Australians and I

Landed in Sydney today. Here to promote Golden Age and to make a keynote presentation at the upcoming Digital World event in Melbourne for the XMedia Labs. I seem to be getting a lot of attention in Australia. Probably because I have worked with so many Australians in the few films I have made in the West. Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Heath Ledger, Abbie Cornish. My editor in both Elizabeth and in Golden Age is Jill Bilcock, another Aussie, as was David Hircshfelder, the composer for Elizabeth. What is it about me and Australians ? Is it just because we were all once colonized ? Though I have to say that Australia still seems to celebrate it’s Colonial past ! While we in India see it much more as a sad part of our history.

Maybe Australians have the same need to go out and explore the world I do, and that defines our common sense of adventure. That I certainly share with many Australians that I have worked with. They look at life and work as an adventure and that defines even the way they approach their craft.
Perhaps it comes from a feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world. I remember in India, there used to be a rule that no Indian could go out of India more than once every two years, and if you did have to do so, then you would have to take special permission from the Reserve Bank of India. There used to be something called the ‘P form’ that u would have to get from the RBI to be allowed to leave the shores of India. It was worth it’s weight in Gold !
So going abroad was the most precious thing you could do at that time. In India you felt completely cut off from the rest of the world. Those were the days without the internet and even without TV. Even making a call overseas could take upto 3 days by the time you could get through.
So much has changed in India since, but sometimes I still cannot get used to it. I stiil have to ask if my Indian credit card is valid for so many things, and I look forward to the time that the Rupee will be accepted as hard currency everywhere.
The first time I left the shores of India to go out and study, I was allowed to take out a maximum of $ 20 US. And there used to be lines at the airport of people claiming their $ 20 after they had got their boarding passes.
Perhaps the Australians felt just as cut off ?
Or maybe it is because both India and Australia were part of the same continent before the tectonic plates shifted and we separated to crash into Asia.

20 thoughts on “Australians and I

  1. Dear Shekhar,
    I think you have to look at your connection with Autralia as something dictated by providence. Like you said that you were surprized when Tim Bevan called you from LA and told you that you were on as the director of Elizabeth, and Tim belongs to New Zealand so he is from the region. Then you took Cate as your leading lady and scored Elizabeth in Australia, thereby increasing your connection further. I lived in Australia for a year and 3 months doing consuting for Woolworths(their biggest grocery chain) and had such a wonderful time. I think the people are a lot laid back and full of adventure – there is a lot of talk about animals and water sports and people do not save much out of what they earn. One can feel the same relaxed atmosphere in the workplace. I’m sure because of being so far they obviously yearn to see the world and explore it, and I also had the same feeling growing up. Secondly, they lead quite an active outdoor life even at home, which transcends to the feeling of adventure you talk about. I still miss the Vitoria Bitter beers and George St. If you have time, go to the Zaafran restaurant at darling harbour, which is probably the best Indian restaurant in Sydney.
    Himanshu – NY

  2. Dear Shekar Sir,
    It has been a month since your last post and I was missing your write ups. Great !!! to have you back..
    With Lots of Respect

  3. Hi Shekhar!
    It is such a nice surprise to know that you are in Australia. I have been living in Sydney for a few years. People of Indian origin who have made substantial progress in their fields hardly visit Australia. We miss that.
    Are you likely to be in Sydney for some time? Are you doing any public events here? I was wondering if there’s a chance for common-people around Sydney to see you.
    Regards, Amit

  4. Shekhar,
    Australians in my experience ( there are a few i wprked with ) tend to play it hard , even have their racist slides once a while , but on the whole are a fair people and very open hearted.
    I remember when i was working in a team of Engineers designing electronics for a High performance power plant , it was the Brits who proved to be the most difficult to work with – the only American , myself an Indian and this Australian held the sanity in the team aloft.
    I think there is something substancially refreshing and open with genuine people from India , America or Australia , something mainland Europeans and especially the stiff necked Brits dont seem to have !

