Tag Archives: producer

A Filmmaker, A Trailblazer: Prarthana Joshi Takes On Hollywood

How often do you see a diminutive, Indian woman behind the camera in Hollywood?

Prarthana Joshi is doing just that.

Prarthana, also known as PJ, is an independent filmmaker born and raised in Pune and currently based in Los Angeles. What began as a pursuit of architecture in Mumbai, ended with a thesis dedicating a museum to the history of Indian Cinema. It was this bout into Indian cinema that sparked joy. From there, PJ knew she had to pursue filmmaking.

Filmmaker, Prarthana Joshi.

PJ has extensive hands-on and versatile production experience because she knew early on that filmmaking is about learning all the elements of creating cinema. In her most recent project, she produced, TV pilot, Vicarious, which won the best TV pilot at the Dances with Films 2019 festival, amongst several other awards and screenings. Her other notable works include The National Film Archives of India Documentary, Vihir, Vaatsaru, The Day He Learned to Fly, Handle with Care

Prarthana Joshi is a trailblazer. She is a woman. She is a filmmaker. She is an Indian-American transitioning from Bollywood to Hollywood, setting the stage for Indian stories and narratives in global cinema. India Currents interviews her to get insight into how her identities play a role in her unconventional, male-dominated career path.

IC: What is the importance of filmmaking to you?

Filmmaking is a way of life. I remember when I did my college application in 2009, I said that cinema is my religion. What I mean by that is that you start looking at the world as a storyteller, you see hurdles in your life as character-building exercises. You appreciate each and every profession because you start realizing that everyone has a story to tell. You become eager to learn new things and new possibilities. Stagnancy and normalcy are like death. You start to appreciate the journey rather than the award or the end-result. 

Most of the time when a project is over, you feel life is leaving something behind and just eagerly waiting for the next one to start. And it feels like…this is all I know. 

It is 100% love for the process. Discovering the story, meeting new people, exchanging ideas and thoughts. It becomes part of your lifestyle and there is nothing glamour about it. Lots of hard work, lots of hair pulling, and problem-solving going hand in hand with the creative stuff. 

IC: Do you feel like you have to erase parts of your culture in order to make movies in America?

Erasing a part of your culture is not possible. I believe that who you are, runs in your blood. I can pretend all I want but my brain works the way it has been trained to. My perspective has changed though. When a world of possibilities opened to me and I saw a different way of living and thinking, I did start being more critical about my culture and my beliefs. I questioned my morals and became more investigative in general. I don’t accept things blindly. I don’t do things because everyone does it. This particular change has nothing to do with culture. It is just part of growing up. 

And there could be certain cultural things that I might not partake in but that doesn’t mean that I hold a judgemental point of view towards them. I think certain things are for me and some things are not. 

And as for making films in American, I think the definition of good and bad is synonymous no matter where you go. People feel the same feelings and hence…the basic story is always about a journey of a character finding it difficult to get what they want to achieve. The circumstances, the world,and the obstacles might be different but they are humans no matter where they are and what they want. So I am not sure if I had to give up anything as such. I think I have gained a lot more. 

Prarthana Joshi on set.

IC: What do you want to add to South Asian representation in global/American media?

When we talk about the representation of the entire South Asian community, it already sounds like we are trying to blend in so many smaller communities and putting them in a box of a sort.

I wish I could break that box and not make it so symbolic or isolated. 

I think I want to tell stories about people who are passionate about their dreams and desires and happen to be South Asian. I wish I get to a point where I could talk about the diversity within the community, the struggle to hold on to the culture in the modern world. A stateless, countryless, boundaryless world with infinite possibilities and yet the perpetual longing for a community. There are so many issues that are dear to the South Asian communities that never get discussed. Like how do they communicate with families that are in South Asia? What are these long-distance relationships like? What it means to create strong nit communities here. What are these communities like? What are their problems like? I hope, I can tell stories about things that matter to this community. 

IC: What was the journey of crossing cultures?

When you decide to travel to another country, especially a country like the US, you have a preconceived notion of what it will be like. We have seen movies and TV shows from the US so we think that we know everything about this country. But when you actually get to live there then you really begin to slowly understand the culture, bit by bit. Your perceptions start to change. 

