Rohit Khattar (B.A. Hotel & Restaurant Management ’85) is most known for his role as founder and chairman of Old World Hospitality, India’s premier hospitality and entertainment company. Although hospitality is his primary passion, Khattar also spends time pursuing a second passion: film. Matching his tremendous successes in hospitality business, he is also founder and chair of Cinestaan Film Company, a boutique film studio.
“These are two of the most exciting businesses to be in, and I have been most fortunate to straddle both,” he said.
Khattar’s latest film accomplishment was producing the critically acclaimed film Bombay Rose. This animated movie was recently acquired by Netflix and will be released globally soon. The film is also the first Indian animated project to open Venice International Film Critics’ Week, a renowned international film festival, and was recently predicted to receive an Oscar by Variety.
“The movie is based on true events and follows a young club dancer, escaping from child marriage and living in the streets of Bombay, who must choose between fending for her family and finding love with a boy orphaned by the militancy,” as summarized by the Hollywood Reporter.
Before producing Bombay Rose, Khattar had the opportunity to produce three films and was an executive producer for Academy Award–nominated films such as The Tempest and Cold War.
Finding a passion for film
Khattar never expected to work in animation until he saw the beautiful work of Gitanjali Rao, Bombay Rose’s writer and director.
“For a lot of us, animation spells the magic that studios like Disney and Pixar have created, but what Rao creates is magic of a different kind — it is animation that is intrinsically Indian and quite a work of art,” he said. “When Bombay Rose opened Critics Week at the Venice International Film Festival, it was a huge moment for Indian animation and a proud moment for me as the producer.”
Khattar grew up watching films from a projection booth in his grandfather’s movie theater and was infatuated by them. It wasn’t until a few years ago that he partnered with his friend and mentor Anand Mahindra to launch the film studio and pursue this lifelong passion.
He and Mahindra have now forged a partnership with the Sundance Institute, which gave birth to the Mumbai Mantra/Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab in India and the Sundance Institute Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award. These initiatives catalyzed the mentoring of 24 screenwriters and awards to 16 filmmakers and have morphed into what is now known as Cinestaan India’s Storytellers Script Contest.
Inspiring fellow Spartans
Khattar is a proud Spartan alumnus and inspiring businessman. Courtesy of MSU, he always writes with a green pen. Last year, he was featured in the 2019 issue of Spartan magazine for his ambition and highly successful first restaurant, Chor Bizarre. Since his visit to Michigan State last fall, his company has even signed a couple of new restaurants.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, which has hit the hospitality industry hard, many of Khattar’s restaurants have reopened and created a new system of delivery.
“I was joking the other day that anybody who can run a hotel or a restaurant is de facto already a producer,” he said. “One has to manage so many different ingredients, beginning with the story and the screenplay (much as the concept of a restaurant), hire the best director (chef and GM) and a team of people who can bring the vision to life. It is akin to managing any [film] production.”
Khattar’s continuous accomplishments are highly inspiring for students to apply to their own ambitious pursuits.
“One of the great joys in life is to converse with creative people, and I would suggest that whatever one’s creative pursuit may be, spending as much time as possible with creative people is possibly the best learning,” he said. “Mere conversations spark ideas.”