  5. Well logically …can there be EAST and WEST on a globe?? surely not…and even if there are , it is for sure that they will meet somewhere. am i right sir ??
    Reading your thoughts and mind here gives a different vibe which comes from within.I mean its great to see an awakened Indian showing world the way to go in life .
    About me…well i am just another young indian blood working for creative in ad agency. Strongly beleive in myself , our country , culture and religion… visited your website a number of time basically to somehow get in touch with you and discuss my scrips and ideas …work and learn direction under you. And since i’ve heard about your next film THE SADHU…the desire has got stronger. Its kind of an ambition of mine…to work on some project that will make people around the world understand our 90,000 yrs old country,religion and science of meditation. A subject which has never been touched or shown on big screen straight…but yes coppied in movies like Matrix – Don’t you think all the so called sci-fi , superheros movies of hollywood are basically based on old Indian science and meditation?? whats ur take on that sir…..
    Another thing that is on my mind are THE HIPPIES….i mean yes they did drugs but still they are the most beautiful people on the planet…and can;t a effort be made to show where they r heading..even without drugs.
    Why are they towards Indian culture- OHM and Lord Shiva?? Isn;t psytrance a revolutionary music ?? connection of drugs and yoga…wow!??!
    but these topics are never touched or shown on the screen hollywood or bollywood.
    Anyways with a lot still to express and discuss deep in my heart i am closing down this mail now. Hope to get a reply from your side…
    and if i can get a chance to learn and work with you….That will surely be my faith and Karma.
    thanks,regards & respect
    aman kapoor

  6. yeah!maite
    yah see! we in aoustrailiah dun bother aba na colonaisaition.We ledda aboriginies dodat.
    Advantur yah saiy.waill, we owe dat to aar aancesters huu khaime here far de gold or whoer thrown out of England for phetty crimes.
    When Indieh brouke from aoustrailia and crashed into Aisia the population dat inhabited Aoustrailia was similar to the ones in India.
    Ungainsome truth eh!
    But mast saiy onething.aOustrailians handelled aboriginies much bettha dan de aparthied in Africa.
    Waitin’ far ya Goulden aige!!maite

  7. The best thing about Australians is they don’t bear any hangovers of history-although Bali and their sudden aquiesance(spelling!) to Samuel Hutington’s hypothesis of Clash of Civilisatons might change all that in the future.

  8. Australias greatest contributions to world culture are : Dame Edna Everidge, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Vegemite & Kylie Minogue….
    …and the “barbi”…(on the beach…)
    Harpreet : Their only hangover is from excessive imbibing of “Fosters” & “Castlemain XXX”…

  9. yeah shekar australia stil is a predominantly white anglo saxon country and face it when you are waspish dominated like australia and canada new zealand you are treated better by your colonial masters i think that the reason why canada nz, aust were given dominion status . these 3 countries along with the united states and the uk are anglo saxon dominated they were never with out the exception of our angrezi masters. aust is still very racist very xenophic to indonesians malays japs and chinese they tolerate indians because we are too soft and subisive. JUST WANTED TO REMIND YOU THAT MY AUNTY KHORSHED ITALIA YOUR DADS SECETARY TURNED 86 ON AUGUST 8TH . I WISHED HER THE BEST. PS SHE STILLS LIVE ON CONNAUGHT PLACE.

  10. …maybe you are the “Crocodile Dundee” of film making, always an adventure of learning and increased awareness eh?
    I’ve never been to Australia, perhaps one day.

  11. Now that u mention Cinda:
    Remember that dialougue in Crocodile Dundee where the hero tells his girl how the aboriginals belong to the place and don’t own seemed funny in someway.

  12. Well Australia is after all the Land of the Dreamtime….that must surely be why there is so many Dreamings made manifest illuminating from this great Land down under…
    Some have said that Uluru is the ruby-jewelled navel that links Gaia to the cosmos…
    Ot it could be that Australians have a collective mantra …”No worries mate”…a mantra that kind of clears the way for good stuff to happen and friendships to form in an in inter’mate manna!

  13. @truthsucks: Something wrong with your keyboard I reckon. It’s spitting out a “Victorian-Bitter” accent 😉

  14. Hey Shekhar,
    I have been an avid reader of your blog but for last 10 months or so since I came back to India all this has been shelved. I was in Au for 3 yrs and hey thanks for suggesting me to watch movie 405 it was inspiring, but, my dreams of becoming a film director has been shelved coz of the burden of responsibilities that our life throws at us. Anyways, hope Australia must have been a delightful experience, Melbourne is their art capital, and well you would have noticed they don’t drink fosters over there..its all VB. My experience tells me that they are not racist at all. They are extremely friendly, on the contrary Indians living there are racist, Indian groups at uni.s will not mix with aussie or for that matter any student/ groups from other countries. And if they find you mixing up with the “Foriegners” they’ll point a dreaded finger at you. which is very dissapointing. I guess they still stick to their shell instead of breaking free from it.
    Anyways..Now I have settled down in India..and will be reading your blog. Ironically, I never faced any so called cultural shock when I went to Au 4 years back but now back in India..its pretty much your face.
    You keep writing mate…
    good on you…hope to see Golden Age here in pune.