Moreover, cinema is a reflection of pop culture, history, and social conversation. Conscious or subconscious documentation of life as such. So to truly understand a country’s cinema, I knew I had to learn a lot about the country itself. This was something I realized early on. I also grew up watching Bollywood films and realized that I had a lot to catch up on. So most of my free time was…reading, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries, older films, and TV shows. After living here for 10 years… I still feel that I am catching up. 

I also learned a lot but just talking to my friends, who grew up in different places within America. I had no idea that someone who grew up in Wyoming and someone who grew up in New York could have so much different upbringing. Had no clue of the cultural diversity within this country. It is a reflection of how little we know about other countries. When I met people from different parts of the world in LA, I constantly felt like my mind was opening up. I was learning to see the world and its people in a whole different way. Respecting and learning and valuing the differences and similarities. 

When you look back at where you come from after having this changed perspective, you learn to appreciate what you had in your upbringing and culture and also learn to critique it as well. 

Then there are other struggles like being away from family and friends; Struggling to create a new world and a support system. But the best part is that this all seems worth it when you are so driven by your passion and the work. So all these things happen naturally and effortlessly. 

IC: What obstacles have you faced?

When I came to LA, to do my Master’s in 2010, I did not know a single person in the city. I had an aunt who lived in San Francisco but that’s it. I was on my own. When you are creating projects in school, that are each individual short films and it takes a lot of resources to make them happen. When I had directed my first short in India, my parents and my family came and helped in gathering all these resources. In LA… It was left to me and my classmates, who were equally new to LA to just figure it out. That was the first lesson in learning to be on your own and thinking on your feet and taking responsibilities that will directly affect your project and many times your classmates’. You slowly learn and figure out the city, where you can resource what things and start building your network. Those days were without social media and online resources, so we had to physically go to places and ask around. No Whatsapp or Facebook groups that could help you or guide you. Now it is so easy to find things. 

The best part of knowing where you started is releasing how much you now know or have learned that you didn’t when you first came. A city so foreign slowly becomes way more familiar than the place you grew up in. 

IC: What advice can you offer other South Asians pursuing filmmaking?

I would love to say that be true to yourself and your experience. Each of us has a story that comes from the unique upbringing we have. Don’t try to blend in with the mainstream or modify your story because of what people may or may not understand. Because people do. We have. We have seen films from other cultures and have understood and appreciated them so there is no reason to compromise on authenticity. 

Also…do try to find out why you want to tell the story you are telling? What conversation are you trying to have? Has this conversation happened before? What is my unique take on it? 

IC: What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on a couple of different projects. They are both in the pitching stages. Both stories about Indians in the US.


Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Indian Producer Acquires Rights to Dalrymple’s Bestseller Book

Stories about the colonization of India and British imperialism have existed for decades. But it’s time these stories are told by Indians themselves. Producer Siddharth Roy Kapur recently announced the purchase of the audio-visual rights to William Dalrymple‘s bestselling book, ‘The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of The East India Company’Kapur’s production house, Roy Kapur Films, intends to adapt this book into a large-scale international production.

Both the original work and Kapur’s filmography suggest that this project has massive potential. ‘The Anarchy’, which traces two hundred years worth of history regarding The East India Company, has been lauded by the public and critics alike. The Guardian recognized that “the book’s real achievement is to take readers to an important and neglected period of British and South Asian history, and to make their trip there not just informative but as entertaining as an evening of poetry and music in a Delhi palace.” Former President Barack Obama listed ‘The Anarchy’ on his Top 10 Recommended Books of 2019.

Meanwhile, Kapur’s previous work in the film industry suggests he has a knack for bringing unique stories to life. In 2016, he produced Dangala high-grossing, heartwarming narrative about a young woman’s entry into the world of wrestling. He also produced The Sky Is Pink, a Priyanka Chopra Jonas starrer about a girl’s battle with a life-threatening disease. His 15 years in international cinema have set the bar for ‘The Anarchy’ rather high.

