(Exclusive) Interview with Dev Raturi -- an Indian actor in China
Dev is an actor and an entrepreneur. He has appeared in prominent Chinese movies and TV series.
Check out Dev Raturi’s IMDb page.
1) How did you end up in China? And, what inspired you to stay on in China?
In 2005, I got the opportunity to come to China, because one of my friends, he introduced me a guy, he had a restaurant in China, like five years went by the time and he said that, okay, if you want to go to China, you know, I can take you, and you have to work as a waiter. I came to China in 2005 and started my journey as a waiter. And when I came to China, most of my friend was, you know, don't know, as I know, there is nothing that you would make money and your life. But I came here, and I really saw the development of China. It was like, boom, this was in unbelievable.
Within a five year, I become a general manager of an American restaurant. I had worked in a very well known top multinational steak house in Beijing. After working for seven years, I realized that there is a cultural gap between India and China. In India, most of my friend said, you know, there is poverty over there in China. That wasn’t the case. But I was always interested in martial arts.
I was one of the biggest fan of Bruce Lee. He was like a role model. I love the movie called Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story which was based on his true life story and how he went to Hong Kong from the USA from and he used work in a restaurant. I always wanted to come to China and learn the martial art.
That's how the journey started. And in six months, I learned my I learned the Chinese language by listening to others, I never went to any school. Okay. The first time I went back to India was after six years. People asked me why you're not coming back and what's happening? Because I was really you know growing very fast in six years, you see that my when I came to China my salary was 1650 RMB in my first job and after five years, I was working in general manager my salary was 35,000 RMB in 2010
2) You spoke about the cultural gap between India and China. How did you try to fill the cultural gap while you were you in China?
I worked with one more group realized that there was really a cultural gap you know because when I was in India, people didn't know about reality in China. When I was here in China, people talked about India, which were bad things and it hurt me you know.
I realized that this is not an easy job being an Indian in China and being a proud Indian in China. So I thought I must fill this gap because there were very few Indian restaurants, but none of them presented you like Indian culture, they just sell the food, and I realized that no, this is not enough. So, we opened one Indian restaurant in Xi’an, which is the starting point of Silk Road. We call this cultural investment because we design it like you know, like a when you step into the restaurant you feel like you are in India, in Indian pavilion and the only architecture even the gate and everything we bought from India. We have a chef from India, we have Bollywood dancers from India, we have a yoga teacher from India. It was not easy for me because I belong to the lower class family and don't have enough funds. So a lot of people helped me not only Indian and Chinese also helped me. We work hard, and it had really become very famous in China because a lot of media interviewed me about the restaurant.
They made one documentary on my life, which helps us in terms of the business like our business was really, you know, every day people asked us to get franchisee and open the restaurant and cooperate with us.
3) How many restaurants do you run at the moment?
We now have seven restaurants at various locations in China.
4) How did you transition into your acting career in China?
I was working on opening a restaurant in Sichuan and one of the directors he saw me, and he came to me that they are looking for someone to play an Indian in a movie. And I said, “Hey, actually it has been my childhood dream, you know?” I've always wanted to be an actor, but I was scared in front of a camera, but now I was okay. Because I've been interviewed by more than 180 Media houses from India and China. And I said, yeah, this time I have to make it. So it was a small role. And I told him that I could play a role in your movie, but you have to show our restaurant you have to show the restaurant in the movie, told them that I wouldn’t charge anything. But that's how I started my acting career with a very small role. By now, I have done more than 20 movies and TV series in China.
5) What are the names of some of the movies that you were in? And what are the usually the themes that you've been playing?
In 2020, I did five movies and four TV series. I play a role as an astronaut in The Ark: An Iron Sky. It is a Hollywood co-production. They made one movie in China.
And another movie I just played with an American movie star called Robert Knepper. He is quite well known for the TV series Prison Break. The movie’s name in English is The Trapped. The movie mostly has a Chinese cast.
I have also worked in another very successful TV series in China in 2019 named My roommate is a detective. And I played the role of a detective, and it was quite popular because of this TV series. I have been very busy in the past year.
6) You know what's been going on between India and China recently? I am referring to the border conflict. How has your experience been in that context? What have you noticed within China; especially as an Indian in China?
I know about the border scuffle, and I also wrote an article for Global Times regarding this relationship between India and China. The relationship goes back to the Tang Dynasty, and Xi’an also played a crucial role in that history. I would say that Xuan Zang (Hiuen Tsang) visited India 1300 years back from Chang’an and my restaurant is very close to this historic site.
