Films To Panja: Preeti Jhangiani & Parvin Dabas Give Us A Lesson In Entrepreneurship & Teamwork

Be it entertainment, sports or business, this power couple shows us why two heads are better than one.

By Tsunami Costabir

Preeti Jhangiani and Parvin Dabas are not just a power couple in entertainment; but a power couple in business, sports, art and more! The two have been married since 2008 and still show up arm-in-arm at red carpets events and award shows. How does the duo manoeuver the dynamics of being partners, actors, and run successful digital and production companies, plus the MMA India Show and Pro Panja League? We asked them all about it!

Parvin, what kind of an impact are you looking to make in society through your work in filmmaking? Do you believe that film has a duty towards society beyond entertainment?

I always am drawn to the stories I see around me. I hail from a village called Kanjhawala in Delhi, and most of my stories and ideas are inspired by real India and from the heartland of India. My first directorial also spoke about the issue of land reservation, and ‘Khosla Ka Ghosla’ also spoke about the issue of land grabbing.

Films in our country are the main source of entertainment and have the ability to inspire and educate the majority of our country and especially the youth. I believe every filmmaker has a right to make what he wants creatively, but also a responsibility towards what impact that story can have on the world around us.

What made you take up the MMA India Show, Parvin? What is your vision for this project?

It was my love for MMA. I’ve been a big, big fan of UFC. In 2016, I felt there was a vacuum in the market for a good Mixed Martial Arts based show. At that time, there were matchups between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz. That’s when I launched it.

Preeti, as the Chairperson of MMA India Women’s Commission, what and to whom would you make suggestions to increase participation and competitiveness in women’s sports?

In our country, there are still a lot of issues women in sports face. Sports like MMA also have a lot of teens participating, and along with a physical support system, they also need counselling as the sport is very demanding. Female representation is needed so that they always have a woman around to speak with about any problems they may have. We have also created an email id where athletes can anonymously email me personally about any issues they may have.

Parvin, having been the curator and Cinema Head of The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival for three years, what is a piece of art/ performance/ artist that really drew you in?

The most interesting piece of art that we did was a Northeast Festival, where we did these really amazing films from the Northeast. I’m a big fan of the Northeast region. The cinema, of course, was in the fledgling stage, but there was a lot of heart to those films and artists

From directing, producing, and acting to playing a pivotal role in bringing sports into the country, you have a varied set of interests that you pursue. Do you find a lot of synergies and moments of ‘connecting the dots’? What have some of them been?

Parvin: Yes, everything we do and have done is connected. After modelling and acting for many years, production and direction were a natural progression to telling the stories we wanted to the world.

Preeti: Parvin has always been a sportsman at heart and plays many sports himself, such as basketball, boxing etc. He has always been a huge MMA fan too. Hence the MMA India Show was born. Now it is one of the premier MMA sites in the country and is officially accredited by the UFC.

When we wanted to get into the promotion of sport, we felt panja could be huge in the country because it is an intrinsically Indian sport, and everyone identifies with it! We believe to bring a sport such as panja back into the news and to get people watching it; it has to also be entertaining. We believe sport and entertainment go hand-in-hand. That is why the Pro Panja League! It will be one of the most entertaining and exciting leagues out there.

To what extent do you believe destiny has shaped your life in contrast to hard work and willpower?

Preeti: I have to say it’s a mix of both for me. My initial break into the world of modelling and acting in both South Indian and Hindi films was completely destiny — being in the right place at the right time. I never had a dream or a passion to work in the movies. But when it came my way, I did it for the pocket money and the fun of it!

Parvin: I have always been passionate about theatre and drama and had my own little theatre company in Delhi called ‘Urban Theatre Society’, where I directed and acted in plays. I then left to train at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts for two years. I shifted to Mumbai and worked towards my career as an actor. The MMA India Show and the Pro Panja League are products of pure hard work and creating your own destiny.

We created both products out of basically nothing. Arm wrestlers all over the country were leaving the sport because they saw no future in it. And now there has been a real resurgence! At the national tournament this year in Mathura, we had 1,500 players. Usually, there are 400-500 at the maximum.

Parvin, you started the Pro Panja League in India. As an avid fan of the sport, what are some qualities you look for in a player that you would bet on?

A panja player must primarily have a strong mind and strong willpower. Most matches are won in the mind. The technique also plays a very important part in this sport. One cannot just count on bicep strength. The back and the legs of a panja player must be very strong as well!

Preeti, what have been the most difficult and exciting projects you’ve worked on through your production company Swen Entertainment?

The digital side of our company has been the most challenging and also the most rewarding. We own and run many sports websites, such as the Cricket India Show, the Sports India Show, the MMA India Show, the Fitness India Show and the Monsoon Wedding Show. These require constant and relentless work by the team.

Our first production, my first as a producer and Parvin’s first as a director, ‘Sahi Dhandhe Galat Bande’, was the most challenging by far. We shot the film entirely in real locations in outer Delhi with new actors and an amazing crew. We shot it over 35 days and on a shoestring budget. The film was showcased at the Indian Panorama held in Goa that year. It also won at the Mexico International Film Festival. We also produced Dana Offenbach’s film ‘My Sun Sets To Rise Again’, and various ad films.

How would you define a successful relationship, and what are some keys to building one?

There is no perfect answer to this. Every relationship is unique. Never be fooled into thinking that any marriage is perfect! A successful relationship is one in which both individuals feel peaceful, relaxed and are able to be themselves when the other one is around. Peace and happiness are the cornerstones of any relationship, and both have to work at this. One must take time out for their partner and make their partner feel special with small gestures, even if it’s been many years of marriage! Holidays are a must. And a solo trip without the kids is also a must at least once a year.

Having been together for 15 years, how would you say your significant other has changed since you first met?

Parvin: Preeti has taught me not to take things too seriously in life! She’s calmed me down.

Preeti: Parvin has taught me how to come out of my comfort zone and work towards my goals. He is a very hard worker and never sits idle. He’s a self-made man, and I’m very proud of him and the values he stands for. He has taught me never to take injustice lightly and stand up for what I believe in, no matter what.

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