IN 2009, Prateek Chakravorty was shocked by reports of racist violence against Indian students in Australia. As a former UTS student, the budding Indian filmmaker thought the hysteria in his homeland was unwarranted.
Australia is perfectly safe for Indian students, he thought. And so instead of reaching for a placard, he reached for his camera and hit back in true Bollywood style, with song, dance and feel-good romance.
''This film is about the perspective of an Indian student going overseas,'' says Chakravorty of From Sydney With Love, the feature film he wrote, directed and stars in.
''It's an Indian family comedy based in Sydney. I studied at UTS, and for me the experience was very good, so I made a film about it. What happened with the violence was about people being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was blown out of all proportion.''
After China, India sends the most students to Australia. But recently, reports the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of Indian student visa applications has halved, from more than 60,000 in 2008-09 to less than 30,000 in 2010-11.
Chakravorty hopes to help those figures rebound.
From Sydney With Love is a comedy about Meghaa Banerjee, who travels from West Bengal to UNSW after winning a scholarship. After a sheltered upbringing in a small town, she has her eyes opened by Australia, and by some new Indian friends.
Seventy per cent of the film was shot in Australia. Locations include Bondi Beach and UNSW, where From Sydney With Love has its world premiere tonight. It will then be released on nearly 900 screens in India, says Chakravorty. In contrast, Australian comedy Not Suitable For Children recently opened on 42 screens. ''It is quite a big budget movie by Bollywood standards,'' Chakravorty says.
Bollywood, which produces 800 films per year, is twice the size of Hollywood. Each day, 14 million Indians go to the movies.