Look out Bollywood, there’s a new CPA in town. Shreedhar “Shree” Kothari, a partner with Santa Monica-based Gumbiner Savett Inc., has a new gig after hours as a member of the board of directors of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. Kothari’s firm has many clients in the entertainment industry, including independent production entities, film and television studios and foreign entertainment companies, so combined with his affinity for Bollywood and the silver screen, it was a pro bono match made in heaven.
How has the Indian film community changed in the last decade?
A: With the digital revolution, the Indian film community began to receive tremendous opportunities. As a result, India is seeing a big demand for post-production work. The community has always had a good working relationship with Hollywood and, with the success of recent films like “Slumdog Millionaire,” it has opened more doors for new opportunities. As far as the film industry, Bollywood is not far behind Hollywood in film production, and is steadily becoming a powerhouse in the global cinema market and other areas of the entertainment industry. Many projects are either produced in India or are based on themes out of India, and are geared toward a world audience.
We all know “Slumdog Millionaire.” What are other home-grown films that nurture your interest in Indian cinema?
Bollywood churns out lots of films. Most are not as popular with western audiences. Recently, though, I have noticed that these films are made with more substance to the story line. I enjoyed “Lagan” (an Oscar-nominated film in the foreign language category): an uplifting film about an ordinary man’s struggle to oppose the levy assessed by the British rulers, and the route they take to oppose it. I’m waiting to see “Peepli Live,” which has won the best feature film award at the Durban International Film Festival. The subject of the movie is quite serious, but depicted in a satirical way: As India moves to a more industrialized economy, farmers are committing suicide and self-serving politicians are unwilling to address it.
Do you think “Slumdog” deserved its Oscar recognition?
Absolutely. It was a very well-made film. And while I believe the film did not reveal the true side of India, nevertheless, it was superb.
Are there other Indian books you would like to appear on the silver screen?
I’m a first-generation Indian immigrant in the United States and could relate to the character portrayed in Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Namesake.” I really enjoyed the film. There are a host of Indian writers who have written very good books. Books by Arundhati Roy, V. S. Naipau and Amitav Ghosh, to name a few, have been critically acclaimed and won various awards. I would love to see some of this work on the big screen.
What’s the best part of being a board member of the festival?
It’s fun and rewarding. As a nonprofit organization, the festival supports emerging filmmakers. But it’s especially gratifying to see this festival in Los Angeles. The Archlight Hollywood is the perfect venue. It’s hard to express the excitement and buzz the festival generates for the entire week it’s being held. The IFFLA is a wonderful organization where you can enjoy your passion for movies and be a part of bringing some lesser-known films to audiences in the United States.
Do they make you handle the festival’s finances?
I’m very involved with the festival finances. I work closely with Christina Marouda, who is the executive director and the founder of the festival, regarding festival finances. My firm, Gumbiner Savett, has been very supportive of my board activities. The firm also handles tax matters and other related issues for the festival.
Who is the biggest star you’ve met? Want to meet?
I have met a few stars at the festival. But I hope the festival one day becomes a prime destination and an “A” list draw for Indian-themed movies. It’s already growing in recognition and popularity. I would love to meet a lot of Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities. My goal is to bring to the festival films from lesser-known directors or that deal with subject matters that affect society on the themes based out of India.
Would you rather be a leading man in a comedy, romance, action, drama or horror?
Hmm … a leading man in a film. I think I’m right where I belong: A CPA who cares about his clients. I’m glad that I’m associated with the entertainment industry.