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The Persevering Producer

Mar/07/2023 / by Abhijit Masih

From the stage to the screen, Rohi Mirza Pandya is making her mark on the South Asian entertainment world.

In the world of South Asian entertainment, Rohi Mirza Pandya well-known name. An award-winning creative producer in film, television, and theater, she is the co-founder of Box Office Guru Media and the creative producer at Desipina Productions. Rohi’s Pakistani-Filipina background has influenced her perspective on the world and is reflected in her produced TV series and short films. She has also been involved in the promotion of many Bollywood films, including the popular Monsoon Wedding. 

Rohi Mirza Pandaya shares her story with SEEMA, a journey that combines perseverance and creativity. 

On her Pakistani/Filipina heritage that shaped her as a person:

Being Desipina—a term that my sister and I have coined being Desi as well as Filipina, has shaped how we see the world and have a global view on things. We really love our South Asian roots, but also love our Filipino roots. My parents met in Canada, and I was born in Canada and then we immigrated to the United States when I was three years old. I visited Pakistan, when we were young and the Philippines, when I was a little older. I feel all those things gives me more of a global view on life. 

On the importance of education.

My family imparted the idea that no one can take away your education. That has been such an important part of my life. It’s a family value. I got my MBA at the University of Colorado with a focus on marketing. My entrepreneurial spirit is something I’ve always lived by. I moved to New York to live with my sister who also has a strong educational background. She went to NYU and then graduate school at Columbia. To have a strong educational background was always a big family value of ours. And I think we use that in the arts as well.

On the inception of the production company, Desipina.

I’ve always had a business mind. With my MBA, I thought I would go into finance, and I worked for a little bit at Credit Suisse and those finance places. But it really wasn’t the fit for me. My sister has always been a writer and went to Columbia for the playwriting program. She’s always wanted to tell stories—tell our stories about brown women or women-centered stories. She was very ahead of her time. I think that’s where my interest started to grow. So, we started our theatrical company called the Desipina. We both co-founded it, being Desi and Filipina. We really told stories of folks like us who are Asian as well as South Asian. We put those folks on the stage. We did it in little black box theaters in the Lower East Side. We did it for several years. We still produce short films. We don’t do as much theater as we would have liked to, but because we’re on to bigger and different projects. We still do short films and other projects that are like passion projects.

On promoting South Asian content in the United States.

We’ve been in this industry for 20 plus years. My husband and I formed a company called Box Office guru media, where we market the South Asian films to the North American audiences. We’ve worked on 500 plus releases. Our very first client was Monsoon Wedding. It was such a big hit, and we were excited to see that folks were loving the culture. I feel even now 20 years later, there’s so much more happening. I think that we have worked with every Hollywood studio that had any sort of South Asian content over the 20 plus years. We work with Bollywood studios as well. We’ve worked on films like Bend It Like Beckham, Slumdog Millionaire and even attended the Oscars for that. We’ve worked with Bollywood stars such as SRK when he came here for My Name is Khan. We’ve been with Hrithik Roshan and Priyanka Chopra, and it’s been so exciting and fun. My husband and I have grown this business for 20 plus years, and we’re still going and we’re still enjoying it. 

On being a female producer and the changing face of the industry.

I think people are now finally listening to women. Before, it was harder to get your voice heard. Thank God because we have some good ideas. Finally, people want to see a brown woman lead in content. My sister has been writing characters with brown South Asian women, her whole life, and she was ahead of the time, 20 years ago. She has a show, a musical, called “Bhangin’ It,” which I helped put together. It has a woman protagonist, she is South Asian, and she is White. It was hugely successful and really talked about identity in a way we haven’t seen before. It’s not just about the usual arranged marriages, not that those stories are bad. But I think that you want to see that we’ve been here for a while now. We have other stories to tell.

On producing a special SXSW cultural program. 

The South Asian House (SAH) at South by Southwest is going to be on March 11 and 12th 2023. It’s going to be everything that’s the best of our culture – art, music, film, business. We’re going to have a big Trailblazers party where we’re going to really showcase and focus on South Asians and cinema and their excellence. We’re doing a red-carpet event on that Sunday night. There will be great DJs that are South Asian that are going to throw parties both Saturday and Sunday night. We’re going to have a drag queen, South Asian brunch on Sunday. It’s LGBTQ-inclusive. It’s South Asian-inclusive. We want to showcase all of South Asia—Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. That was important to us that we represent everyone. And we’re just really excited to be able to do that.

On her other loves in life.

A fun fact, I ran the New York Marathon. I think that’s a big way to help clear your head and just really be able to focus on things that matter in life when you’re feeling healthy. Trying to spend time with my children is a big thing for me because being a present mom is like a top thing. Whenever I say who I am, I’m a producer as well as a mom. I have a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old and I think it’s important to raise good citizens and creating good humans to pass on our legacy is really important.

Sidebar:

Diversity DNA

For me, producing actual content is already baked in the DNA. I’m investing in Broadway theater, so that it’s less white. I want to be amplifying South Asian voices. I think for us, it’s important that we all band together and just help each other and really lift each other up. It’s about uplifting all the voices and helping each other because I think that as a community is important.