Former Indian Tennis pro turned mega Hollywood producer Ashok Amritraj has lamented the “lack of recognition” for screenwriters in India, saying it is hindering progress for cinema in the subcontinent.
The producer behind Hollywood blockbusters such as ‘Double Impact’, ‘Get Carter’ and the ‘Ghost Rider’ sequel said writers with creative new ideas, particularly in Bollywood, should be given the same status as actors and directors if Indian cinema is to resonate with global audiences.
Amritraj revealed a “shocking” recent encounter in Bollywood, which highlighted the industry’s apathy towards creating original narratives.
“I was at a hotel in Mumbai recently and this well known director came up to me and said ‘Hi Ashok. I saw your film Bandits recently and I used the excellent ending in that film in mine!’”
“I think he wanted me to say thank you! But I was too shocked to say anything!
I just hope more and more Indian film endings won’t come from ‘Bandits’ or ‘Inception’ or ‘Ghost Rider’ but from great stories that are rooted in Indian culture and traditions, which is far more spectacular than anything anywhere else in the world.”
Amritraj also said he wanted to be approached by more writers instead of being inundated with movie ideas by actors and directors every time he travels to India.
“Whether it be a screenwriter or a novelist I hold writers in the greatest regard. The idea of the story is perhaps the most important thing.
I think directors and actors are given so much attention in India that writers get ignored. They need to be paid more and reconized more if the industry is to truly develop.”
The 57-year-old producer was speaking at the launch of his autobiography ‘Advantage Hollywood’ at a dinner organized by the Indian Journalists Association in London this week.
Among the guests at the dinner were filmmakers Gurindher Chadha and Sangeeta Datta, Cobra Beer honcho Lord Bilimoria and fellow Lords Paul and Dholakia, diplomats, business executives and foreign correspondents.
Amritraj is part of the famous South Indian Amritraj family of Tennis playing brothers – alongside Vijay and Anand – who were the first Indians to take part in top-flight international tournaments back in the 1970’s.
‘Advantage Hollywood’ charts his fascinating journey from gifted tennis professional through struggling film producer to becoming one of the most prolific filmmakers in Hollywood with more than 100 films to his credit.
During the book’s launch, Amritraj was also honoured by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for his “extraordinary” journey from “Chennai to Hollywood via Wimbledon”.
The UKAsian’s editor Viji Alles spoke to Amritraj on the day of the event.