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The winners of the 2011 Western Union Short Film Competition


The Indian Film Festival: Bollywood and Beyond is delighted to announce the winners of the 2011 Western Union Short Film Competition. Indian director Collin D'Cunha is the International winner for his film MUMBAIKAR GANESH, director Ridwan Hassim is the Australian winner for his film, KHATABAH, and the New Zealand winner is Rajneel Singh with BLANK SPACES. Varan Sharma's ADJUST which tells the story of an Indian student realising his Australian dream received an Honorary Mention.


Collin D'Cunha will be flown to Australia while Ridwan Hassim and Rajneel Singh will later be flown to Mumbai, the home of Bollywood. All winners will also attend the 2011 Indian Film Festival's GALA Awards night in Melbourne and each of the three winning films will be screened at the 2011 Indian Film Festival and on SBS (Australia), Triangle and Stratos (NZ) and World Movies (India) which boasts a daily audience of 30 million.


The international competition, launched in conjunction with UTV World Movies in India, SBS and Indian Weekender in Australia and Triangle and Stratos in New Zealand, was held in Australia, India and New Zealand. Applicants were asked to make a short film of less than 10 minutes around the theme ‘dreams'.


In Collin D'Cunha's MUMBAIKAR GANESH Jai Arjun Ganesh reflects on his childhood in Mumbai and focuses on his acting dreams during the festival of Lord Ganesh, the beloved god of Mumbai. Ganesh represents the true spirit of the Mumbai, the city of dreams. In Ridwan Hassim's KHATABAH, a young woman consults with a Khatabah or matchmaker to help make her greatest dream a reality; while in Rajneel Singh's BLANK SPACES, a young man fulfils his dream of leaving his mark on the map.


Responding to the news, Australian winner Ridwan Hassim said, ‘As the Australian winner I am extremely honoured. KHATABAH (Matchmaker) is the first film I made and its theme is very personal to me being a strong advocate of greater rights for women in the Islamic world. The theme is especially poignant and topical at the moment. Hopefully KHATABAH's theme will resonate in the hearts and minds of audiences globally.'

International winner Collin D'Cunha said, ‘I'm thrilled that MUMBAIKAR GANESH has been awarded the Western Union Short Film Prize 2011. It gives me great joy that this small yet special film is being appreciated and will be seen by such a wide audience.'

New Zealand winner Rajneel Singh said, ‘It's incredibly satisfying to see all our hard work pay off and be honoured with such a prestigious award by such an incredible panel of judges. I'm over the moon that my film has been chosen. It gives me an immense sense of inspiration to push myself farther with my filmmaking and I want to thank the Indian Film Festival for this tremendous opportunity.'


Announcing the jury's decision, Festival Director Mitu Bhowmick Lange said, ‘It has been wonderful to see the growth in the Western Union Short Film Competition and the amazing and imaginative range of films that have entered the competition.'

The five person jury, comprised of key figures in Indian and Australian cinema - director Kabir Khan; actor, writer and producer, Mick Molloy; writer/director, RajKumar Hirani; independent producer Robyn Kershaw and director Shimit Amin - decided between over 200 short films including nine finalists: THABELA VASITHA KAZHUTHAI by Mohan Sengoda; THE ACTOR by Thomas Jacob; SAVIO by Raghavendra Naik, and ROUND HER PURE FOREHEAD by Shreya Dube, all from India; UTAH by Ashwin Segkar, THE TRAVELLER by Vijay Boothalingam, and A HOMEMADE LOVE STORY by Abu, all from Australia; and ALL IZZ WELL by Ashwini Patel from New Zealand.


Kabir Khan said, MUMBAIKAR GANESH represents the quintessential Bombay dream. Ganesh grabs you from the first shot. KHATABAH very cleverly builds up towards its climax with a great sense of intrigue. The story telling is very interesting and the climax joyous yet makes you think about the issue for long after the film is over. BLANK SPACES is an excellent idea which has been executed equally well. Brilliantly shot and edited, this short film is a treat - a true celebration of the human spirit.'


Kunal Mukherjee, Marketing Head, UTV World Movies said, ‘UTV World Movies continues to foray into the cultural world through its associations with  theatre, comedy, art, music and film, and believe the Indian Film Festival: Bollywood & Beyond is the perfect fit for our audience. UTV World Movies is particularly proud of our association with the IFF Short Film Competition which will see entries received from all over the world. As the IFF exclusive TV partner in India we have promoted the competition call for entries and look forward to showcasing the work of the budding film makers on our network.'


Monika Khanna, Marketing Manager Australia from Western Union said, ‘Bollywood has become such an integral part of Indian popular culture, and being a sponsor of the Short Film Competition, puts Western Union at the heart of it all. We are very honoured and excited to have the privilege to be part of this new development, and our hope is that one day we will be identified as one of the pioneers of Bollywood films here in Australia. Supporting young and undiscovered talent is crucial for the industry to keep growing, and also important in fostering the development of Indian culture on an international level. Films are universal - everyone regardless of their ethnic background loves a good film. The festival will be an opportunity for Indians in Australia and New Zealand to showcase their culture and talent, take pride in it, and have fun at the same time.'


The IFF is keen to foster greater understanding and collaboration between the Australian and Indian film industries. Launched in 2010 and with Western Union confirmed as the 2011 naming rights competition sponsor, the IFF Western Union Short Film Competition is aimed at discovering the future Peter Jacksons, George Millers and RajKumar Hiranis of the film world. Last year's Competition attracted over 200 entries and helped kick start three filmmakers careers, with both the International and New Zealand winners now working on their first feature film production and the Australian winner set to travel to India soon to work on an Indian film shoot.


Following the phenomenal success of the inaugural festival in 2010, the IFF returns in 2011 to celebrate and showcase the best of Indian cinema. This year's festival features over 30 films including 15 Australian premieres in a program which celebrates the traditional Bollywood sequins and fantasy, and also demonstrates the depth of contemporary Indian film. Indian Film Festival: Bollywood and Beyond will tour Sydney (9-19 March), Melbourne (11-20 March), Adelaide (22-29 March) and Auckland (24 March to 3 April).


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