One to One

Keith Vaz Wednesday 13th September 2023 07:48 EDT

Avtar Panesar is a veteran with rare experience of helming international, film development, movies, music, home video as well as syndication business verticals for Indian Cinema. As Vice President for India's premier Film Studios - Yash Raj Films, Avtar was the driving force behind the Studio's international growth since 1997.

Setting up international offices, distribution teams and partnerships has ensured that YRF's films reached every international market and were managed by the best in the business.

1) Which place, or city or country do you most feel at home in?

I was born in Jalandhar, Punjab and was brought in Southall (England) from the age of 10. So, for me I have 2 mothers, one that gave me birth (India) and the mother that raised me (England) and I am so proud of both my heritages and feel at home in both.

2) What are your proudest achievements?

On the professional front would have to be when I was made Sales Manager at HMV / EMI India at the age of 20, making me the youngest Exec in a company with 2000 workforce and them being head hunted by India's premier studio - Yash Raj Film to set up and head their international business.

3) What inspires you?

Oh, that's a tough one, I guess everyone that has been able to keep the balance of life intact and still achieve their own goals without compromising on all the other aspects of life.

 4) What has been biggest obstacle in your career?

I truly believe I have been blessed to have had the career I have, being a kid from Southall with, no film connections, just the passion for the movies, I landed up working for and with some of the biggest names like Yash Chopra, Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar, Raju Hirani, Rakesh Roshan, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Aamir Khan, Ranveer Singh to name a few.. Obstacles are just opportunities in disguise.

5) Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date?

My biggest professional influence has been my mentor - Mr. Sanjeev Kohli my Boss (son of the illustrious music composer Madan Mohan) I learnt everything from him, even today, if I get stuck with something, I don’t need to go to him, I just ask myself, "How would Sanjeev handle this"  9 times out of 10 I know the answer.

6) What is the best aspect about your current role?

Today, I work freelance and am excited about the project-based work I do as it allows me to spend more time with my wife as I owe her this after 3 decades of complete devotion to my job. So, my own time is the best thing as I held my own company, Navish Media.

7) And the worst?

I don’t think in those terms, I feel everything happens for the best albeit we might not know it or believe it at that time.

8) What are your long-term goals?

Live life to the fullest, spend more time with people I love and retain my life - work balance so that it's a more content life not just for me but my loved ones. All the while I carry on living the dream.   

9) If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change?

Ha, ha - wow, never been asked that one. I guess if I was the PM here, 1) I would plug the hole in the NHS and make it into an institution it could have been. Make drastic changes in how it's run, bring in accountability and as sense of responsibility for the Fat Cats. I know how hard the people at the bottom work while the wastage at the top is baffling. 2) Stop fighting other people’s wars. 3) Get our own house in order and following the US like a little lamb for their misadventures. 

10) If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you like to spend your time with and why?

My immediate answer would be Mr. Modi but since you want an historical figure - I guess this may not be an exciting one for the youth of today but it would be Netaji, Subhash Chandra Bose the real reason why India won its independence. He was such a rare mix of valour, intelligence, political prowess as well as a military strategist.... Just to spend some speaking with him would enrich my soul.     

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