From Bollywood to Adelaide: A Rotary Success Story
Bollywood may be nearly 10,000 kilometres away from Adelaide. But former film producer Rajeev Kamineni says there are some lessons he learnt on movie sets there that now surprisingly come in handy as the city’s Rotary club president.
“We are at the end of the day, at the mercy of the stars. If suddenly one doesn't turn up for the filmmaker that means the whole day’s schedule has to be cancelled,” says Rajeev.
“So that taught me something which I apply in Rotary - just get on with it. No amount of micromanaging and planning can guarantee anything.” The president now leading Australia’s second biggest club into the organisation’s centenary year stresses that Rotary is completely volunteer-run.
“We can’t force their help, we can only request it. If I have to manage 10 volunteers, let’s say in a shelter house, I can’t call them and say ‘you’re fired’, says Rajeev. “We have to see if they take up the responsibility and run with it. That’s another big learning from the movie industry which I brought into Rotary.”
Rajeev was just four-years-old when he decided he wanted to be a movie producer after seeing a man in Vijayawada, in India’s southeast, changing the film posters on the streets outside his bedroom. Four years later, Rajeev’s surgeon father introduced him to Rotary. “I used to tag along with him to the rotary meetings,” he says.
“If it was not for my family, I would not even have known about Rotary.” Rajeev's paediatrician mother was an Inner Wheel member. Rajeev went onto join the Rotary club of Madras in Chennai, in India’s south.
It would take him nearly another three decades, but he would finally fulfill his childhood ambition of working in Bollywood.” Rajeev started financing films in 2007. Since then, he’s also worked on the production of movies including Naan Ee by critically acclaimed Indian film director S.S Rajamouli. Rajeev’s company, Picture House Media Ltd, adapted the award-winning French film The Intouchables into a successful Bollywood movie. He’s also worked on the films Brahmotsavam, Kshanam, Irandam Ulagam and Yevanda.
To date, Rajeev has been involved in producing 14 movies and financing 35.
In 2017, after racking up one decade in the film industry, he decided to take a break from it. Rajeev called a professor he had when he had studied for his masters degree in international management, international business and international relations in Queensland, who was now living in Adelaide. He encouraged Rajeev to come there. One of the first things that the cricket fan did after moving to the city was to check on Rotary meetings. “I was delighted to find a club that meets at Adelaide oval, and I signed up,” says the now president.
Today, Rajeev fits in meetings around his positions as associate of head accreditation at the Adelaide Business School at the University of Adelaide and as academic director of The Academy by Deloitte at the same institution. Rajeev also has a PhD in movie entrepreneurship from the university.
He joined the Adelaide Rotary club seven years ago. One of its ongoing projects that he’s the proudest of is Nurture Kits, which involved giving care kits containing coffee mugs, coffee, tea, chocolate, lip balm and hand sanitiser to medics working during covid. Others include helping children with hearing problems in Tonga, and Sri Lanka water treatment projects.
In its 100th year, Rajeev says one challenge that Australia’s third oldest club, with about 180 members, has is attracting younger people. “It’s hard to get them to come to our meetings because they are on a Wednesday lunchtime, so if you’re working full time you have to take off two hours from work,” says Rajeev.
“That's why we have evening meetings, social meetings, and weekend activities.”
When he joined the Adelaide club, the average age of a member was about 69, but this has now come down to about 65. “It’s an ongoing process, but we need to have younger members, diverse groups of members,” says Rajeev.
But he says that the beauty of the club in its centenary year is that they trust him as president.
“I can be as culturally and linguistically diverse as possible,” says Rajeev. “My accent itself sounds different to begin with.”
He however points out that the president two years earlier was a woman, and that the club’s members have come from diverse backgrounds and contributed different skill sets and expertise. But Rajeev says that Rotary as an entire organisation needs to accept that it has to change.
The Adelaide club’s 101st president will begin their term on July 1.
With a Rotary success story set in Bollywood that also includes a stint as a club president in Australia, Rajeev says his career to date is full of honours. “I might be one of those fortunate guys who got to do what they really loved a lot in life,” he says.