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HindustanTimes Fri,18 Apr 2014

35 years ago, Hollywood was white and a closed world: Ashok Amritraj

Kavita Awaasthi, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, August 30, 2013
First Published: 16:39 IST(30/8/2013) | Last Updated: 17:25 IST(30/8/2013)

Former tennis player and Hollywood producer Ashok Amritraj will soon release his autobiography . He’s looking forward to the launch next month, for which his friend, Hollywood star Jean-Claude Van Damme, will be visiting India.

Talking about his association with Hollywood and his upcoming book, Amritraj says, “It will talk about the life of an immigrant (to the US) 35 years ago when Hollywood was very white, and a closed world. Everything is much more globalised today. My book covers all that and comes around to today’s time, when my films have grossed over $2 billion in over 100 films. It’s been a wonderful journey with great stars and goes from (Frank) Sinatra and Sidney Poitier to (Sylvester) Stallone, Bruce Willis, Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock. The book has many anecdotes. It’s a fun read, but also talks about family, culture and tradition.”

‘I would not say there’s any scandalous stuff’

How did you think of getting Jean-Claude Van Damme to India?
I am launching my autobiography globally and he is an old friend. Rather than inviting my other friends like Sylvester Stallone, it felt appropriate to invite Jean-Claude, whose Double Impact (1991) was where my success began. He’s the right guy. I’m happy he agreed to come.

What facet of your personality will we discover through your book?
It starts with Chennai and my childhood, the tennis years with my brothers, travelling around the US, through Wimbeldon in the ’70s, making the transition to Hollywood in the ’80s, struggles through the first few years, and then the last 23 years, which have been extraordinary. It will be a good mix of east and west.

Will there be any revelations in the book?
(Laughs) None. All of my shocking revelations were made a long time ago. I wouldn’t say there’s any scandalous stuff in the book.

Why did you write one now?
I was approached a few years ago too, but I wasn’t keen then. Three years later, when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and began forgetting things, I began recording my parents’ memories and asking them questions about our lives. When I heard them, I realised it is as much their story as it’s mine. Even today, I continue to follow the traditions and values they instilled in me. It’s a circle of life.

Are there any plans to produce films in India or cast Indian actors in your Hollywood projects?
I did Bloodstone (1988) with Rajinikanth, a film in the mid-’90s with Aishwarya (Rai Bachchan), AR Rahman, and later a film with Anupam (Kher). I want to do films with Indian actors, but I need to find a great story. When I come here, I meet people who pitch ideas, but I haven’t found an intriguing script yet.

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