Amitabh Vardhan, the Indian who has fallen in love with Botosani

“You must be the change you want to see in the world”, once said Mahatma Gandhi. And the Indian Amitabh Vardhan, CEO of Cine Globe, has always dreamt of working in the movie industry, and bringing people, regardless of where they are from, to feel the real experience of a movie seen in the cinema theatre. He, himself, is passionate about the movie industry although life brought him first in the food industry and then in the hotel industry. He loves driving his car in Romania, where he comes every second month, and his favourite Romanian city is Botosani, where Cine Globe opened the first multiplex in the North of Moldova region.

If he should write a script about Romania, it would be a mix of mythology and modern facts, and the end would be quite surprising. But Amitabh Vardhan himself is full of surprises that he accepted to unveil.

Amitabh Vardhan. Photo credit: personal archive

Cristina Dobreanu: Why the movie industry?

Amitabh Vardhan: Oh, it’s a long story. I think it goes back to my childhood. I was obsessed with watching movies and when I was a kid I wasn’t allowed to watch any movies.

Why?

Because of my parents. Maybe because they thought movies have a bad influence on kids, and I had to be more focused on school. But obviously when I got the chance to join this industry, I felt very, very lucky. There is an obsession, a passion for this industry, I think this is why I work in this industry.

When did you become a professional in the movie industry?

I think it was in 2003, the first time when I got the opportunity to work for a cinema company. It was in India, and it was a very small industry at that time. We did not have many multiplex cinemas back then. It was around 1997-1998, when the multiplex was built, except for the US, where it all started in 1993. So, I was 5 years late in this industry.

How old were you at that time?

I was 33. Now you know my age! (he smiles) It was a very new industry for me. The only link I had with it was that I had an experience of a B2C business. That’s all.

How did you end up in Romania?

Everybody knows about Western Europe but we thought of the Eastern Europe, here we felt there was a gap. There were a lot of opportunities, so we decided to enter Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia. This is how we arrived here. In Romania and Bulgaria there are markets where there are still things to develop for the next 15 years at least.

You have in your portfolio different countries like the USA, or Eastern European countries. How do you cope with all of these nationalities and cultures?

I have little to no problems, because I have a strong team. I go to Italy, they go to Norway. Whenever I land in Romania, there is always somebody to call or to support me. I am lucky to have a strong and very good team.

Getting back to leaders, what do you think are the qualities of a leader?

To speak less and listen more. I think this is the most important. When we become leaders we think that our job is to speak. And that is where we make mistakes. But if we do so, everybody becomes a yes-man. When you speak less (this seems not to be applied to me!!), you have the chance to hear different views. Number two: trust. I think that my job is to trust people.

What did you know about Romania before coming here?

I knew that this country was a country of gymnasts. I knew few Romanians who moved to India, married to businessmen over there. Everybody was a gymnast, this was my idea. But I also knew count Dracula was from here.

What Romanian gymnasts do you know?

Nadia Comaneci. She made my childhood ”WOW!”. How can you turn around like this?! That was the first thing I knew about Romania. Afterwards, I studied about the communist regime, because the USSR was a very close friend of India. From this point of view, I had some ideas.

India is about spices, and flavours, and colors, and Taj Mahal. What would you say about Romania?

As you mentioned Romania, the landscape and the people just came to my mind. Very polite people. I always thought that people coming from the Eastern Bloc are softer. And also there are a lot of natural beauties like the mountains, the sea.

Which places have you seen in Romania so far?

Ask me the one I did not visit! I have seen all the touristic sites. I traveled from Timisoara to Craiova, to Botosani, Constanta, Sibiu, Brasov, Buzau. And also in the Delta Dunarii. Ploiesti, Pitesti. Balea Lac!

What do you still have on your list to see?

Do it all again! I love to drive and it’s a beautiful drive in Romania.

Aren’t you bothered by the traffic?

Compared to India, no! This is not an issue.

Let’s do then an imagination exercise: somebody steps into your office and says: ”Today you are going to be the director of a movie, and the subject is Romania”. What would be your script about?

My script would start from the king and queen – a little bit of mythology – about the castle, and the princess that marries a middle class man, that kind of story.

A middle class man born in which city of Romania?

Maybe in Focsani. This is an old story, some things have to happen. This man is trying to make money and he goes to Italy, for example. Or to Germany. The money is there, but there is no emotion. He realizes he misses something. And decides to go back. Emotions win over the money. And this country and any other country will sooner or later realize that.

So, are they married in the end?

I don’t think they should marry. If they get married it would be a love movie. If you want a movie to be remembered it has to end with a tragedy. If you get married there is no tragedy. Tragedy is the most important part of love stories. Whenever there are happy endings, the story fails. Happy end is good for action movies.

Have you seen any contemporary Romanian movies?

„Doua lozuri” (2016) and „America, venim” (2014).

How many cinemas do you have here?

Only two cinemas: one in Bucharest and one in Botosani. But in the next 3 years, we will see another 5-6 more properties added, for sure in Sibiu and Suceava.

Why a cinema in Botosani?

It just happened! We went to see a property and they said that nobody believed in this. And somehow we decided. And it is very successful, and we are very happy. Actually, Botosani is one of the cities I love, it is such a beautiful city, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

How come?

I am telling you! It is a different piece there. The people are talking to you and they pay attention when they do that. When they are in a restaurant they are smiling and having fun. They are actually…they enjoy it! I know people who wanted to move to Bucharest and they moved back to Botosani. It is very different from Bucharest or any other city.

What are the Romanian habits that make you smile?

What do you do when you want to meet with a friend? You call them anytime here. In the US it was different.

When you eat Romanian food what do you order?

I usually take a green salad. But I also take ciorba de legume, zucchini. I love hamsii cu mujdei. I like mamaliga, also.

You traveled to many countries, but where is your hometown?

Very hard! But I think that my hometown is still Delhi. Although, hometown is not in papers and passport. I think I am a global citizen. Wherever you have the bread and the heart is your hometown.

If you would recommend a movie to Romanians what would that be?

”Now you see me”. I love that movie. It’s so good!

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