Natarajan Ramji – The Trailblazer behind Exotic Film Locales
“Go as far as you can see, when you get there you will be able to see farther” – Thomas Carlyle
Travelling and exploring new places is a passion for many. It reenergizes the lost soul and provides dreams with feathers of imagination. One such globetrotter who loves to explore places and inculcate those experiences in Film Tourism culture is Natarajan Ramji. Natarajan Ramji, fondly known as the ‘Location Guru’ definitely is a wanderlust. He discovers the beauty across the globe and shares his experience with the world. His job is built on taking film crews and the audience consequently to the world’s most beautiful places. The credit for bringing some of the exotic places around the world to the Indian screen rests with Ramji, the Mylapore man who is the chairman of Travel Masters India Private Limited and Rribada Films.
Ramji is a veteran line-producer and a foreign location scout, with an experience of over three decades. He facilitates film shootings in picturesque locations abroad, organizes services ranging from the accommodation of the crew to securing the required government permissions and manages the arrangement of film equipment, local actors and stuntmen.
An Itinerary in himself
Ramji spends at least eight months a year travelling around the world and wandering around the most beautiful places on the planet. When Natarajan Ramji looks at a new location, he actually looks at the film sequence that can be shot there. He records the experiences in evocative scenes of daily life, topographical views and exotic images of flora and fauna. He sculpts an imaginary sequence and once the idea becomes one with him, Ramji goes ahead to bring the Director of the Film.
Ramji loves to travel and this passion led him the pathway for a beautiful career. He has more than a thousand films in his credit, for which he has provided the location. While his job may seem like a bed of roses, there’s a flipside too. Apart from scouting locations, his job also requires him to arrange for the necessary permissions required to shoot. Calling this as his most specialized skill set, Ramji says he manages everything because he has a fair idea of how bureaucracy works in different parts of the world.
Living life to the fullest
Ramji agrees that he has the best profession in the world. His journey in the travel trade has helped him to gain a global perspective. The journey has been the most fulfilling and humbling experience in the same breath. His profession provided him with the vibrant opportunity to explore over 130 countries, some many times over, interact with cultures and communities and in turn gain a global perspective.
He says, “When you die, you’re not going to take back your money, cars or your fancy house. It’s the experiences that make a man rich and in that sense, I am the richest when it comes to that.”
Discovery of an untrodden path
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
Like Michelangelo, Ramji sets each location free when he finds the perfect film to go with it. It is no small wonder that he is toasted by the Film, Hotel, Travel and Tourism industries all at once. He has interacted with the leading directors and actors and been to the best places in the world. His career is not one of glamour alone; it is the same effort that a classical musician puts in to make a complicated rendering seem simple at the first note.
Ramji entered the film industry as an Actor. Fresh out of college, he starred as a hero in a Telugu film after he was spotted by actor Nagesh. He stuck around, doing over 40 films when a sense of disillusionment took over him. Soon, Ramji took a break from cinema and found himself a job in a travel agency in Chennai. In 1987, he landed an opportunity to take a film crew to Singapore to shoot a song sequence. “Those days, flying abroad to shoot a film was unheard of. That was a different era. It was hard to convince the government authorities about it. Everything was closed and tedious. It was a challenging job. But when the movie came out, people loved what I have done,” says Ramji.
When travel agents were being taken off the map, Ramji created new roads combining two areas that he had already evinced interest in – Travel and Films. The first break came to him with the Telugu film ‘Rudra Netra’ (with actor Chiranjeevi) which was the first project that he handled independently. From then on, places soon became ‘locations’, and he began looking at places through his ‘location’ eyes.
All about Travel Masters and Rribada Films
Travel Masters is built by a passionate team of Explorers-at-Heart. It is a travel company, showcasing the scenic beauty of the world like never before. With a sheer range of destinations, amazing leisure facilities and an unparalleled selection of holiday packages, TMI customize requirements to provide the customers and their families with resplendent memories. TMI mainly specializes in offering services across the travel spectrum with the main focus on Film Logistics, Leisure and Luxury Holidays. It is led by an Enthusiastic Explorer- Ramji and his team with decades of experience in the industry. They are driven, first and foremost, not by business considerations but by their own passion to explore, which enables them to anticipate customers’ needs as a Traveler. Shaped by innovation, TMI always caters the drive to design new experiences and explore new destinations.
Rribada Films Private Limited is a company limited by shares which are involved in offering business activities. The company is planning to go public by raising funds through IPO (Initial Public Offerings).
Handling challenges with Ace
Ramji during his initial days of career felt like a fish out of the water. Coming from a film background of working for around seven years in the movies, it was impossible for him to adapt to the corporate style of working and that too in a large Travel Agency (Travel Corporation India). Devastated on being sacked in his first job in the travel sphere, he didn’t know what to do. Around this time he received a role as a villain in a movie with the condition of managing film’s location and travel services, which was scheduled to be filmed in Hong Kong. Ramji sweated it hard for the project, received accolades for his work which in turn enhanced his confidence and pride.
The Realm of the Tourism industry
Ramji feels that the Tourism Industry is evolving each day. According to him, Change is constant. The writing on the wall is hard and clear and resisting change is like inviting one’s downfall. One has to be relevant to Change, which is happening every minute. It is time stereotyped and when one resists change, becoming irrelevant is inevitable.
Ramji Natarajan sees himself as a Change Maker in the realm of Film Tourism Industry. During his initial career days, he didn’t feel good being as one among many thousand Travel Agents fighting for the low yielding crumbs/Airline commission, which was dwindling by the day. He decided something path-breaking must be done wherein clients will want to partner with him for his unique skill sets. He struggled hard and mentored himself to carve a niche in the industry.
Failure to Success Story
Ramji has seen failures in every corner of his life. He failed numerous times before attaining himself a name in the Film industry. He failed in academics. He failed as a Musician, as a Film Actor and as a Travel Agent. At the age of 54 years, he became bankrupt in business, but never gave up and kept bouncing back every time he went down. Whatever be the situation, Ramji always sees a world of opportunity in front of him and carries “Nothing to lose” attitude throughout his life. Ramji believes the biggest successes have gone through the biggest failures. He owns credits from his two parallel life journeys, His Success and Failure Story. One is of the Present era, which reflects him as a Globe Trotter, in the company of famous personalities and celebrities.
The other journey is of his past, when he was a complete failure. Ramji believes failure, as much as it hurts, is also a necessary part of life. It is the pathway to our goals. He struggled all through the years during his formal education from school right up college days. He never let failure to overcome the fighter within him. He battled with the push- and- pull created by the burning desire to succeed. After years of struggle, he found his calling in Film Tourism. He gained confidence and went from strength to strength and built his own Kingdom in the industry.
Creator of Concepts and Disruptor of Existing Clichés
Ramji’s story reflects the famous phrase, “It is never too old to try again. It is never too late to take another shot”. He urges the present era to be a Winner in whatever they do. Create your own niche, make customers and stake holders your loyal partners, so that they love you and not loathe you. Finally, keep innovating and be ahead of the curve and don’t resist change but embrace it. He voices that one must not be afraid to try things that are new and different. The worst thing that can happen is Failure, which is just a chance to learn and grow.