DR. ROMESH JAPRA
Interview By: BHARATI DUBEY
Besides being a man of medicine, Dr. Romesh Japra, a noted cardiologist, also takes pride in being a cultural entrepreneur. His mission, he says, “Is to unite world cultures through the arts.” Besides being the force behind India Day Parade in Silicon Valley, he also conducts Festival of Globe (FOG) that leverages the chances of Indian independent filmmakers. To mark the 70th year of India’s Independence Day, three patriotic films will be in focus – Vivek Agnihotri’s Buddha In A Traffic Jam, debutante director Lom Harsh’s Yeh Hai India and Nirang Desai’s Taabeer at this year’s FOG festival. Excerpt of the exclusive interview with Japra, where he shares his vision of spread Indian entertainment through his ventures…
How do you juggle being a cardiac surgeon, head of a Temple, maintaining a vineyard and organizing this ﬁlm festival?
Pure passion! Medicine is my ﬁrst love. It never tires me. That gives me lots of time and unspent energy to engage in my other passions. My other activities function like meditation, which continuously feeds more energy and stamina.
What was the moment or seed that inspired you to foray into entertainment?
I take pride in being a Cultural and Social Entrepreneur. I have been empowering Indian American Community for the last 25 years by hosting Festival of India and Parade every year. It grew from 5,000 to 150,000 people during this time. Now we are engaging other ethnic communities and going from local to global and aiming for a million people. Besides performing arts, visual arts and folk arts, I jumped into ﬁlm arts and entertainment as well to integrate diverse communities of the globe. Silicon Valley is the place where ideas transform into realities.
You have ﬂoated a new company called RJ Media, what are your plans with it?
I have been publisher of newsweekly India Post for the last 25 years. With advent of social and digital media, I am trying to add television, radio events, digital and social media. That’s how RJ Media is born. Who knows, we may end doing co-productions with mainstream Bollywood and Hollywood in the time to come.
What have been your greatest learning experiences about showbiz, ﬁlms and celebrities in the years you have been doing Festival of Globe?
Greatest learning has been transformation from Non-proﬁ t to a business model. Especially if you want to be successful, unless you want to treat it as a charity. Each and every day my organization deals with Bollywood stars, managers, publicists and it is astonishing in both a good and bad way what the nature and intricacies of showbiz are.
Do you feel Indian ﬁlmmakers can ﬁnd genuine investors in Silicon Valley?
Absolutely! We have had real examples where investors have funded ﬁlmmakers in Bollywood. Silicon Valley is number one in the world to ﬁnance entrepreneurs, and a ﬁlmmaker is no less than a tech entrepreneur. Plus, the population here is full of movie lovers, be it Hindi, regional or Hollywood.
We hear that you run this organization quite organically, by way of community members and volunteers, not an event mgmt company. What do you feel are the pros and cons of going about it this way?
That was the only way I knew how to go about it. It began as community service and blossomed into the ﬂourishing enterprise. Since it was my passion and I have been thriving on community service, it has worked very well. Of course, there are lots of challenges along the way. As long as we are not in a rush and you are enjoying the journey, it will serve you well. If you are impatient and want quick results, then this not the route you want to take.
How did you gain the support of Facebook to co-host an event with you for this platform?
Facebook is one of the largest media company. We have lots of Indian Americans who are working at very high positions not only at Facebook but also Google, Apple, Netﬂix, Linkedin and other companies in Silicon Valley. Partnership between FOG and these companies is a win- win proposition, and we are grateful that this fact is mutually accepted and endorsed. I suppose the amount of Indians collectively at these companies is a big plus-point.
For 25 years you have welcomed Bollywood stars to your India Day Parade, any particular star you have shared great memories and relations with?
Two greatest stars have been Dev Anand and Vinod Khanna with whom I have had many fond memories.