What was the inspiration behind Indian Wedding Race?
One of the big questions for many young people is ‘how am I going to find love and someone to spend my life with?’ For young Indians living in Australia this search can be even more complicated, as they must not only please themselves, but also their parents. The choice of partner may not be theirs alone, and the prospective suitor may not live in Australia. There are other complicating factors like horoscopes and social status. It’s a situation ripe with story possibilities, that promises both cultural insight and potentially humour. That was what provoked my interest and what I tried to achieve with Indian Wedding Race.
Did you encounter any challenges in making the documentary?
At the last census there were 295,362 Indian-born people living in Australia. Many lived in Melbourne so I didn’t anticipate a problem finding eager participants. Yet, despite a wide search in social and community media and spending a lot of time researching in ‘Little India’ in Dandenong, it was difficult finding people willing to be filmed.
I found Dalvinder early on in casting and we all knew she was perfect for the film, but other characters took longer to find.
It became apparent that the Indian community is quite private. 'Keeping up appearances' and community standards are important. Some young women were keen to be involved but then their parents intervened, advising them “don’t expose your flaws”. Others were, understandably, not that keen on having a film crew along on their first dates!
In the end the main subjects were found through word of mouth. We did a lot of casting call outs through social media, print and radio; eventually the word spread right across Melbourne’s diverse Indian community that we were looking for characters. I think we ended up with two remarkable characters with great stories to tell, both of whom allowed unfettered access into their lives.
Apart from "it's a masterpiece" what would your ideal viewer response to the documentary be?
‘I didn’t know that’ or ‘I loved those characters’ would be nice. Documentaries should entertain but they should also offer privileged access into worlds unknown. I knew very little about the Sikh and Hindu communities in Melbourne when we started this process. I know significantly more now. I hope people will laugh and cry (in all the right places) and come away feeling they have new insight into the experiences of young Indian-Australians and the challenges they face.
Did you learn anything through making the documentary?
I do feel very lucky to have spent so much time getting to know the Sikh tradition. I’m not religious but I do love ritual and symbolism, and Sikhism is rich in both. They are a wonderful community and I think much misunderstood in Australia.
I really enjoyed spending time in the home of Tarun’s family in Shillong, in North East India. The experience of living as a guest in their home was absolutely one of the highlights of filming. They are such a lovely family, funny, generous, passionate about life.
Who do you think will enjoy the documentary?
I think this film appeals to a very broad church. Certainly Australia’s vast Indian community will tune in. Based on the number of enquiries I get, many are eagerly anticipating broadcast. But it should also appeal to all those who enjoy documentary films that both entertain and inform. It’s not an issue based film. It’s a film about a critical year in the lives of two young Indian Australians who are desperate to marry and please their parents. It takes you on a wild ride through Sikh gurdwaras, family homes, chaotic Indian cities and the multicultural streets of Melbourne.
Indian Wedding Race, the first documentary in three-part series Untold Australia, airs Wednesday 13 April on SBS.