Priyanka Chopra’s bestie Mubina Rattonsey on breaking into Hollywood as a producer-writer
To the paparazzi in Hollywood, Mubina Rattonsey may just be actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ best friend. However, talk to connoisseurs of independent cinema, folks who frequent global film festivals or even ardent fans of Bollywood movies and that name has a different recall value. One of a prolific producer-writer, who has a slew of critically acclaimed projects in her pan-Indian filmography.
Though she currently lives and works in Los Angeles, her humble beginnings can be traced back to Mumbai in the mid-2000s. Despite never pursuing film academically, her debut stint as a short-film writer on Prarambha—originally created for the Bill and Melinda Gates AIDS Foundation—ended up being premiered at the world-famous Toronto Film Festival in 2007.
Later, as a producer, both of Mubina’s Malayalam and Tamil ventures, namely Urumi (2011) and Ceylon (2013), received positive responses at the prestigious Busan International Film Festival too.
Over the years, these global nods and laurels urged the ex-advertising industry professional to study the entertainment industry landscape. Eventually, she made the leap to the US in 2016 to start her venture Zero Gravity Partners.
Now, after cultivating a formidable slate of hi-end film and television content—alongside co-owners Rohini Singh, Manmeet Singh, and Cannes-nominated filmmaker Armaan Zorace—she has secured $100 million in investments. “You have got to be boundary crashing, envelope-pushing and an unabashed creative force, to get a seat at any table. I wasn’t afraid to try. I knew it was time to step into the light and use every bit of courage and conviction I have inside of me,” shares Mubina, who now plans to release three films a year.
Air of gravitas
Regardless of the storytelling format or the language of origin, one unique facet in all of her projects is the narrative focus. Mubina’s filmic crosshairs always seem to land on ordinary people in the fringes. The few who survive and thrive, in spite of being placed in extraordinary circumstances.
Case in point, her award-winning production, Tahaan, which revolves around an innocent child stuck in terror-struck Kashmir. This fable about ‘a boy with a grenade’ literally made it to every major global film festival from Cannes to Cairo and beyond. Yet, how important is it, for her, to gain visibility, and acclaim, on the festival circuit, as opposed to commercial success?
“Box office success is extremely imperative and every production that I’m currently working on in Hollywood is set for a mainstream release and will cater to global audiences,” explains the 30-something-year-old, whose ‘mainstream’ blockbuster, Kaminey, won two National Awards in 2009.
Ruling the roost
Her ability to switch between huge studio productions (Urumi) and intimate, independent films (Ceylon) is what sets her apart from the pack. But, how does her role, as a producer, change when the scope of the project is different?
“In my opinion, the role never really changes with the scale and size of a film, the extent of the responsibility can, however, vary,” she explains, elaborating, “It really depends on how hands-on you are or want to be on a project. Either you’re in the trenches or you’re not. Either you choose to remote-control a production or are physically present to see it through, in spite of having a strong line-production team in place. I’m hands-on. I’m committed to the trenches. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
She seems to have brought this level of commitment to her lineup of films. Besides a superhero film called Gamma Man and a war-drama titled The Aryan Papers, at the moment, her company has a first-of-its-kind horror film named Wraith slated for release. It is touted to include binaural 3D sound and visuals from a live Islamic exorcism.
“As a company, we intend to build and shape the narrative, strike an overall gender balance and empower fearless filmmakers—Indians and of all ethnicities worldwide, to bring gravity to that narrative,” concludes Mubina.
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So, are Priyanka Chopra Jonas, aka PeeCee, and you, childhood buddies, like the tabloids suggest? Mubina replies, “Priyanka and I met in a professional capacity at the time of Kaminey, and have shared a great friendship ever since. She is incredibly talented, endlessly inspiring, and has been a very faithful friend through every chapter of my story.”