By Utpal Borpujari in Cannes
It’s been a long journey but true to his quietly amiable personality, tennis player-turned-filmmaker Ashok Amritraj has achieved a landmark with not many noticing it.
In a rare feat that will be tough to emulate, Amritaj has touched the three-figure mark in film production in highly-competitive Hollywood with the making of “The Unbound Captives”, an epic love story in the backdrop of a war to be directed by top Hollywood star Madeleine Stowe.
Amritraj, whose friendship with a range of top Hollywood stars and filmmakers started through friendly games on the tennis court, made his first movie “Fleshburn” in the early 1980s, and from small-budget action films and erotic thrillers he slowly graduated to producing bigtime films through his firm Hyde Park Entertainment.
Now, as “The Unbound Captives”, being made with a $80-90 million budget, gets ready, Amritraj is in a nostalgic mood.
Sitting in his plush office at the Suite Roman Polanski in the legendary Carlton Hotel, he tells Deccan Herald, “It is thanks to my upbringing in an Indian family that taught me the importance of being grounded and of respecting others, and my sports background that taught me the importance of hard work and discipline, I have been able to come thus far.”
Amritraj, who has produced just one film India till date – Shankar’s Tamil film “Jeans” – is celebrating the landmark by planning to announce a Hollywood film that will star a couple of big stars and will be shot in India, as well as setting up an office in Asia to explore production of movies in India, China and the Middle-East.
A brand ambassador to Singapore, Amritaj is pretty worked up about the increasing Indian presence in Hollywood. “There was nobody when I started out, but now we have very talented people like Manoj Night Shyamalan. It was very difficult for me at the beginning, but now second generation Indians who became filmmakers are doing extremely well over there,” he says.
He believes that this is the perfect time for Indian filmmakers to make films for global audiences, following the increasing interest about India following the international success of Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire”.
“But they will have to develop international stories with international treatment, overcoming the mental block of making films only for domestic and NRI audiences, which is not wrong but is a deterrent towards attracting global audiences,” he says