Bilgrami-showcasing the NRI art and
Hyder Bilgrami (right)
There are many Indian achievers in America
but none brought soul food to Non Resident
Indian’s art appetite like Mr. Hyder
did, Hyder Bilgrami brought theater to
the hearts and minds of American desis.
He launched one of the first full-fledged
Digital Studio at Edison .( In this studio
you can record audio and also can create
your video studio) – New Jersey,
not that there aren’t any of these
in USA, but this one opened avenues to
the Indian art lovers in and around the
city. A Film maker and director that he
is, he has also founded a theater and
art group called Manoranjan.
Bilgrami is not new to the theater, his home
city Hyderabad gave him many opportunities
to nurture his innate talents. He started
acting in plays when he was graduating
at Nijam College in Hyderabad, eventually
in 1983-84 he started working with couple
of well known directors of that time.
Mr. Bhasker Shivalker was the Reader
of Hyderabad Sarojni Naidu School of
performing arts. Mr. Khader Ali Baig
had found New Theater of Hyderabad –these
were some of the well known theater
enthusiasts who gave a break to Mr.
Hyder in many of their plays.
"The Zoo Story" was his first full
fledged play production with Moin Ali
Baig, It was a play written by Edward
Albee( an absurd play writer), which
was staged at BITS festival "Oasis".
He also acted in a play called "Lehron
ka Raj Hans" directed by Khader
He acted in a few plays directed by scions
of the theatre, "Tughlaq"
written by Girish Karnad, "Anji"
by Vijay Tendulkar.
Mr. Hyder directed his first play "Raja
ka Baja ",which was taken to many
theater festivals, and won accolades
for him. "My interest was always
in the theater; I went to Bombay and
started working with Raj Tilak, who
is B.R Chopra’s son-in-law. I
had an opportunity to work with "Sahas
ra Phun" a multilingual television
serial, I worked in various areas of
production and had the opportunity to
work with one of the well known actor
of Tamil serials "Vijay Adhiraj".
"I started as an actor and moved on to
direction ,when I was in 12th std ,
I was bitten by the movie bug and used
to go to the film studios to watch film
shootings, but we were not allowed inside
the studio, after a couple of months
the security guard allowed me to enter
the studio, this was called " Anna
Poorna studio" , the very first
movie I watched being shot there was
of Nageshwara Rao’s movie"
Later Mr Hyder's family moved to Bombay, and
lived in a place called Mira Road, very
close to film star Govinda’s place.
During his stay there he took the opportunity
to find his way to the famous Prithvi
"The Prithviraj Theater was very far from
our residence, but still I would give
my attendance at the studio every day.
Those times any one or someone who was
an artist or a writer used to be present
at the studio; it was the hub of many
creative souls who were struggling to
make it big like Makhrand Deshpande
(who has starred in "Makhdi"
a children’s film), Anupam Kher,
and Aloknath etc and I am sure they
do even these days".
" I came to the USA few years back and
I regret the time spent not doing anything
here, I saw that many actors and actresses
were struggling here, even musicians
or writers, that is why I thought of
a studio for the Indian art lovers,
this is the first of it’s kind
in New Jersey owned by Indians. I also
got associated with California based
South Asians Association for Arts(SAAFA)
which is a non profit organization set
up by Mr. Vivek Kumar to help the fraught
NRI film industry" .
"I would like to set up a theater like
"Prithvi Theater" in New Jersey
And organize film festivals, screening etc,
this theater will have a seating of
about 300 audiences" says Mr. Hyder
Hyder spoke about his future plans on staging
a play which is a monologue and stars
Tom Alter the white villain of the Hindi
Cinema, this play is based on a story
by Moulana Azad.
He also started a group called Manoranjan in
2003, for all the art lovers of the
city, many people got involved in his
project like Mr. Ram Lakhani, Mr. Das
a music composer.
This group of three has worked together in
a movie called Bhandak about the racial
clashes after the 9/11.
"My group consists of 1000 member’s
actors, actress and script writers.
We are dedicated to organizing film
festivals, panel discussions, and story
reading. SAAFA is also planning for
a digital film festival called "Manoranjan"
We also need more participation, I am trying
to bring the Imminent Bollywood film
makers to come here and make movies
with the local talents"
So who will watch these small budget movies
about Indian values? Can we compete
"We should change the story line, enough
of sarcasm, we need to really sketch
the reality of being a first generation
immigrant, the struggle and turmoil
of a life that’s alien to our
nature. There should be a message, the
movies should talk about the sacrifice
parents make to bring up the new generation
of ABCD’S, I want to make cinema
for the other unfortunate half of the
not so affluent Indians, of course we
can show reality in an interesting format"
Does NRI Cinema become as popular as Bolly
wood films? Do lay people want to watch
these low budget offbeat movies against
the multimillion dollar extravaganza
of Bollywood? What is the future of
"Of course, world has gone small, Indians
are going places, may be in the beginning
NRI films may not do well. But hey,
look at the success stories of Gurinder
Chaddah , she struggled 15 years, Mira
Nair , Shyamalan, they all have been
working for many years before they made
name and money, so be it… We cannot
compete with Sharukh Khan’s movies
but you cannot deny the fact that movies
made with low budget and good stories
have always found their way to main
stream and success. If there is a good
script people would want to watch the
movie. We also need to do good marketing,
many movies get in to wrong publicity
because of the wrong approach and exposure.
I am very positive that there will be
a boom in South Asian movie scenario,
the day will soon come when the NRI
artists will make fame and money, I
am very optimistic about that"
Mr. Hyder Bilgrami is venturing on his next
project "Junoon" which is
about the psyche of a Stalker. Watch
out for it!