In January of this year, I embarked on a journey from Germany to India, with a stopover in Mumbai. My primary purpose was to showcase my documentary, “Cuba My Soul,” at the Snowdance Film Festival in Essen. While en route to Germany for this festival, I made a significant detour in Mumbai, the vibrant hub of Bollywood.
I perceived this trip as a chance to explore a new world in India and connect with a unique community that held great importance in my life. It was during this journey that the concept of “Cuba comes to Bollywood” began to take shape.
So, what exactly is “Cuba comes to Bollywood”?
My fascination has always centered around the shared love of music and dance in both Indian and Cuban cultures, deeply rooted in their heritage and identity. The inspiration for this idea was further ignited by the song “Naatu Naatu” from the film RRR, which made history by clinching India’s first-ever Oscar for Best Original Song.
The electrifying performance at the Oscars by RRR, with its captivating music and dance, has many things in common with the alluring energy of Cuba and compelled me to draw from both worlds. In a way, it became my mission to create a harmonious fusion of these two art forms. My vision was to return to India, host a grand Indian premiere of “Cuba My Soul,” and craft an original song and video that would unite Indian and Cuban cultures, seamlessly blending Bollywood music and dance with Cuban Son, Salsa, and Rumba.
How do you create a film from zero
But, the challenge loomed: How does one create a movie from scratch in a foreign land like India, where my network was limited?
How can I assemble a team there to promote “Cuba My Soul” and facilitate the launch of my new project, “Cuba comes to Bollywood”?
Initiating a film from the ground up involves extensive organizational efforts. Establishing a proficient, professional ensemble, recruiting musicians and their bands, and effectively managing their schedules pose formidable challenges. I learned this firsthand during the filming of “Cuba My Soul.
A step back in time. In 2016, I undertook a two-year course in Team Management and Leadership organized by Landmark. This experience would later prove invaluable to my “Cuba My Soul” journey. It was towards the end of this transformative course, that I made a life-altering decision to embark on the adventure of creating “Cuba My Soul.”
The course itself equipped me with not only the skills to build a team but also the ability to empower that team—a critical skill I would soon put to the test in a foreign land where I was grappling with a language barrier and a dearth of connections.
And in Cuba, I managed to assemble an excellent, motivated, professional team, while having the privilege of working with outstanding professionals, including Grammy-awarded musicians and pivotal figures in the Cuban music scene such as Teté Caturla, Felix Baloy, and Barbarito Torres.
Now it was a matter of replicating that same pattern in India. Once again, my experience from Landmark was proving helpful.
Upon completing the Landmark course, I joined “Quantum Leap,” an international community comprising individuals who had all graduated from Landmark Worldwide’s courses. Over the years, I had forged strong relationships with these remarkable individuals through countless Zoom calls and online interactions. Coincidentally, I realized that many of them would be touring India as part of an 18-day excursion in January.
And that’s how I found myself in Mumbai on my way to Snowdance in January. Though we couldn’t arrange a screening during that visit, I was profoundly moved by the warmth and enthusiasm of the Indian people. Their palpable love for music and dance left an indelible mark on me, and I knew I had to return to share my film with them.
My Indian Screening
Fast forward to August 28th, when I landed back in Mumbai for the screening of “Cuba My Soul.”
One pivotal figure in organising this inaugural screening was the renowned director Arunaraje Patil, a former forum leader at Landmark. It was through some of my fellow attendees that I had the privilege of meeting her. And it also was, as I like to think, a matter of good fortune and stars aligning for this particular project. Arunaraje played a crucial role in securing an affordable venue for the screening at the St. Paul’s Institute of Communication Education in West Bandra, Mumbai. The event was a resounding success, with several high profile attendees including directors, actors, and even the editor of Rolling Stone magazine.
Following the screening, a dynamic Q&A session with Arunaraje and myself took place, becoming a highlight of the evening.
Arunaraje is a trailblazer in the Indian film industry, boasts six National awards and numerous state awards. Her contributions to Indian cinema, both through documentaries and feature films, have left an indelible mark.
The audience’s response to “Cuba My Soul” was nothing short of extraordinary. Despite the language barrier (the film is in Spanish with English subtitles), they were captivated by the music, dance, and the window into the rich history and instrumentation of Cuban music. The vibrant images of Cuba left a lasting impression, illustrating the universal power of music and culture to transcend boundaries and connect people from diverse backgrounds.
As I reflect on this incredible journey, I am filled with gratitude for the friendships made, the collaborations formed, and the boundless possibilities that lie ahead. “Cuba comes to Bollywood and Tollywood” is a project driven by unity and artistic expression, and I am eagerly anticipating the next chapter of this adventure.
Stay tuned for more updates on this journey, and thank you for being a part of this remarkable ride!