Sydney-based Anupam Sharma has been appointed head of film for the Australia India Film Fund (AIFF) and expects to be able to name the first film to be financed by the new fund by the end of February.

IT executive Devendra Gupta and accountant Yateendra Gupta, the key pair behind AIFF, have guaranteed $4.5-$5.5m (A$5-6m) in private finance from Australian/Indian business people in the first 18 months, Sharma told ScreenDaily.

“I needed to get that commitment, to know it was a real initiative, so that if nothing else happens we will have one feature film and one television series or documentary,” he said.

The AIFF is promoting itself as the “first ever private initiative in Australia to fund India-centric Australian feature films, television and documentaries” but it is also the first to fund projects with a foot in any of the many diasporas in Australia.

Sharma is currently considering seven scripts and uses Bend It Like Beckham, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as examples of the type of stories he is seeking.

“First and foremost we want good stories,” he said. Projects will also need to be able to claim the producer offset (PO), a tax rebate of up to 40% for features that pass the “significant Australian content” test. Maximising the benefits of the PO generally means using Australia as a location.

“We are looking for projects that will satisfy a global audience, an Australian audience and a multiplex Indian audience, and what I mean by that is middle class urban people in India who are willing to spend $5 to put their bums on seats, not village Indians who are only willing to pay five cents.”

Sharma is in conversation with various sales agents on first look deals and Film Finances will get first option to provide a completion bond.

Sharma is Australia’s most high-profile Indian-born director/producer and for more than a decade has been developing drama, making commercials and corporates and providing production services for visiting Indian films. He was also a judge on the Australian reality TV show Bollywood Star.

Sharma’s boutique production company, Films and Casting Temple, will take a producer or executive producer role on AIFF projects but retain its independence.

In October, Sharma hired the grounds of the harbour side home of one of his new partners for a major advertising campaign in order for them to get first hand experience of how a professional crew works and how risk is mitigated during production.