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Published on: 03 Apr 2017 by bhqonline
Following your heart and your faith coupled with hard work and perseverance can make you the master of your own reality. With this inspiring message, “Slamma Jamma,” a new film produced by San Francisco Bay Area-based Indian American filmmaker Ray Walia, opens in theaters nationwide March 24.
Wrongfully accused and sent to prison, a former basketball star (Chris Staples) prepares for the national slam dunk competition while finding redemption in himself and in those he loves — this is the premise of “Slamma Jamma.”
In this sports-based drama about the rise, fall and revival of a basketball star, the lead roles are played by Chris Staples, four-time slam-dunk champion; Porter Maberry, who has dunked retired NBA star Shaquille O’Neal; former NFL player for the Dallas Cowboys Michael Irvin; and slam dunk champion Rafal Lipinski, among others.
“This film is about redemption, and inspiration,” Walia told India-West. “It is a true story about a man who is an NCAA champion, a University of Southern California graduate, who comes back from jail and fights. He deals with a lot in life; drugs, poverty, his mother is dying, his fiancée is gone…however, because of his faith he believes in himself and keeps on fighting all odds. It speaks about his diligence and tremendous self-confidence.”
Reel life mirrors real life for Walia; just like in the film, which underscores the power of unflinching determination and never quitting, in real life, Walia, who has had a successful career as a businessman, also believes in the power of self.
A real estate baron, Walia, who now also owns 400-plus food franchises with a friend, came to the country in 1979 with nothing but hope.
“I had $3.25 left in my pocket when I landed here,” Walia told India-West, “but I never gave up.”
He explained that after working in a bank for some time, he went on to attain an MBA degree from Golden Gate University in San Francisco before running a successful mortgage company called California Home Loans. Taking challenges head on at every step of the way, Walia said, helped him advance in his career.
“For me, failure is not an option,” stressed Walia. “I have a very open mind set and a positive attitude towards life.”
Though “Slamma Jamma” – which is one of the first films highlighting the slam dunk competition – is a faith-based film, it has a universal appeal, claimed Walia.
“It is a family film…regardless of color or faith, or nationality, wonderful for children, too,” he noted. “People make mistakes, we all make mistakes but we stick with our faith. We have a can-do attitude; the film’s lead has the attitude of look up, get up and never give up.”
Films powered by social messages energize the San Francisco-based Walia whose career as a filmmaker began with the 2015 Punjabi film, “Dheeyan Marjania,” which shed light on the social evil of female feticide.
“People connected with my last film, too,” recalled Walia. “That has always been my goal. I struggled in my life and never lost faith in myself and became very successful in my endeavors, so I am trying to give back to the community. The same things that I learnt and applied to myself.”
As a producer attached to “Slamma Jamma,” Walia stated that he decided to fund the film since the script “blew his mind”. “I receive quite a few scripts every month but this one, I fell in love with it,” he remarked to India-West.
Taking a cue from Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s films, Walia said that any film that aspires to convey a social message in an entertaining way resonates with him, adding that he steers clear of violent movies.
“Anything to do with family issues, teenage issues, drugs, child abuse, women abuse…,” he said. “I like to associate with films that people can connect with.”
“Next week representatives will fly in from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea to watch the film and acquire the distribution rights,” said Walia, adding that negotiations are already on with online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon.
“Dheeyan Marjania,” which Walia said found fans in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, has also won seven best film awards and 18 best film nominations at several film festivals, including at the Sundance International Film Festival.
Recounting an incident related to “Dheeyan Marjania,” Walia shared how the film made a difference in at least one person’s life.
“When I showcased our last film in Yuba City, a journalist later wrote to me saying he met someone in the audience who admitted to having thought about aborting his third child because she was a daughter,” Walia told India-West. “But after watching the film, he decided to keep their girl.”
In both his films, Walia has contributed as an actor. He plays a motivational pastor in “Slamma Jamma.” The transition from a businessman to an actor wasn’t much of a leap, since he is a trained stage actor who has participated in several plays in the early years of his career, though he admitted he “loves theater” more.
With “Slamma Jamma” up for release, Walia has already moved on to another project. The film, titled, “The Islands,” traces the life trajectory of British explorer and navigator Captain James Cook, whose discoveries include New Zealand, Australia and the Hawaiian Islands.