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  • Indian screen star Aamir Khan bowled over by MCG

    Published on August 16, 2010

    Silverscreen superstar Aamir Khan took time out from his hectic schedule last week to visit the iconic home of Australian cricket, the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

    The legendary actor, director and producer, is in Melbourne to attend the Australian premiere of his new film Peepli Live, indulged his passion for cricket and tennis with a tour of the historic stadium during his whistle stop visit.

    At the on-site National Sports Museum, Mr. Khan stopped by the Indian cricket exhibit to admire Sunil Gavaskar’s Test cap and signed bat, watched an incredibly lifelike hologram of Shane Warne talk about his colourful career, and sized up next to a full-size statue of Don Bradman.

    He also sought out The Don’s original “baggy green” cap, stepped onto the hallowed turf and chatted with former Australian cricketer Damien Fleming over lunch at the ground.

    Mr. Khan said he hoped to return to Melbourne soon and, in particular, spend more time at the MCG on a match day.

    “I’m such a huge cricket fan and I was looking at the statue of Don Bradman and I was like, ‘I have to come back here and watch a match here’,” he said.

    Mr. Khan’s film Peepli Live was one of four Indian films shown at the 2010 Melbourne International Film Festival, which this year shone a light on less mainstream Indian cinema through its “Not Quite Bollywood” program. The other Indian films were LSD, The Well and Ishqiya.

    Indian cinema is becoming increasingly popular with Australian audiences, with 3 Idiots, which starred Mr. Khan, taking AUD$1.2 million at the local box office despite its limited release.

    Mr. Khan joins a long line of Indian stars making the trip Down Under to promote their films and connect with audiences, both Australian and expat Indians alike. In March, multi award-winning actress Rani Mukherjee visited Melbourne to attend the 2010 Indian Film Festival, in which she was honoured with a retrospective of her film career.

    Melbourne is also a popular choice for Bollywood directors and producers looking for vibrant, Western-style locations. Features recently shot in Melbourne include Main Aurr Mrs. Khana (2008), Chak De India (2007; watched by 400 million people) and Salaam Namaste (2005; viewed by 300 million).

    Built in 1853, the MCG is an icon of the sporting world, having hosted the first-ever cricket Test, the annual Boxing Day Test, the 1956 Olympic Games and the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Visitors can tour the on-site galleries and Melbourne Cricket Club Museum, as well as do guided tours of the ground.

    India is one of Victoria’s fastest-growing tourism markets, with the latest International Visitor Survey figures showing overnight visitation from India increased by 17.4 per cent to 51,900 visitors for the year to March 2010.