‘Time to tell our stories’: India approves film co-production treaty with Australia

Australia has emerged as a preferred destination for shooting Indian films and the government hopes that Indian locales will be used by Australian filmmakers looking for new projects.

India has approved the signing of an audiovisual co-production treaty with Australia with an aim to boost the joint production of films.

A still from Bollywood film ‘Salaam Namaste’ shot in Australia.

Audio-visual co-production treaties are enabling documents that facilitate the co-production of films between two countries. According to the agreement, producer contributions from the two countries can vary from 20% to 80% of the final total cost of the jointly produced work. The Indian government said in a statement:

“The proposed agreement will boost ties with Australia, lead to exchange of art and culture, showcase the soft power of our country and lead to generation of employment among artistic, technical as well as non-technical personnel engaged in audio visual co-production, including production and post-production work.”

The statement notes that in recent years Australia has emerged as a preferred destination for shooting of Indian films. The Indian government believes that India too is fast emerging as a major content hub for filmmakers looking for new projects. It adds:

“India has abundance of exotic locations, talent pool and relatively cheaper cost of production, making India a favoured destination of foreign filmmakers.”

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This approval for co-production comes after Australia India Film Council (AIFC) signed an MoU with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in June 2022.

Anupam Sharma (Facebook)

Well-known Indian-Australian filmmaker Anupam Sharma who is also the chair of AIFC says “it is really encouraging to see the co-production treaty from India side, that too in the special year of 75 years of Indian Independence and Australia India Dosti.” He adds:

“As an Australian of Indian origin and a filmmaker who participated in the first discussions about Australia India co production treaty in 2001 at the then Australian Film Commission, it is so encouraging and rewarding to see this important dream finally getting closer to reality. Now the ball is in the Australian court!

Anupam Sharma with Brett Lee and Tannishtha Chatterjee.

Anupam, who has years of experience in film production and made his directorial debut with the 2015 Australian romantic comedy, further observes that Indian-Australian stories are waiting to be narrated on screen. He says:

“With the success of Australia India projects in the recent past, the Indian Diaspora is so important and big in numbers as per the current census, Australian stories are changing in their very definition. Australian stories which are India-centric are waiting to be narrated on screen and this co-production treaty will a huge boost to Australian and Indian filmmakers to collaborate at a deeper level. Australia and India don’t have to just service each other’s offshore shoot, we can co-produce and collaborate now after the treaty is ratified by Australia as well.”

Anupam’s next film, ‘Bollywood Down Under,’ aims to document the history, glory, globalisation, and Bollywoodisation of Indian cinema in Australia. The film is narrated in the voice of stars like Farhan Akthar, Anupam Kher, Sajid Nadiadwala, Ritesh Sidhwani, Srishti Behl, Siddharth Roy Kapur, Fardeen Khan, Ashutosh Gowariker, and Leena Yadav to name just a few. 

Dev Patel (a still from Lion)

This new treaty with Australia also adds to the 15 co-production treaties India has with countries including Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Korea, Russia, Spain, and the UK. The statement adds that utilization of Indian locales will lead to an inflow of foreign exchange into the country.

Australia currently has treaties with Canada, China, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. in addition, it is a signatory to MOUs with France and New Zealand. Australia is also negotiating co-production treaties with Denmark and is renegotiating the treaty with the United Kingdom.

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As per regulations, official co-productions can only be made where Arrangements are in place between the countries. The first official project to apply for co-production funding under this treaty will be ‘The Laugh of Lakshmi,’ a film produced by John Maynard and directed by S. Shakthidharan. this film is set to be shot in India and Sydney in early 2023.