Like millions of other Indian kids, he grew up watching Bollywood films and idolizing their stars. But it was until his early teens that Paresh Gondaliya decided he wanted to partake in the industry.
His family had immigrated to Kenya and were living a serene life at the coastal town of Mombasa when the die was cast. It was in the early ‘80s and his hometown had played host to the set of one of India’s groundbreaking films, Hoshiyar.
“The film was literally shot in our backyard, and I was there all the time during production. It was a very fascinating experience for all the local kids,” Gondaliya fondly recalls of the moment he decided on his career path.
At first, he wanted to become an actor just like his idols Amitabh Bachchan and Salim Khan. But then there was no industry in Kenya. So, he decided he had to create his own opportunities by writing and directing his own films.
His resolution got a new lease of life when his family moved to Uganda in 1993, right at the peak of liberalization and Indian investment in the country.
He used a small family fortune to establish Topcon Builders Ltd, an elite metal fabrication and stone-carving workshop that up to now still stands proud at Old Kampala hill, and remains his main source of income.
In the absence of a movie industry in Uganda at the time, the married father-of-two patiently nurtured his business with the hope of using its proceeds to bankroll his filmmaking career.
And in 2003, Gondaliya decided it was time to give it a shot. With no formal training in filmmaking, and using a cheap camcorder, he gathered a few family members and friends and set out to make his first feature film.
“It was a horror story titled The Haunted House. I had no script, and I was the only crew member,” recalls the 40-year-old businessman-cum-filmmaker.
The resulting work, he says, was a subject of mockery and ridicule by a few friends he showed it to. But rather than sulk, the small-bodied man who speaks with a slight stammer took delight in the criticism and set out to improve his art.
“I later undertook acting, scriptwriting and directing classes with Amakula (film festival) from where I was able to meet some of my current collaborators,” says the horror movie aficionado who loves to travel.
He even had cameo roles in the Oscar-winning film, The Last King of Scotland, as well as Patrick Sekyaya’s The Ugandan, stints that boasted his confidence and bettered him as a director.
Fast forward to today and Gondaliya is finally at the verge of launching a career as a filmmaker. He is the man behind the much anticipated film, The Superstition, whose premiere is set for July 1 at the National Theatre in Kampala.
The feature film starring an all-star cast including Roger Masaba, Ernest Bbumba, Jayant Maru and Edlyn Sabrina among others explores the evil practice of child sacrifice in Uganda, probing the socio-economic factors that fuel it.
“As a parent, it is always heartbreaking for me to read stories about children being slaughtered like goats in the hope of getting rich,” Gondaliya says of the inspiration behind the film he directed and co-produced with his younger brother, Deepak, under their company, Gondaliya Brothers Motion Pictures Ltd.
Written by Aaron Zziwa, the film has already been selected to participate at this year’s Ugu Film Festival in South Africa due this September. And its gripping trailer is steadily raking hits on YouTube.
But Gondaliya, who now calls Uganda home, decries a number of challenges hampering the local industry’s development. Top on the list is lack of sponsorship which he says is taking a toll on his premiere.
He is however hopeful Ugawood will eventually grow to match the likes of Bollywood and Ugawood “for as long as more focused at outward-looking players like myself keep coming onto the scene.”
In his free time, Gondaliya likes to travel the world and spend some time with his wife and their two children – aspiring actors, Krishna, 14, and Raj, 12.
For ticket reservation to The Superstition premiere, please call 0758132511 or 0782205021.