inspired by this experience.”

Ten students from the Creative Industries course studying Entertainment Industries, along with faculty member Joe Carter, went on a study tour in the month of July as part of the Beyond Borders Learning Programs (India).

Learning from legendary Bollywood director Hansal Mehta

“This year we met up with directors, producers, casting agents, film historians, sound studio and VFX specialists, public relations and marketing people,” Joe tells Indian Link.

The group met with the likes of Bollywood director Hansal Mehta, who visited the university last year; head of marketing at Warner Brothers India Karthik Ballu; Chief Development Officer at Eros Films Sameer Gogate, film historian Vikramjit Ray, and others.

On the set of magical Hindi soap Swaragini

“We also got the opportunity to visit the sets of a popular Hindi soap Swaragini and talk to the cast members. The building looked like any ordinary building from outside, but when we stepped in, the inside (sets) looked incredible.”

How is Bollywood different from the Australian film industry?

“There are around 4000 films produced every year in Bollywood, and it’s within a few months that an idea is translated into a script and then taken onto the screen, whereas in Australia this translation from idea onto the screen can take months or years,” says Carter.

The group happened to catch the first day, first showing of Bajrangi Bhaijaan in Mumbai.

At Warner Brothers India headquarters with Head of Marketing Karthik Ballu

“People went crazy in the cinema hall,” Carter recounts. “They were cheering, whistling, and throwing money, whilst in Australia the reception when watching a movie is not the same.”

Students were also treated to a private screening of award-winning Marathi film Fandry with producer Vivek Kajaria.

Meeting with film producer and historian Vivek Vaswani

The group also took in the various sights and sounds of the city that never sleeps. Some of the memorable experiences mentioned included playing cricket on the rooftop at night time, having dinner at popular Mumbai restaurant Leopolds, street shopping, travelling by local trains and autos, and meeting with regular Mumbaikars.

Reaching out to people at Dharavi left a lasting impression on Kayla. “Australia and India are completely different, and I stopped comparing after a few days. It was a culture shock. I realised that people below the poverty line are so happy, and there is a rich sense of family and culture. The people we met were lovely, and I felt safe in this big city.”

Joe echoes a similar reaction. “The portrayal of slums in popular movies is quite different to what I have witnessed in my visits. I have seen happiness, prosperity and people are working very hard to provide for their families in Dharavi.”

Kayla is thankful for this entire experience that has opened doors for her as an individual. She claims this trip has given her a confidence boost in connecting with people and has made her proactive.

What does she take away from her Bollywood learnings? “In this digital age, the words of Shahnaab Alam (one of the producers of The Lunchbox) have struck a chord with me. He said that localised stories that have an emotional resonance, connect internationally.”

Meeting with acclaimed casting director Mukesh Chhabra

Kayla says that the industry people were a lot more willing to share their expertise when compared to Australia. She has been offered a paid internship in Mumbai next year with Big Synergy, a popular and critically acclaimed production house of non-fiction shows.

Carter concludes, “This study tour and the partnership with Beyond Borders Learning Programs has opened up amazing doors. It feeds back to the community in terms of employment. This is definitely going to be an ongoing process.”

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