POWER DINING WITH
Copyright 2001 www.tombraiderchronicles.com
[ November 25th 2001 ]
morning breaks gently over Broadway, Santa Monica.
Pierce Brosnan pulls up in his Porsche at his
friend's place for a game of tennis. Steaming
cups of south Indian coffee and some sweat later,
it's game, set and match Amritraj. Brosnan, of
course, doesn't mind. One can't be a Bond at everything,
especially if one is at the receiving end of some
crushing forehand down-the-lines from a former
junior Wimbledon finalist.
Amritraj, the youngest of the Amritraj brothers,
has got much more than the heaviest baggage of
American dreams one can carry from a third world
nation. From being part of the tennis-trio along
with brothers Vijay and Anand to holding centre-court
in the entertainment business, he has earned himself
the epithet, "The ultimate Hollywood insider".
As one of the leading producers in America's dream
factory, Amritraj lives straight out of the movies
- power breakfast with investment bankers, luncheon
meeting with Angelina Jolie, tea at the studio
and dinner poolside.
then there are these little ways in which he breaks
Hollywood's tycoon typecast. The lunch with Jolie
stands, but he's likely to insist on something
as startlingly homegrown as tomato uttapam for
the main course. His two children, instead of
flying to Hawai on their two-and-half-month summer
vacation, board the Chennai flight every year.
"For children, there is no better place to grow
up than India," he says.
continues to play life with his forehand, and
as forties' snowflakes quietly settle in his hair,
the roots deepen. "As I grow older, I feel more
and more drawn towards India," he says in an interview
with The Times of India. He was in Mumbai to attend
the ongoing film festival, and Bandits, starring
Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blancett,
is the first of his films to be screened at an
Indian film fest. Original Sin, another film co-produced
by him under his organisation Hyde Park Entertainment,
is currently playing in many theatres in the country.
in America thought I was crazy to get into a plane
and head for India right after September 11. I
said nothing doing. This is a very special occasion
for me," he says. He now plans a major English
film in India, with Indian actors on board. He
is already working on a couple of such films,
and is likely to finalise things by spring next
experiment with an Indian language film - the
Aishwarya Rai starrer, Jeans - was his last until
now. "Making it was fun, but I frankly do not
have that kind of time any more," he says. "In
India, a film takes years to complete (Jeans took
18 months) because the stars are doing four or
five movies at a time. In Hollywood, actors make
three or four movies a year, but they take up
one at a time. We are used to shoots that last
just a quarter and there is no break in production."
dubs Indian cinema's new-found industry status
a good first step. "In film finance, so many things
happen backwards here. Film-makers and banks should
work towards a relationship of trust and commitment,"
he says, adding, "You should make up your mind
whether you want to act like businessmen or a
bunch of mom and pop stores."
journey in the U.S. started in 1975 with the LA
Strings tennis team. Soon, he was playing every
major chamionship, including Wimbledon and the
U.S. Open. "Sports like tennis and golf bring
you closer to the entertainment world. And since
I had an obsession with the movies from my childhood
in India, I fell in," he says. "I used to go to
the studios and be in awe of them," he says, adjusting
his tall, athletic frame on the interview sofa.
In 1981, when he floated the Amritraj Entertainment
Company, "all they wanted to talk to me about
was my tennis. "Hollywood makes you pay your dues,"
he says. "You live through a series of doles and
the heady days of the independent film market
of the '80s, when Amritraj started financing $2-8
million films, the season slowly changed to the
night of the big cats in the $30-90 million bracket.
He started Hyde Park to get into joint ventures,
and is now the only financier to have deals with
two major banners, MGM and Walt Disney.
the day one Jean Claude Van Damme, who drove limos
in New York, walked into his office. "He had send
500 applications. I was among the two who got
back," he says. He later went on to make his first
superhit, Double Impact, with Van Damme. His other
movies include Anti Trust and What's the Worst
that Could Happen.
slated for release next year include Ump with
Arnold Schwarzenneger and one with Dustin Hoffman
and Susan Sarandon. He knows he can't get a double