Bringing cultures together through film

Since 2011, the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) has cemented itself on the Victorian calendar as a significant celebration of cultures and diversity. Within a decade, the festival has grown to become the largest celebration of Indian cinema in the southern hemisphere, attracting more than 35,000 people each year.

The festival aims to break down cultural differences and create understanding by showcasing films made throughout the Indian subcontinent, including Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. This provides a valuable opportunity for Australians to experience the diversity of perspectives in the region, and for those from India to see films they would not normally be able to see at home.

Equally, La Trobe has a rich history of bringing together students from across the Indian subcontinent to undertake life-changing studies or research at the University. Currently, more than 6,600 of our graduates were born in India. We are proud to be a founding partner of the film festival to further create a cultural bridge between the various communities of the region through films, music and dance.

La Trobe’s strong focus on arts, multiculturalism, diversity and equality marries perfectly into the essence of the film festival. We recognise that Global Citizenship is an essential part of helping our students understand the deeply interconnected world we live in. La Trobe’s students actively participate in the film festival as part of the workforce, learning how to execute events through to attending the premiers of major film screenings.

La Trobe has harboured strong connections with India since the University was founded, with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visiting in 1968 shortly after our campus opened the year prior. Since then, La Trobe has continued to invest in academic programs, research partnerships, student exchanges and events that showcase Indian culture.

We are proud to be the only Victorian university to offer a Hindi language program, which is supported by one of Australia’s most comprehensive collections of rare books and literature on India. We offer subjects on Indian culture and history, including a glimpse into modern India through the lens of Hindi cinema. Our academics make up the largest concentration of Himalaya-focused researchers in the southern hemisphere. Each year more than 1,000 students participate in overseas learning opportunities such as internships, study tours and cultural exchanges to countries around the world, including India.

In 2005, La Trobe’s Melbourne Campus in Bundoora was featured in the first major Bollywood blockbuster film to be made entirely in Australia, Salaam Namaste. The film collected close to 10 million USD at the box office.

Hailing from a middle-class family in New Delhi, India, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan graced our city as chief guest at the 2019 Indian Film Festival of Melbourne.

Since his 1992 debut with the film Deewana, Shah Rukh Khan has starred in more than 80 Bollywood films and won 14 Filmfare Awards – more than any other actor.

Outside the film studio, Shah Rukh Khan has established himself as a philanthropist and one of India’s most influential people. He has adopted 12 villages, donated his prize winnings to cancer patients, and set up the Meer Foundation: a non-profit organisation dedicated to empowering female acid attack survivors in India.

Shah Rukh Khan’s role in championing children’s rights in India earned him the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award in 2018. He has received civilian awards from India and France, including the prestigious Padma Shri, the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the Légion d’honneur. He is also the first Indian movie star to be awarded the title of Datuk, Malaysia’s equivalent to British Knighthood.

Shah Rukh Khan’s visit to La Trobe in 2019 continues a long history of prestigious dignitaries who have been welcomed by the University to recognise their achievements and contributions to the community.

In 2011, the popular Malaika Arora Khan was one of the first Indian film stars to visit La Trobe to share insights of her cinema career with our students.

The University’s largest theatre was renamed the Yash Chopra Cinema in 2013 during a visit by the late director’s wife Pamela Chopra, who launched a series of Indian film screenings that made the campus a focus for Melbourne’s Indian community.

A prestigious four-year PhD scholarship was named in honour of Amitabh Bachchan when he visited La Trobe in 2014 to present the award to an Indian student researching digital technology, media and communication.

Prominent Indian actress Vidya Balan launched the Educate the Educators initiative at La Trobe in 2016, presenting travel grants to 20 students embarking on a tour of India. The study tour offers students the opportunity to identify ways to develop educational programs that support children with special needs.

In 2018, La Trobe’s students attended a private screening of Sanju, 2018’s Bollywood blockbuster film, followed by an exclusive In Conversation discussion with the film’s critically acclaimed director Rajkumar Hirani and writer Abhijat Joshi.