I first met New York-based music composer Wayne Sharpe two years ago at the New York Indo-American Film Festival (NYIFF). He was the first American I had ever encountered who worked for Bollywood. Recently I had the chance to attend a conference that focused on the economic impact of Bollywood in New York City – and Wayne was there to speak about his experiences.
Wayne has recently won Indian national awards for his music scores in films such as Rajneeti, Apaharan, and Dekh Indian Circus. He focused his remarks on how he, as a non-Indian, broke into Bollywood. After the event Wayne told The Huffington Post in an exclusive interview:
I am extremely fortunate to be able to write music, but that is only a small part of Bollywood. Attending today’s conference [Ticket2Bollywood (T2B)], I learned about writing, producing, directing, and financing a Bollywood film. Fascinating! I also learned what an enormous impact Bollywood has on the global economy – and on the lives on fellow New Yorkers.
Imtiaz Ali, Vikram Chatwal, Shahnaab Alam, Anuraadha Tewari, Ajay Shrivastav and Zoya Akhtar address the impact of Bollywood and its global impact on our economy. Photo: Kabir Chopra.I was delighted to meet three top Indian filmmakers -Imtiaz Ali, Zoya Akhtar, and Anuraadha Tewari. This was the first time in the U.S. that so many distinguished Indian filmmakers have come together to discuss the finer nuances of Bollywood filmmaking, where there is traditionally such a different narrative and level of drama from the American movies most of us are used to.
Bollywood directors, I learned, regularly hire New York-based technicians, including cinematographers, 3D specialists, writers and music composers such as Wayne Sharpe. I was stunned to learn that our city has been the location of many Bollywood films, including Kal Ho Na Ho, Anjaana Anjaani, and Shah Rukh Khan’s iconic My Name is Khan, and the latest film released at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this year, English Vinglish. I wrote about Shah Rukh last spring when he was honored at Yale.
The two-day conference was sponsored by Molecule Communications in Manhattan’s Chelsea’s Dream Downtown Hotel. Siblings Ajay and Kiren Shrivastav who founded this company spoke to me about Indian film’s economic impact on this city. Supporting one another’s efforts, they have become successful in taking their company forward with their events.
I followed up my chat with Ajay to speak with the Mayor’s Office on Film. There I connected with Commissioner Katherine Oliver of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment who elaborated:
New York City is a thriving center of film and television production and we invite filmmakers from around the globe to film on location here. With the success of films such as Kal Ho Naa Ho and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, we’ve seen that Indian audiences are eager to watch New York City onscreen.The staff at the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment works closely with filmmakers shooting on location here to make it as easy as possible for their productions. On our website – nyc.gov/film – we also provide a step-by-step guide for international companies planning to film in New York.
Reliance, one of the major Indian film companies, has recently partnered with Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks, to create a new, U.S.-based film studio known as Dar Motion Pictures, headed by Shahnaab Alam. This production/distribution company, which was one of the sponsors of this year’s Ticket2Bollywood, has twelve productions in the pipeline for the upcoming year.
Vikram Chatwal, Shahnaab Alam along with Anuraadha Tewari and Ajay Shrivastav address questions and discuss the prospective films in the upcoming year. Photo: Kabir Chopra.
Molecule Communications conceptualized this workshop for non-Indians like me to better understand how much Bollywood contributes to the global economy and how this billion-dollar film industry is truly going “Beyond the Song and Dance.” I was riveted.
These are exciting times, as film around the world continues to become more global. Here in New York it broadens our perspective, allows us a better understanding of humanity which is a prerequisite for global harmony – and it allows an ever-larger group of our New Yorkers to pay their rent which, at the end of the day, is far more immediate for most of us than world peace.
The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org) is the umbrella organization under which The International University Center Haiti (Uni Haiti) and Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) are organized.
Originally published in The Daily Kos, Jan. 29, 2013.