Raj Kapoor comes to Melbourne!

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SUJITH KRISHNAN on a unique film festival on India’s movie mogul

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is going Indian in February, celebrating the success of the world-renowned movie mogul Raj Kapoor through an event titled ‘Focus on Raj Kapoor’, from Feb 14 – March 16, 2012 in Melbourne. Organized by Co-ordinating Curator James Nolen, in collaboration with TIFF Lightbox, Canada, the festival has recently done its rounds successfully in the United Kingdom and Canada. This event would feature 13 of Raj Kapoor’s eternal classics such as Boot Polish, Aag, Barsaat, Shree 420 and Bobby, to name a few.

Cinema connoisseur Nolen disclosed the reasons behind bringing this fete to Melbourne. Fascinated by the era when the Raj Kapoor classics came out, Nolen says, “I believe that Kapoor was a multi-faceted talent who gave Bollywood cinema a whole new dimension at the time.”

Kapoor has a huge following in Asia, Russia and the Middle East, but is a relative unknown in Australia. Nolen believes that the festival would cast a spell on the audience since there is now a greater degree of cross-cultural exchange between Australia and India with people from both sides attempting to seek a better awareness of each other’s soft power that includes history, cinema, cuisine and trends. As for the target audience, Nolen firmly believes that the festival would witness multi-generation Indians as well as movie enthusiasts from various other communities.

On whether the festival would have garnered more attention had the spotlight been on a more commercially viable star such as the Big B, Nolen makes a point saying, “ACMI is a cultural organisation with the objective of solely embracing and promoting quality cinema rather than revenue”. Being quite knowledgeable about Indian cinema, Nolen says, “I am aware that films are longer in duration with song and dance sequences thrown in, but musicals are very much in vogue now. Take the popular television series Glee, for example; I have faith that the Melbourne audience will embrace these period films with open arms.”

When asked if the festival which runs for a month is a tad too long, Nolen claims, “People are busy these days and it has been spread out for a month so that they have the time to plan their dates accordingly and return to catch the films without upsetting their routines.”

An avid movie buff, Nolen is aware of the fact that quality cinema also exists in other parts of India, and aspires to watch a big movie in India someday to experience the buzz and frenzy that one has come to associate with the Indian movie fanatic. He rates Boot Polish his favourite out of the 13 Raj Kapoor films on exhibit.

In the future, ACMI proposes to put together a series of films made by Satyajit Ray and also has plans of doing a career retrospective on the Big B, but adds that India needs to start preserving their movie classics which would only benefit the industry in gaining more mileage on the international scene.

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