A lot of friends were calling me when the border tension was really on a peak. Like a lot of Indian media were gossiping that we are about to fight it, you know, you know, this is the century that no one's really want to fight, you know, the fight will be about, you know, like the economy, you know, like, Okay, I'm not buying this, I know that's what's happening now, you know, India banned more than 200 apps. And this is the kind of thing that may happen, but there will not be a war. Everybody was really supporting me. I think that's very, very mature. And even some of my friends who called me to let me know that they support me.
During COVID-19 a lot of media and a lot of friends. They were calling me and wanted to send masks. By the time I wanted to help them by bringing masks from India, but I couldn't. But they really have me asked me for the address and they sent me masks and then especially from people from the government, from the media and a local friend, they were coming to my house to ask me if I need any help. I never, you know, from last 16 years, literally have I encountered any problems like that. The two governments are working on solving the problem. We are doing business involve and we shouldn’t involve ourself in these things you know.
7) How's life now? We've seen these pictures people living their lives like normal. So how's life now in China?
Speaking that because of COVID-19, tourism, and then cinema, you know, this industry was really hit badly but now it is back to normal. It is back to normal. We also had to close the restaurant for three months and then and after opening the business was not that good. Now we are back on track. I think we are doing much better than that before COVID-19.
Talking about cinema, you know, I, the theatres open now I think some of the theatres open in China for the movies. What do you think is the future of the film industry in China amid the intensifying geopolitics?
Apart from this, the movies connect the world, things in origin, which make us understand another country. It will definitely be going on. There are I know that there are a lot of Hollywood co-productions still going on in China. Some Bollywood movies were supposed to be released back now because the border scuffle they stopped it. But it will be normal eventually.
So you just said that because of the border scuffle the Bollywood movies have not been released in China?
Not only border because of the border issue but also because of COVID-19.
Flying has been difficult, you know, like, we really wanted to open two new Indian restaurants now and we had signed contracts we were supposed to open to Indian dust right now. But now, there are flights and we couldn’t bring people to work in the restaurant. So we are just waiting. I am sure that within a few months everything will be normal like before.
8) Does Indian media reach out to you much to get your perspective on life inside China?
Yes, I have been interviewed by some Indian media, I gave some interviews. But you know, sometimes the questions are ridiculous.
I have never had any bad experience being an Indian in China. The media people ask why I talk highly about China, this is my experience, you know, my kids are going to Chinese school. You know, I have two kids. One is six years old when it's eight years old. And they go to Chinese school. And my wife is here, you know. I have brought more than 200 people from India, at least 60 or 70 people working in our company. You know, we have seven restaurants. And I have brought like more than 200 people they have working in the hospitality industry. Some are in hospitality, some are in IT, and some teaching yoga. This is my practical experience and when I talk highly about China some media don’t believe me.
I had one bad experience I can share. Actually, I was supposed to do one movie. And they didn't sign a contract with me. But we talked and it was like a full two week or three-week work. My agent then told me that they were asking if you have any other nationality. I said I'm sorry. You know, like for this movie, I can't you change my nationality. I'm an Indian and I am proud to be an Indian. I don't want to change my passport, you know, because I want to live in India. They said that the director doesn’t want to hire anyone with Indian nationality.
9) Was this in China or somewhere else?
Yes, this was in China.
In India they are boycotting products you don't want to see when you look at China is the biggest market. Especially advantages we can learn a lot from them we really can learn a lot, definitely, we China can learn a lot from us.
10) How has been your experience with getting visas for the employees that you have or any other staff members? How has that been?
Very is very easy to apply. And a lot of people, you know, have a misconception, you know, in China I came to see and I opened a new restaurant, within 24 however, you will get your business license. And there is some requirement that before applying for the visa, they need to get one foreign investment, they will give us one certificate. But one problem is the insecurity as a businessman. I also give them a suggestion that like we have an investment like a 6 million RMB in investment and now if in the case for some reason I'm not able to run this business or this business, you know like I got bankrupt or anything like that happened this I have to go back. I have no choice. They don't even extend your visa that's the problem. No, really, you know, this is anyone we don't get a visa for the five years six years that at least I have security that I can work somewhere and make my life better. But in China if you even invest like a 1 billion a lot of people they invested money now they cannot come back they can't even get the visa. I know that if you stay for some time - like I've been here from the last 15 years - they get long term visa. I only get two years visa which I have to renew. I suggested to the officials that businessman like me or someone else who has invested money should get like at least five years visa because I have been to more than 20 countries you know. I have friends around the world so they invested elsewhere they at least get kind of security they have a visa or a permanent visa but at least five years visa if they are staying in a country following the law for a certain time. So they should get this kind of security which I don't have. This is a little bit insecure. If you pay taxes close to 60,000 RMB continuous four years, they have a thing you can apply for the green card.