When asked about this latest project, Roy Kapur said:

“I believe that stories that are compelling, relevant and authentic have the potential to resonate with audiences across all nationalities and cultures. William Dalrymple’s epic tale of The East India Company is one such story. While a debate rages today around the world about the increasing power of giant corporations and powerful individuals to wield control over minds and nations, what could be more relevant to global viewers than the true story of the takeover of an entire subcontinent by a small trading company! We are delighted to be working with William to bring to life this fascinating tableau of incredible characters, each playing off the other in their quest to exercise dominion over what was then the richest subcontinent on the face of the Earth.”

Kanchan Naik is a rising senior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor at India Currents, she is also the Director of Media Outreach for Break the Outbreak, the Editor-in-chief of The Roar, and the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton.

A Conversation with Ram Sampath

Ram Sampath enthralled the audience with his unique music compositions synchronized to a live dance troupe in San Jose, an event hosted by the Mona Khan Company, on March 10 and 11, 2018.  Held in the intimate Mexican Heritage Theater, the concert was accompanied by Mona Khan’s own dance troupe.

The multi-talented Sampath – musician, producer, vocalist, composes for Bollywood movies, MTV India, Coke Studio musical series, and popular TV shows such as “Satyamev Jayate” in India. His background in Carnatic music infuses his compositions with a meld of Indian classical music, jazz, western and pop.

After having started his career composing jingles for advertisements, Sampath moved into the realm of pop music and later started composing for Bollywood films. Sampath’s musical score for the movie “Delhi Belly”, which was acclaimed by music critics, earned him a Filmfare Award.

He now has his own music production house “OmGrown Music”, in collaboration with his wife, Sona Mohapatra, who is a singer in her own right.

The concert in San Jose was a rich experience for the audience, featuring a medley of hit songs by Ram Sampath, who was accompanied by vocalists, Pawni Pandey and Siddhanth Bhosle, as well as a live band. The dance choreography synchronized perfectly with the music, and the dancers in vibrant Bollywood outfits were eye candy. The tight synchronization between the music and dance was the obvious result of an incredible effort and practice by the team.

Sampath exhibited the range of his musical and vocal prowess, in the short span of the two-hour concert, with compositions that were mostly his own.

He also introduced new singers Rithisha Padmanabh and Nishant Bordia, winners of a singing contest that he had hosted in the Bay Area along with Radio Bollywood 92.3 FM

I had a glimpse of the man behind the musical mask in a post-event interview:

I.C.:  Who is your muse or your inspiration for your music?

Sampath:  Life is my inspiration and the experiences that have shaped my life. Even when I started out as a young lad, I had privy to life experience content to express in my musical composition. I have had an eventful life, right from my childhood (smile).

I.C.:  You were trained for 8 years in South Indian Carnatic music. Does that training permeate your music style?

Sampath:  Yes, of course. I still love Carnatic music and often use it in my compositions. There are many modern day Carnatic music composers who I consider giants in the industry that I listen to regularly.

I was exposed to many genres of music growing up. Learning music at a young age is a blessing as it becomes a part of who you are – your roots, so to speak.

My dad loves Western music – the Beatles, for example. My mom is a fan of Bollywood music. I also have a rock and jazz component in my music. When I compose, I am influenced by all the above and more. The move into Bollywood was organic, the result of my eclectic music background.

I.C.:  What is your favorite musical composition or song?

Sampath:  That’s easy. Definitely “Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar” composed by Jaidev from the movie “Hum Dono” and sung by Asha Bhosle and Mohammad Rafi. It is a masterpiece in musical composition. It has so many elements that are perfect in the song – emotions (longing), lyrics, melody, and overall composition. It’s timeless.

I.C.:  What is your biggest challenge?

Sampath:  My taste in music needs to be agreeable to Bollywood. There is a lot of junk music out there that is being consumed. My desire is to create amazing, high-quality music for the audience. Consistently.

I.C.:  What is the future of your musical journey?

Sampath:  I am getting more collaborative in nature. For example, this live show with Mona Khan Company is a new beginning for me. I want to do more live stage shows and collaborate with other artists in the years ahead of me.

Thanks for the show Ram Sampath and the heart-to-heart interview. It was good to get a feel of the man behind the excellent music.

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