Article Australian Hindi

Danny Ben-Moshe: Never intended Shalom Bollywood for an Indian audience

The filmmaker spoke about his documentary’s long journey to theatres in a question-and-answer session after the world premiere at the 19th Mumbai Film Festival on 16 October.

Sonal Pandya

Shalom Bollywood: The Untold Story Of Indian Cinema had its world premiere at the 19th Mumbai Film Festival on 16 October. The film was screened as part of the ‘Discovering India’ section which showcases films from Indian and foreign filmmakers who bring a different perspective of showing the country on film.

Shalom Bollywood review: Delightful documentary on forgotten Jewish stars of Indian cinema

Producer-director Danny Ben-Moshe, assistant director Dwit Morani and Haider Ali, son of actress Pramila who was featured in the film, attended the premiere and spoke to the audience afterwards.

Both Ben-Moshe and Morani spoke about their experience over 11 long years, acquiring and finding information to base the documentary on. Morani, who was working on a documentary for the first time, said there were points when the team felt Shalom Bollywood would never get released.

They noted how difficult it was to track down films and material from the silent and early talkie eras. Even at the National Film Archive of India, they came up empty.

“I hope that the merit of this film will persuade people about the merit of preserving and celebrating heritage and culture,” Ben-Moshe said.

Haider Ali pointed that Ben-Moshe has so much material that he can make sequels. Ben-Moshe stated that you have got to tell what you know. He said, “One of the things that attracted me to [Shalom Bollywood was] not just that it’s a good story. I’m a documentary filmmaker and you want to tell good stories. If you make a film, you have got to love your story. I got to love these characters, these great Jewish stars of Indian cinema.”

Further, he said, “I never intended this film for an Indian audience, because I thought I’m a white Western guy, how would I know how to communicate with [them]?” He had to think when presenting the film for a global audience as well. He had included a section on the influence of Parsi theatre on Indian cinema, which he jokingly said might find its way into a book at some point.

When he first arrived in India, Ben-Moshe would ask Jewish people he met in India about anti-Semitism, only to be met with blank looks. It added another dimension to the film, to show how the Jews assimilated into India.

Over the 11 years that Ben-Moshe was making Shalom Bollywood, he kept getting inquiries from the press and film festivals about the film. “There was this interest in this story that wasn’t made as yet. That encouraged me and kept me going.”

This is just the beginning for Shalom Bollywood which will be shown at Indian and south Asian film festivals around the world. The film will have its Australia premiere at the joint Australian Jewish and Melbourne Indian festival in a few weeks and a London premiere at the UK Jewish festival. Ben-Moshe has secured an American distributor and will release the film in the USA.

He feels it will appeal to audiences because it is also a film about gender, culture and celebrity. “It’s also a story about inter-cultural encounters,” he said.

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