Indian tennis great Vijay Amritraj, who was part of the James Bond film “Octopussy” and was a regular character in the American sitcoms “The Last Precinct” and “What a Country”, says that making a mark internationally is not easy and one of the toughest frontiers is Hollywood.
“Having my own TV series on an American channel at that time was a huge process,” Amritraj told IANS in a telephonic conversation from Mumbai on the sidelines of a celebratory dinner to mark the success of Grover Zampa’s Vijay Amritraj’s wine collection which was launched in association with the man himself in 2014.
Amritraj’s California-based company, First Serve Entertainment, is one of the leading multimedia production companies that deals with Asian-American content, and helped Disney, Turner and ESPN enter the Indian market.
Talking about how Indian movies are creating an impact, he said: “It is definitely creating an impact. It just needs to be on a more regular basis with worldwide distribution that appeals to more cinemas than what they are today. Distribution is the key.”
Amritraj lives in California with wife Shyamala, who is a Sri Lankan Tamil, and sons Prakash Amritraj and Vikram. He has also been appointed a United Nations ambassador for peace and has been raising awareness on the issues of drugs and HIV/AIDS and in raising funds to fight the spread of AIDS worldwide.
He is also the founder of The Vijay Amritraj Foundation in 2006, apart from being the first few Indians who created an impact on the world’s tennis courts that were dominated by Americans, Europeans and Australians.
Amritraj had a career singles win-loss record 384-296, winning 16 singles and 13 doubles titles. He was part of the Indian Davis Cup team that reached the finals in 1974 and 1987.
Being one of the tennis legends, how does he see India emerging in tennis globally and why have we failed to produce someone like Roger Federer or Andy Murray who have done wonders in singles games?
“It’s a long-term process. We really haven’t had anyone anywhere close to them. As it turns out, I am still the number one Asian with most number of titles won by any Asian in the Open era and I suppose that’s not a good record to hold on to. I am looking for someone else to break it. I think we are a long way off to even getting anywhere near,” he said.
So what is the solution?
“I think we need more commitments on all sides from sponsors, from the athletes, from the families and from the associations. We haven’t really got a strong system in place for most of them to do well,” said Amritraj.
The Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection has won 22 international awards since its inception, winning the hearts of consumers and critics alike, around the world. The wines are distributed in India and across key international markets such as the US, UK, Australia, France, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Singapore.
So what is the idea behind this association?
“My wines have won success and recognition, just like what I have achieved for India for tennis at global circuits. I would love for my fans to enjoy these award-winning wines which share the same success story as mine, wines that are of excellent quality and great to drink. I am certain my fans would definitely enjoy these wines that I have carefully created with the oldest winery of India, Grover Zampa Vineyards,” he said.
He says that he loves drinking wine.
“I enjoy pairing it with different types of food,” he said.
“As far as wine is concerned , you can acquire a taste and both these wines, red and white, are very good for the palette . The white goes extremely well with chicken and fish depending on what your tastes are. It also goes well with light vegetarian food. The red goes better with strong meats. So it depends on your preference and it is something clearly worth trying,” said Amritraj.