During WTA Chennai Open 2022, I got a chance to speak to Prakash Amritraj, a former pro who now prefers to be on a camera as an actor and anchor. He has a flamboyant personality and he is a lively person to interact with. Here are the bits from our quick meeting. –
Q: Hi Prakash! Welcome to ITD. How are you enjoying this Chennai Open so far?
A: It’s been fantastic. We’ve almost had packed houses for the finals. It’s something the city has been craving for some time. Chennai has a great hunger and appetite for world-class tennis. Having a WTA event for the first time here is special. Hopefully, it’s the first of many to come. I know my father Vijay Amritraj (Tournament Director and President of Tamil Nadu Tennis Association) has all sorts of intentions to bring events here – in Chennai and throughout India. So this is just getting the ball rolling.
Q. It’s been 9 years since you hung up your tennis racquet. Do you miss competing on the circuit?
A: No. I don’t. All the stuff I am doing now in the films and TV, I enjoy a lot. I learnt my lessons from my playing days. Wish I had a chance to do it all over again? We all do. But I can’t say I miss it. I am enjoying my life right now (smiles).
Q. You’ve worked as a broadcaster for Tennis Channel for the past few years. Why did you decide to get into this field?
A: Honestly, it came up randomly. After playing, I was studying acting full time and busy building our movie production company. So my focus was there. So when an opportunity came on the broadcasting side, I did Champions Tennis League (CTL) here and I enjoyed that. Then I got a small opportunity at the Tennis Channel, that led to another small opportunity at the Tennis Channel, and then it got bigger, and only at the end of 2018, the Tennis Channel took a huge chance on me and sent me with the full crew at ATP Finals at the O2 in London. They told me to get a bunch of content – a bunch of interviews and other stuff, so I went around and did everything I could and they liked what I did so they created a new role for me which never existed before – “Global Correspondent”. So they set me up with a cameraman and sent me everywhere in 2019 and that went well. Then I signed a contract with them. They started getting more (broadcasting) rights, so they built a desk on which you see me now. And now the desk has expanded. It’s been such a blessing. They encourage me to be myself and lean into myself – the acting and being a different personality, all that – so I have to give my love and praise to the Tennis Channel for my growth.
Q: When I watch the Prakash Worldwide show on YouTube, your life seems perfect – work travels, fancy hotels, glitz and glamour but I am sure there must be regular challenges you face behind the mic. Can you tell us about that?
A: I look at challenges differently than how I used to look at them previously in my life. Challenges are for me are opportunities. The biggest challenge is chasing everything I am chasing right now – trying to build this movie company, build my acting career and at the same time bring the absolute best in everything I am doing on the tennis side of things – those are honestly three different careers, so try to give each one 100% is the biggest challenge but I back my work ethic against anyone else out there so I am happy to work 20 hours a day. I’m happy to give everything I can. And I also love it all. So I can’t really call it difficulties or challenges. I get to do a lot of things that I love. The other thing I can say is keeping up with my routine – the training and the diet on the road. That’s a bit tricky. That’s much easier at home. So that’s a little tough but that’s about it.
Q: Tell us about the upcoming documentary about your father, the great Vijay Amritraj?
A: Very excited about the documentary. Our director Sami Khan was nominated for the Oscar two years ago. He has been absolutely brilliant. Dwelling into dad’s story at that level of depth – I think it’s really important. Because Vijay Amritraj is not just a sports figure of India, he is a historic figure of India. So many Indians and Indian Americans need heroes. African Americans look at Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson. Ali has been one of my greatest heroes. So I think it’s important to tell the story of someone like my father who has made an impact on Indians on the world stage. So I’m really excited for everyone to watch the documentary.
Q: What are your thoughts on the ITD initiative?
A: What you guys are doing is fantastic. I mean anything people do in this world to follow their love (in your case, tennis) is fantastic. We all have different passions. And the world moves forward when your pour into those passions. So I love the fact that you all volunteer your time towards your passions. This is what tennis needs. This is what Indian tennis needs.
Q: And finally, tell us what’s your code, bro? [Amritraj writes a motivational column in GQ India titled “What’s Your Code?”]
A: I could be here for hours talking about this. Very simply, a lot of it boils down to – love like an inspiration and really multiplying what God put in my heart. For me, it’s just listening to that voice – God speaking to you – clear out all the noise. If you are not religious, then it’s the universe. And then just following that path. That leads to your greatest potential. And for me, so much of that code – that strength comes from my faith, my family and what I feel I am here to do. I feel I have certain strengths and a lot of that is to share those things with the world – so in many ways, that’s my code. If you want some traits to go along with it – that’s hard work, discipline, honour and loyalty are my pillars.
This interview was conducted in person on Sunday, 18 September 2022.