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    “Time of Indians being taxi drivers is over,” says Padam Kumar

    [Interview by Faridoon Shahryar]
    Friday, December 29, 2006
    “The time of Indians being taxi drivers is over. We are the software guys today. So why not in cinema,” says Padam Kumar, COO-India of Roger Nair Productions, a company distributing Mani Rathnam’s ‘Guru’ thus making Canada as an official territory for Bollywood films. Check out his views on the future of Bollywood content overseas, how piracy will be clamped down and he also rubbished rumours that Mallika Sherawat won’t be attending the ‘Guru’ Premier due to Aishwarya’s insecurity:

    How did Roger Nair Productions decide to come into Bollywood Distribution?

    We at Roger Nair Productions have done a lot of events which are Indian based and Hollywood based. We have shifted our attention now to Bollywood content in Canada. Canada has always been a part of North America territory but we are trying to establish it as a major territory in itself. Not only because of ethnic Indians living there but there are also lots of native Canadian population which is also very kicked about Bollywood films. We are trying to give Indian films a mainstream release. And what better project than Mr Mani Rathnam’s film. He is a great maker with a lot of great sensibility. It’s an autobiographical kind of film which will be exciting for people to watch.

    How did you strike a deal for Guru’s world premier in Canada?

    Torronto is becoming a huge media centre in North America. After Cannes Film Festival everyone knows that Torronto Film Festival is the biggest. A lot of Hollywood productions happen in Canada. Around eighty to hundred productions a year. The Mayor of Torronto, the premier of Ontario, The Ontario Media Development Corporation, and Canadian Television and Film Commission are very charged about the Premier of ‘Guru’. This premier is being hosted by the city of Torronto. There’s a lot of a public support. We are doing it in an auditorium which not many people will be able to reach. It’s a 200 year old Victorian Opera House, one of the best auditoriums in the world. It’s a majestic place. It’s going to be a red carpet world premier on the lines of Hollywood films.

    Films like ‘Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna’, ‘Omkara’, ‘Baabul’ and even ‘Umrao Jaan’ have done very well in the Overseas territory…

    That’s why we got into the business you know (laughs). Overseas business is a bit undefined in Bollywood. There were a couple of distributors who were releasing films across the world. Now, Sony is here, Columbia is here. Now, the industry will come to know the kind of potential Bollywood holds abroad. The growth rate of the market is phenomenal. The interest shown by the native Canadians, Americans is amazing. Like ‘KANK’ was a huge success in Germany. Local Germans saw the film. Europe is becoming a huge market. Netherlands is a huge market for Bollywood content. We are in the business because we think there’s a lot of money in the business.

    Was the star cast of ‘Guru’ a reason for getting associated with the film?

    That’s why we want to do the world premier of the film. Ash is a very very Bollywood personality Overseas. Not only as a Bollywood actress, but she has been noticed in the English films. Even the mainstream audience has seen ‘Bride and Prejudice’. She is very very popular. Every native Americans I know says that she is the most beautiful woman in the world. She has got the buzz. Abhishek Bachchan…Everyone knows Amitabh Bachchan is the biggest star in India. And Abhishek Bachchan is his son. And he is big. Everyone knows when it’s a Mani Rathnam film, the product is gotta be very high quality. The presentation, the audio, the visual, A R Rahman…It’s an amalgamation of a team of actors and great technicians….Rajeev Menon is a brilliant photographer….Sreedhar is doing the sound whom I rate as one of the best in Asia. Then Mr Bobby Bedi is distributing the film. He has done ‘Bandit Queen’, ‘Fire’, ‘The Rising’…It’s a very interesting project to get into.

    Who all are coming for the Premier?

    Everyone yaar…All the cast and the crew. We want everyone to come. A lot of people have confirmed. A lot of people are working out their dates. Most probably we will have the whole cast of the film….

    But there have been reports that Mallika Sherawat and Vidya Balan won’t be a part of the premier?

    I don’t know from where they get it…You know our media…They need some news…Everyone is coming as far as I know. It’s an invitation that has gone from the people of Torronto. We are doing the paperwork for everyone to travel.

    What kind of advance booking are you anticipating?

    There’s a huge huge demand for the premier tickets. But it’s by invites only. The film is being spoken about. All the mainstream channels and newspapers are talking about ‘Guru’. You can hear to ‘Guru’ songs on CBC radio….It’s totally mainstream…

    Have you seen the film? And what would you like to say to fans all over the world as to why they should watch Guru?

    It’s a Mani Rathnam film. It’s a film which has got a lot of technical quality attached to it. It’s an emotional film. It has got a lot of moments which would make every NRI proud that this film has been made out of my country. The time of Indians being taxi drivers is over. We are the software guys today. So why not in cinema! If we are there in IT why not in cinema? When we can do source coding for Microsoft, we can do content programming for mainstream films….

    How will you control piracy that eats into a major share overseas?

    Piracy is going to be zero in Canada for ‘Guru’. The government, the police, the cultural ministry have clamped on it. We are going to be very very strict.

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