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An Interview With Dr. Ravi Dattatreya

Ravi E. Dattatreya

The brain drain from India to United States of America is giving back rich returns to the roots in various fields of activities. To this list of Non Resident Indians add up acclaimed investment banker Dr.Ravi Dattatreya. He is now investing on Kannada film production. A music lover basically Dr.Ravi Dattatreya is involving his entire family in to his maiden Kannada film production 'Ms California'.

You are up to produce a Kannada 'Ms California' for that you score the music also. Can you furnish details?
I am very excited to say that we have launched Mallikanjali Creations, headed by my daughter, Mallika Dattatreya, which will produce the movie. We have chosen the title of the movie to be 'Miss California'. The movie will be shot in California and in Karnataka, about 50% each.

Why Ms. Mallika interested in production of a film?
Mallika has always been interested in the movie business, especially Indian movies. She has probably watched more Indian movies than I. She has taken special training at the Barnard College and Columbia University, and plans to continue studying various aspects of movie making (production, direction, etc) at New York's Skidmore College.

I know that you are a world authority on high finance, having written 8 books on various topics in finance, some available in Japanese and Chinese. How did you get involved in music?
You are right that I am an investment banker by profession. But I love making music as well as listening to music of all kinds, including classical Karnatic and Hindustani, western, light music, movie songs and so on. I grew up on music from GK Venkatesh, Vijaya Bhaskar as well as other luminaries in other languages. However, my inclination is to be a doer rather than a passive observer. Whenever I listened to a nice song from these talented artists, I also wanted to create some songs of my own, and did so.
Recently, with the help of my friend London Chandru, I did couple of albums, including my first kannada work "Nayana", a collection of bhavageetes. It was received very well by the audience. I have also done a CD in the US with my friend Ram Prasad along with Mano Murthy of "America America" fame. In addition, I have done a couple of projects with Ram Prasad, who is now famous for his :Kunigal Kere" song.

Who is the director and how did you meet him and select him?
Ram Prasad, who has moved from the US to Bangalore is a great contact for me. He introduced a number of directors to me. In addition, a number of very talented directors have approached me directly, and I hope to work with them in the future. I am very happy that Mr. Kodlu Ramakrishna (who was introduced to me by Ram) has kindly agreed to direct "Miss California". We have seen some of his work, and were extremely impressed.

How did you select the story?
Kodlu specialty is his section of great themes for movie making. He proposed a number of stories, each of them excellent. Among all those, we selected this story that is loosely based on an idea he had a couple of years ago, and which was novelized by C.N. Mukta in "Megha Mandara".

Why did you like this particular story?
This story is about children of Indian immigrants who are just now coming to age and do not have a clear understanding of Indian values. It is about a girl who has stereotypical views about India, but when circumstances throw her into the midst of it all, discovers a wonderful culture under the surface. I think this theme is extremely timely. All of us involved with the movie liked it instantly.

Is this another NRI bashing movie like the ones that we have seen recently?
NRIs command the highest respect in foreign countries, and I have the highest regard for the sons and daughters of India who have achieved stellar success on the global stage. While the story does not give us an opportunity to showcase their achievements, you can se certain that there will be no gratuitous bashing of NRIs or any other group.

Who will be the leads in the movie?
Of course, all creative decisions will be made by the director. I was new to the field when I did my first album, "Nayana", and we are new to the field in making "Miss California". In appreciation for the encouragement we have received as new comers, our wish generally is that we would also give encouragement and opportunity to some new comers.

Tell me about the music in the movie...
I have tried to provide a completely fresh approach to movie music in "Miss California". It is very pleasing that we are able to do some experimental work in this area. First of all, my friend Alexei Ustinov from Russia has kingly agreed to work on a number of my songs in the movie. He will be visiting Bangalore soon to record those songs. For the sake of continuity, we have also asked local artists to work on the other songs. You will be a good balance of the old and the new. Secondly, there will also be a song composed by my son, Srivatsa Dattatreya. He has composed this song in a very unique style, and it was liked instantly by the entire team of Miss California. Thirdly, Alexei and I have formed a company called Jasmine Music Technology in the US (see, which makes computer software for creating and composing music. One of our products is Onyx which is an auto-arranger. We will be using Onyx and other products to score music for Miss California.

You have spoken about Alexei and Srivatsa, but nothing about your own work?
True, I am a little modest about my work. All that I would like to say is that I have done my best, and hope that the songs will entertain the audience, which is, in the final analysis, the goal of the movie and its music.

Do you have a library of your tunes or have you composed new tunes for the movie?
As you know, I have been composing tunes for a number of years with the idea of placing them in a movie. We have used some of those tunes. However, sometimes the situation in a movie, as in this one, demands a new tune, and we create the song especially for the movie. Srivatsa's song is also a recent composition.

How many songs will you record?
We will most likely record 12-15 songs out of which we will select the best 6-8 songs that fit the movie. That is almost a 100% extra work.

Won't that be a waste?
This same question was asked by another respected reporter at the press meet. My answer was that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little something extra. I don't mind spending the additional time, if it improves what I offer to the audience.

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