Dr. Romesh Japra is an M.D. and entrepreneur based in the Bay Area who helped create a unique film festival that is helping tie the United States and India together culturally. The festival is now about much more than movies and has become a major event for people of all backgrounds.
Below is the interview usindiamonitor has conducted with this pioneering Indian-American. We hope this tradition continues to flourish and grow.
Festival of the Globe-Silicon Valley 2016 will be held August 5-14, 2016.
1. In a nutshell, what is Festival of the Globe- Silicon Valley?
It began as a film festival culminating into an awards night and the traditional India Day Parade. It has now progressed into a full throttle film, media, fashion, music, technology, business and cultural bonanza spanning across 10 days taking place in the heart of San Francisco and San Jose – called Silicon Valley. It was a natural evolution and elevation from Festival of India to Festival of Globe. After serving and empowering Indian Americans for 25 years, seeing transformation from 100% Indians to 50% Non Desis participation and requests from other diverse and relatively new communities, I made this bold and challenging decision despite concerns from my colleagues. We Indian Americans have become pioneers in many fields including high tech and IT. Why not this Initiative as well !
2. As someone who worked in medicine/business, what got you interested in such a festival?
In 70’s and 80’s, a few of the doctors were the main funders of cultural events. I always had a passion for community service. I think my mother had imbibed it in me. Whenever I went back home in Phagwara, Punjab from AIIMS or States, she would not give me my breakfast until I took care of all the patients who used to line up in the street in front of our small house. In 1983, I co-founded Fremont Hindu Temple and Cultural Center for which we had to buy a church and convert it for reasons of not being able to get permit because of Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement making people get the wrong impression of religious conversion.
Besides heading this center, I provided free medical service to many every Sunday, got involved in many other cultural, social and civic organizations. I also became President and Chairman of Federation of Indo-Americans, National Political Forum, Chamber of Commerce, Professional organizations and so on. In 1993, I founded Festival of India and Parade which has grown from 5,000 to 200,000 attendees in 2015. It has been a long journey and I prefer it that way. We have added lots of properties along the way and in 2014 was the first FOG Movie Fest. Last year our festival expanded tremendously and this year it promises to rise further up.
3. Why is the event based in Silicon Valley?
Primarily because I am based here since the past few decades, long before it was called Silicon Valley. This is known as the IT capital of the world and we are doing our part in bridging arts & culture, as well.
Sitting in the technology hub in Silicon Valley, we can inspire a lot more innovation in film making and digital and other means of film distribution and thus reaching out to the masses globally. Silicon Valley is the place where ideas and dreams get realized and converted into wealth. Through forums like Investor Pitch, we bring Angel Investors, Venture Capitalists, Bankers and Entrepreneurs (film-makers) onto a single platform. From Diversity and Ethnicity point of view, Silicon Valley is like the United Nations.
4. What does the future hold for FOGSV?
We’ve had an excellent response from the audiences. After having done Festivals for 24 years, we’re confident FOGSV has a bright future. We’ve gotten volunteers from across the communities and great resources to continue carrying the show. Like every year, we keep expanding and make it bigger and better.
5. How did FOGSV get off the ground?
We had a great platform of Festival of India and Parade for 22 years. Transforming to Festival of Globe with addition of Movie Fest, Awards, Fashion, Summit was easier. We as Indian Americans take pride in championing this Initiative by opening it up to all diverse communities while keeping our Indian base with Independence Day Celebrations.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Special thanks to Bollywood actor Prashantt Guptha for arranging this interview.