India is important for New South Wales in terms of tourism, trade and business investment markets, not to mention the tens of thousands of Indian students that enrol in Australian universities every year. Tourism from India alone pumped $182 million in the year-end June 2014.
Therefore, do not be surprised to learn that former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell made not one, not two, but three official visits to India during his tenure. His flirtation with Bollywood is starting to pay off now.
O’Farrell and the then Minister for Tourism George Souris had launched a Bollywood-style tourism campaign Jhappi Time on 11 February 2014 in order to attract Indian travellers to NSW. O’Farrell had said then, “The Jhappi Time campaign aims to build on the State’s reputation as the key destination for Indian travellers to Australia.” The campaign features four families from India and combines extraordinary scenery with scenes of Bollywood dancing and music.
Jhappi Time which is ‘Hug Time’ in Hindi, is a massive promotional campaign aimed at luring burgeoning Indian middle class that holidays abroad each year and is known to be a quality spender. The campaign is already showing signs of handsome return on investment too. ABS records show arrivals from India to NSW increased by 21.2 per cent for year-end August 2014.
The Jhappi Time campaign was directed by Indian Australian director Anupam Sharma. Now the same director and Destination NSW (the producer of Jhappi campaign) have successfully merged the tourism campaign into a movie titiled Unindian due to be launched around April this year.
The film, shot entirely in NSW including around Indian community hub of Parramatta, is co-starred by Australian cricket legend Brett Lee and Indian actress Tannishtha Chatterjee. The Jhappi Time drama sort of dovetails into the movie.
Brett Lee has a long history with India and is popular there as an Aussie who has fully embraced the Indian culture over many years. He has done many advertisements, even music video with as major an artiste as Asha Bhosle in 2007. So limelight is not an unfamiliar territory for Brett Lee.
But is he going to be alright in front of a billion plus viewers? Tannishtha, with whom he was reported to have developed a good chemistry during the screeing in Sydney and NSW surrounds, spoke highly of the cricket strongman in her interview with 9News last November. She said that he was going to surprise everyone with his acting skills and that he was not camera shy at all.
Brett Lee apparently took acting lessons in the run up to the shooting of the romantic comedy. But his Bollywood counterparts should not fear his entry for he claims he has no plans to become a professional film star.
The success of ongoing tourism campaigns suggest 2015 is positioned well. What is more, the World Cup is coming! This, plus the fact that Australia and New Zealand have agreed to allow joint tourist visas for the duration of the 2015 ICC World Cup, which is expected to ease the visa processing for mad cricket fans from Indian, NSW tourism industry is set to get massive Jhappi from Indians in 2015.
The Indians, the original targets of the romantic campaign of Destination NSW, seem to have embraced the Hug Time alright. The question is if Brett Lee can now bowl out the likes of Salman, Shah Rukh and Amir – the famous Khans of Bollywood.