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As Ashok Amritraj completes 100 films in Hollywood, a function is being organised in honour of his ‘extraordinary achievement'

In the 1960s, he would ride along the streets of Nungambakkam in cowboy outfits pretending to be one of the Magnificent Seven. Today, life has come full circle. The Chennai boy who grew up drooling over Westerns is today one of the biggest film producers in the West! Ashok Amritraj will be honoured today for his ‘extraordinary achievement' of making 100 films in Hollywood at a function jointly organised by the United States Consulate General, Chennai, and Hyde Park Entertainment, Hollywood. The tennis player-turned-film maker with reserves of quiet steeliness speaks about his 30-year journey in the world's biggest dream factory. Excerpts:

THREE DECADES in Hollywood… it's been a fantastic journey. The first 10 years were rather slow. It took me a while to break in. But the 20 years that followed rolled by so fast. It feels like yesterday that we shot for “Double Impact”! And recently, my 100 {+t} {+h} film “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li” hit the screens. It's been a satisfying innings for me. I've been able to make both critically and financially rewarding films. It's also been terrific knowing many great people. Some Hollywood greats I grew up watching and admiring are now good friends.

THE NEXT STEP is to bring countries together. “Street Dancing” is the first of Hyde Park's cross-cultural projects in partnership with Imagenation Abu Dhabi and Media Development Authority, Singapore. A story that revolves around an Indian boy and a Canadian girl blends dance styles and cultures and travels from Singapore to New York. A portion will be shot in Mumbai too.

A.R. RAHMAN'S MUSIC is a highlight of “Street Dancing” that will have about half-a-dozen numbers. Dave Stewart (think Eurythmics) is the other composer. It's a terrific combination.

UPCOMING FILMS include “Dead of Night” starring Brandon Routh. The film is set for a Spring 2010 release. Hyde Park partners with Hisako Matsui of Essen Communications, Japan, to produce “Leonie”, based on the life story of Leonie Gilmour, mother of the famed American-Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi. “Machete”, an actioner directed by Robert Rodriguez, has Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan et al in the cast. The film will hit the screens in Fall 2010.

FILM-MAKING, A GAMBLE because you are counting on things 18 months ahead. The tide could turn in your favour or simply engulf you! Unlike sport, so much depends on perception. I hope my career is not just determined by box-office numbers but by the variety I've explored. ( pause) Of course, cash registers matter because commercial success gives me the power to make a film I can take a chance with!

CALIFORNIA was perfection personified when I landed there in 1975. The weather was perfect, the beaches were perfect and the girls were perfect. There was too much perfection around! It was amazing. The motion picture industry influences culture, people's dress sense and even how they wear their hair! It's nice to be part of it.

CHENNAI IS the place for introspection. I learnt the work-family balancing act from my mother. She's strong-minded. It was quite ironic — she was the only woman at home, but she led the pack! The toughest thing in the film business — especially when you are successful and have a long career with so many temptations along the way — is to balance family and career and have your head firmly on your shoulders. You should know where to draw the line and when to switch off the Blackberry. Dysfunctional families are becoming a problem the world over.

* * *

SIDESPIN

In Hollywood, the ups and downs can be so dramatic.

You make a great film and they'll fly you in a private jet and give you a yacht. But when a film fails, people won't recognise you.

Recently, a good friend of mine, a top studio executive, was fired on a Friday.

On Monday, the man who usually receives 200 calls a day got only two!

When I consoled him saying he's got two genuine friends, he replied the two callers didn't know he was fired!

T. KRITHIKA REDDY

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