  15. Hi Shekhar, i have recently read that you are here in australia and that you would be on the lokout for new talent, as you love working with aussie actors. My 12 year old daughter is itching to get herself into acting as soon as she can. She has natural blonde hair, is 150cm tall at eleven years and is extremely photogenic and a character to boot! She is very quick to learn, well behaved and a pleasure to have around. She could be the next Kate!(as in Cate blanchett) I realise this is probably not the forum to approach you regarding this matter but I couldnt find another way of contacting you. I would be more than happy to send you her photos or even meet with you while you are in Oz. All the very best and please continue to make great movies… Kind regards Jenny

  16. Hi Shekar, Its interesting to read how you have analyzed your connection to Australia over such a broad spectrum of things – from your current associations with talented Australians artists and technicians all the way to the continental drift after the ice age. It demonstrates the warmth and friendship you feel for Australians and rightly so.
    But I feel the mention of common colonial heritage between India and Australia though quiet romantic is just that, a romanticized viewpoint to win over Australian kinship. I doubt if there are more than a dozen Indians who feel the same way that somehow India and australia are long lost cousins of colonial misery having suffered under a common master. I may even accept that theory if Americans and Indians jointly felt that way.
    The only reason I say that is from history we know that the British tightened their iron grip on India as a colony with much more force once US won its independance. So I would agree more if you say US and India are like two daughters of a sadistic father who decided to let one of them run off from the house but locked the other one in the cellar for the next 200 years. I can see a connection in shared suffarage there but not between India and Australia over colonization.
    Australia is different. They may have been colonized too but I cannot see them as victims of colonization as much as I see lot of other former colonies. Australians are still not a republic and enjoy a much more closer ties with the briton than Indians do and perhaps still revel much more in their anglo-saxon heritage than in their new found native australian indigenous heritage.
    But I appreciate your effort to be very universal and brotherly with the australians and in general to other cultures how ever alien it maybe to Indian culture.
    Every Indian must strive to have similar all inclusive liberal view of the world and find such commonalities even it requires them to backtrace common kinship to the ice age or bronze age.
    Its not always easy to do but nice to see you attempt it here.

  17. Shekhar,
    I didn’t like this write up. I found it pointless and directionless. I think I wasted my time reading this.

  18. Thanks for adding this category. I am a history teacher and journalist and just did a cable TV show in my home town of Duarte, CA with two Presbyterian missionaries to India (1960-1978) to help celebrate 60 years of India.
    We need all the info about other people and cultures we can get and being from the island of Newfoundland (“Britain’s oldest colony and Canada’s youngest province”) I share your views of Aussie, esp having studied with them and being colonized and sharing the feeling of life as an adventure–“must get off the island” was my thought as a young man.
    I wanted to write about the Elizabeth series and have spread the word on my web site and in my writing and at UCLA where my English teacher is quite interested in the trilogy you are proposing as well. I sent people the Trailer of “A Hurricane in me” and mentioned it in a write-up/review for my home town in Canada because in some ways we in eastern Canada are the Last Elizabethans. I cans end you the hard copy if you’d like.
    I’m writing to encourage you on Elizabeth” Episode Three because in many ways The Golden Age came after 1588. Check out A.L. Rowse’s splendidly rich four works on the period. Rowse feels the explosion of relief after 1588 animated the plays of Shakespeare and all that followed–the “This England” and “Come the four corners of the world against us and we shall shock them” speeches.
    My point is, Don’t hold back on the rhetoric–in Episode Three you have a chance to give us the best of “Shakespeare in Love” and “Elizabeth and Essex.” Both these were big successes. Trust the intellect of your audiences–let the winged words flow–more speeches like “the hurricane” which is the real Bess. There’s a hunger in the older audience demographic for this kind of thing. Yes, explore aging if you must but don’t make it a downer–there is a generational clash theme to be played out in Essex. Use that but this is the Age of Marlowe and Shakespeare–the real Golden Age.
    My English prof can say more.
    More scenes of Bess and parliament would also be lively and illustrative of what a fragile plant democrcay is.
    I’ll send you my “Last Elizabethans: piece if you want. Commonwealth blokes must stick together. Good luck,
    Neil Earle

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