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A millionaire NRI who made it with no money

Thampy Antony, a successful NRI businessman, has produced the costliest ever Malayalam film.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2008 12:55 IST

Thampy Antony is no doubt a multifaceted personality. He is a civil engineer, a poet, a playwright, an actor, a hugely successful businessman who runs a string of hospitals in California and a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in the US.

Antony is currently in the news in his home state Kerala for having produced what is believed to be the costliest ever Malayalam film, Calcutta News.

"This is the second film I have produced and, looking back, even if it does not bring back my investment, I have achieved a lot of emotional satisfaction," Antony told IANS.

"I gave absolute freedom to Blessy, the director of the film, and assured him not to worry about cost of the film. More than its commercial success, I wanted a film which I would cherish for long and that has been achieved."

The film was released last week and is reported to be doing well. Incidentally, his younger brother Babu Antony is an accomplished southern Indian actor.

"I was working as an engineer in the state government when I felt that I should go ahead in life and took the plunge and reached the United States of America almost two decades back. The US was my dream destination and I am happy that all the risks I took in life have paid off," said Antony.

When asked which moment he cherishes most in his life, he said: "It was a talk that I attended by a millionaire immediately after reaching the US. He elaborated on how to be a millionaire without having any money. And I did just that," said Antony.

He and his wife, while working, began their first business in 1985 by borrowing $5,000 each from five friends which he describes as OPM (other people's money) and started a five-bed retirement home in California.

Soon thereafter he started a 25-bed retirement home with the help of $150,000 from credit cards. Since then he has not looked back. Antony today runs 10 hospitals in California.

It was his passion for films that made him produce two movies, besides acting in several.

"It was a chance meeting with director Rajiv Anchal in 2000 when he came to do his television film trilogy, which was being shot in New York, that brought out my most intimate desire to be an actor. Since then I have not looked back and my film career as an actor has grown," added Antony.

The biggest break came when Anchal cast him in Beyond the Soul, which won several awards and accolades, including the Grand Jury Prize for best picture, best director and best screenplay at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival.

Antony won the prestigious best actor award at the 2005 Honolulu International Film Festival for portraying the title role of Acharya in Beyond the Soul and became the first Kerala actor to win an internationally acclaimed award.

Since then Antony has taken time off from his busy life in the US and done a string of character roles in Malayalam films. Last year he tasted success again when he became the first Keralite to act in a Hollywood film.

"I belong to SAG and because of that I got the role in the Hollywood film Root of All Evil, directed by Steven Milburn Anderson," said Antony.

When asked if he would produce another Malayalam film, the answer was a quick No.

"If at all I do, it would not be a commercial film because I want to do one which has a message cutting across boundaries and nationalities," said Antony.