Shashi Tharoor, born 1956 in London, went to schools in Mumbai, Kolkatta and Delhi and studied in the USA. He worked for the UNO in New York as Under Secretary General for Public Information and Communication. He started his career at the UNO in 1978. He is also a columnist for newspapers like "The Hindu" and since 2007 for "The Times Of India" as well.
Shashi Tharoor is also well known as a writer: "India" (1997), "The Great Indian Novel" (1989) and "Show Business"(1992) are only few of his books. "Show Business" was translatet in different languages like german, french, spanish, polish... and was filmed ( film title "Bollywood").
BNA: All these years you worked for the UNO, at least as United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Public Information and Communication. Now you want to leave the UNO. What will change after this important step? Will you find even more time to write books?
Shashi Tharoor: I hope so. But I still have to make a living!
BNA: How did you find time to write books all the last year, as you’re working, or you have worked in a full-time job for the United Nations Organisation?
Shashi Tharoor: By not sleeping enough! I have had to give up a lot of things – friends, entertainment, and yes, sleep – to devote weekends, holidays and evenings to my writing.
BNA: How could you write a book, called “Show Business” with all its detailed information about the film industry and the media, besides the politics?
Shashi Tharoor: I went to India on my “home leave” and did some research, in particular visiting Bombay’s “Film City”. My descriptions are indeed first-hand.
BNA: What do you know about the relation between the film industry and the mafia, between the actors and producers and the Dons of the underworld, like Ibrahim Dahwood?
Shashi Tharoor: Very little. That was not a big issue at the time I was researching my novel, 1989-90. In the decade afterwards, however, it became one of the dominant themes of any understanding of Bollywood.
BNA: Since the ’90 banks of India give credits for filmmakers to realize their projects. How do you think change this the influence on the mafia to Bollywood?
Shashi Tharoor: Yes, absolutely. Before that, the people who were prepared to risk their money on risky ventures like Bollywood films were those with money they could not legitimately spend elsewhere or declare to the taxman. That gave an obvious opening to criminal elements.
BNA: Do you like Bollywood films? If yes, which ones – if no, why?
Shashi Tharoor: I like the Bollywood films of my youth – “Aaradhana”, “Jawani Diwani”, “Andaz”, “Kati Patang”, “Anand”, “Victoria Number 203”, “Zanjeer”: I can name dozens more. But once I left India the opportunities for watching these films came less frequently, and then my own taste and sensibility evolved. In the entire 1980s I saw only one Bollywood movie, “Mr India”, and not many more in the 1990s. In recent times I’ve tried to make more of an effort to catch up on what’s going on. I think “Lage Raho Munabhai” is a superb film; so, in a different way, is “Iqbal”. I saw, but did not like, “Rang De Basanti”, and I was delighted by “Lagaan” without ever thinking it Oscar-worthy.
BNA: You are very international: were born in London, went to schools in Mumbai, Kolkatta and Delhi and have studied also in the USA. So how deep are your roots to India?
Shashi Tharoor: I lived in India between the ages of two-and-a-half and nineteen-and-a-half. Those are the crucial years in the development of your identity, your convictions, your sense of your roots.
BNA: Which country has the most influence on your personal behaviour and your way of thinking?
Shashi Tharoor: Without a doubt, India.
BNA: If you had three wishes for the world, which ones?
Shashi Tharoor: Peace, prosperity, and greater exchange of people, goods, ideas, books and films!
BNA: If you had three wished for yourself: which ones?
Shashi Tharoor: Success and happiness for my children; peace and prosperity for India; and an opportunity to make a difference in the world.
BNA: What do you think is the most important thing, that India should do to become and also to stay a big economic nation? What are the most important steps to reach this aim?\
Shashi Tharoor: Pull our people out of poverty and above all educate them. We have to focus on the “hardware” of development – ports, airports, roads, infrastructure. But none of this will matter if we don’t fix the “software” – the health, well-being and education of our people, without which no figures of economic growth have any real meaning.
BNA: You can look at a great and unique career. So what do you want to do in the future? Maybe one day you will be a Nobel Laureate for literature or peace?
Shashi Tharoor: Both, I hope! No, I’m joking – ultimately, the Bhagavad Gita teaches us, you must do what you must do, as your dharma., without any expectation of reward. What matters is what you can accomplish, not the prizes others may give you.
BNA: How difficulty is it to handle both: your professional work and your private life?
Shashi Tharoor: Very difficult, but we all have to juggle such things, for better or for worse. No human being is complete without both professional satisfaction and private fulfillment. Neither is ever easy to obtain – or sustain. But we must never stop trying!
BNA: Thank you very much. I wish you all the best for your professional and personal future.
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