Bollywood history

I didn’t expect to see Bollywood in the history curriculum, but there it was, tucked up at end of level ten: “the changing nature of the music, film and television industry in Australia during the post-war period, including the influence of overseas developments (such as Hollywood, Bollywood and the animation film industry in China and Japan) (ACDSEH122).” I’d been skimming AusVELS for a lesson-planning assignment for which we could choose any topic from the history curriculum. When I saw Bollywood, my skimming stopped.

moulin rouge

I’ve just submitted the lesson plan, which uses Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (pictured above) as historical evidence of the influence of Bollywood in Australia. Along with its visual and musical quoting of Indian cinematic tropes, the film’s director describes its genesis as a kind of accident on an Indian street. “We went out one night and there was a big poster up for a Bollywood movie. I said, ‘Let’s go see that.’ We did.” A few years later, Nicole Kidman was backstage with an elephant.

Later in the class, I flip things around, using Bollywood films as a lens through which to view Australian culture. In this clip from Sajid Khan’s Heyy Babyy, downtown Sydney is a setting for domestic drama – and a multicultural dance-off.

The lesson opens with an unlabelled graph, showing the source countries of films released in Australia between 2005 and 2009. Students try labelling the bars, then consider the results: 55% from you-know-where, 7% from Australia, and (second only to Hollywood) 16% from Asia. That’s right, in Australian cinemas you’re almost twice as likely to see an Asian as an Australian film, making film an ideal medium through which to study “Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia” – one of the three cross curriculum priorities in the Australian curriculum. [English teacher moment: if only Asian literature were so widespread!]

I loved preparing this lesson, and hope to get a chance to try it with year tens. Teachers, get in touch if you’d like the complete 50-minute plan.


One thought on “Bollywood history

  1. kayfil

    This is great! I love looking at the way Bollywood films portray America and vice versa – it teaches us so much about both cultures, I think. I’ve always thought that if I teach a history class one day, I would do something like what you have described, so it’s exciting to see you implementing this idea in real classrooms, in Australia! I’m sure this will bring about so many interesting discussions between the students who experience it.


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