Friday, 28 March 2014

Vidya Balan @ Indian Film Festival Melbourne 2014 press conference

The ever-gracious Vidya Balan (above) addresses media gathered for the release of the 2014 Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) program schedule this morning. Festival Director Mitu Bhowmick Lange, who invited me, is beside Vidya, who's been IFFM's Festival Ambassador since its inception in 2012. The festival opens 1 May with a screening of the recent 3D re-release of Bollywood's most famous film, Sholay, and an appearance by the world's most beloved actor, Amitabh Bachchan. The festival runs until 11 May.

For those unfamiliar with Sholay and its star Amitabh Bachchan: Imagine a Western film festival launched with a screening of 'Gone With the Wind' with Clark Gable there to introduce it. Or 'The Godfather' with Marlon Brando. Or 'Dr Strangelove' with Peter Sellers. THAT'S how big of a deal it is to have Amitabh Bachchan -- a living legend -- coming to Melbourne to introduce 'Sholay' at the 2014 IFFM.

I described Vidya Balan as "ever-gracious" because her ability to smile and be respectful while questioners ignore her accomplishments and vomit sexist, condescending questions is astounding. The woman's string of performances over the past five years is unsurpassed by anyone, male or female, in the world of cinema. Yet she's continually bombarded with questions about her gender, weight, recent marriage, potential pregnancy and other non-work-related crap. Vidya recently announced she's taking a 2-month break from acting in order to "replenish" herself through books, travel, the arts ... normal life to you and I. India's entertainment media had a field day -- clearly this meant she was pregnant! The multiple award-winning-actor addressed the hysteria this morning by saying no, in fact, she's not pregnant. She's an artist who needs to recharge her batteries by stepping away from the cameras for a short while.

Praise must also be given to festival director Mitu Bhowmick Lange, who's again outdone herself with this year's IFFM program schedule. Her Melbourne-based company Mind Blowing Films is small but powerful and distributes Indian films and DVDs throughout Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Seeing her side-by-side with Vidya this morning reminded me how much lovers of Indian cinema in this secluded part of the world have benefited from their partnership.

Vidya, Minister for Tourism and Major Events Louise Asher and Mitu. 

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