Melbourne, August 23: Southern hemisphere’s greatest annual celebration of Indian cinema, the 2016 Indian Film Festival of Melbourne was packed to the rafters, complete with Festival Ambassador, Vidya Balan.

From the prestigious Westpac Indian Film Festival of Melbourne awards to IFFM Equality Award to Festival guest, Pakistani actor Fawad Khan; and ‘Excellence in Cinema’ Award to Bollywood’s most versatile and beloved screen legends, Rishi Kapoor, who was also a special guest; IFFM 2016 scored it powerfully at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

Previous Excellence in Cinema winners include Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Kapoor.

IFFM Director Mitu Bhowmick Lange said: “This year’s awards reflected the strength and diversity of contemporary Indian film culture.”

Adding to an already unforgettable night of glamour, song and dance, the Empowerment Concert featured a series of musical performances with performances from award-winning Indian singer Shalmali Kholgade, and SUZANNE D’MELLO MISQUITTA of Slumdog Millionaire fame.

Amongst all that glitter, IFFM also lent its centre-stage to some of society’s most-in-need of support.

Presented by Indian Film Festival of Melbourne’s Festival Ambassador, Vidya Balan – Moving Bodies Moving Boundaries opened with a world premier at Hoyts on August 19.

e.motion21’s Moving Bodies Moving Boundaries calls for a perception change to Down syndrome, through a portrayal of challenges faced by a group of 60 youth with Down syndrome.

They flew to India to document their experience in meeting with acclaimed Indian director Onir in a moving and inspiring interpretation that reinforces the impact of varying expectations.

Confronting, colourful and insightful, the documentary follows the lives of 6 young people from India and Australia who meet at the World Down Syndrome Congress, in Chennai India.

Moving Boundaries - at a gala dinner in India @Sarah Osborne
Moving Boundaries – at a gala dinner in India @Sarah Osborne

Those with Down syndrome are often shut out from opportunities to participate in activities, which many others take for granted. The documentary embraces the universality of humans living across vastly different cultures, and inspires deeper understanding and embracing of difference.

This film is an honest depiction that is humorous and challenging all at once. “Moving Bodies Moving Boundaries is a beautiful and authentic insight into human potential, and society’s influence on all of us”, said Cate Sayers, Founder and Director of e.motion21.

Multi-award winning Indian actress Vidya Balan also visited La Trobe University’s Bundoora campus, taking part in a new international educational effort to help children with disabilities in India alongside La Trobe’s students and staff.

Led by educationist Dr Mary Keeffe, the first cohort of fifteen La Trobe students will travel to Mumbai and New Delhi in November to promote a collaborative relationship where Australian and Indian teachers work together to address the educational needs of students with diverse abilities.

Dr Keeffe, Associate Professor in Inclusive Education at La Trobe’s Bendigo Campus said that the aim is to “boost educational opportunities for people with disabilities…

“In addition, our students will gain first-hand experience of Indian society, culture, architecture, language, religion and art.”

The special event was streamed live where in Vidya Balan spent time with scholarship recipients at the University.

Ambassador Vidya Balan and Festival Director, Mitu Bhowmick with scholarship recipients at La Trobe
Festival Ambassador Vidya Balan and Festival Director, Mitu Bhowmick with scholarship recipients at La Trobe University

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane Long said it was an exciting project that extended the horizons and experiences for La Trobe students, while contributing to an important educational goal of India’s education system.

“Almost 5,600 of our graduates were born in India,” she added.

La Trobe University has supported the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) since 2011. This year’s festival is a sponsor of India’s ‘Educate the Educators’ project.

Also hosting events were screen star Simi Garewal and leading Indian critic Rajeev Masand as one of the judges for the panel of Westpac Indian Film Festival of Melbourne awards.

Apart from Women Empowerment as the theme for the festival this year, equality, diversity and inclusion were guiding lights at this year’s Indian Film Festival of Melbourne.

Earlier, the Telstra Bollywood Dance Competition at Federation Square on August 13, was a spectacle like no other!

Thousands gathered at Federation Square for the Telstra Bollywood Dance Competition. Watch a round-up of the glamorous spectacle.

Judges Richa Chadha, Shakun Batra and Malaika Arora Khan were blown away by the talent of the dancers and the infectious energy from the crowd. Dancing Birds, JJ’s Group, Natya Bollywood Dance Group and Cyrus were crowned winners of the day.

Shalini Singh

feature image: Vidya Balan meeting with Australian Scholarship Recipients at LaTrobe University

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