Mulling over Magnificence : Interview with Roshan Abbas

That’s what strikes you. Magnificence! 

Orator, compelling storyteller, media entrepreneur, serial angel investor, actor, TV anchor, event manager, writer, director…and above all a visionary. UAE, please join me in getting to know the magic called Roshan Abbas.  I have seen and heard Roshan several times, and have been nothing less than enamoured every time. What inspired me to chase this ‘magnificence’ were his stories. A good storyteller only tells, while Roshan propels. As the co-founder of ‘Kommune’ – a performing arts collective for storytellers, and as the brain behind ‘Spoken’ festival, he has brought together performers from across the world for storytelling, poetry, spoken word, and song.

Roshan founded and led Encompass (now VMLYR Encompass) as Managing Director into becoming India’s largest, most awarded experiential marketing agency, he’s even been on the Cannes Promo Jury. Having won seven national-level awards for TV and radio in India, Roshan is now setting base in the UAE doing what he does best – inspiring by sharing his life lessons on communication and storytelling with entrepreneurs, corporates, artists, and anyone looking to discover a unique voice! 

 Are you ready to learn from a man who has spent three decades in the public eye about the magic that goes into crafting an extraordinary speech and discover your voice? Continue mulling.  

Q.1 You are a successful celebrity in India. Why U.A.E now?

Roshan: I think the U.A.E for me is a pitstop in my creative journey, a place that I really feel I could make into a second home. When I came here in December last year, I found a melting pot of subculture and pop culture and a lot of very creative people. I’m always looking for new talent, people I can invest time in. I found that whether you go to the speakeasy or design district, Al Serkal Avenue, or the Junction, it’s brimming with people who want to do so much more. And what better time to be here, when you can light fires and create new paths. The place said to me, it is this

Q.2 It was a very bold decision to make during the pandemic. Didn’t the situation ever deter you from moving the lock-stock barrel? 

Roshan: Not at all. The pandemic taught all of us that you can work from anywhere. I started looking at remote work as an opportunity to explore. Next I could be sitting on the Himalaya’s running my multiple ventures. In the third week of the pandemic, I told my entire team that this virus is the chief transformation officer that nobody asked for.  We must recalibrate. For a creative team you should be able to communicate what you want and follow through and we adapted brilliantly. 

My philosophy is to be a warm demander:  start with a great idea and to make it successful go the extra mile. When James Cameron made Titanic or Avatar everybody thought what was he up to? He found partners across the globe who shared his vision. I am doing that too.

Q.3 How did Kommune find you? 

Roshan: Visiting and reading Art communes, building a community of artists was always on my mind. I wanted to spark the imagination of a generation. To do that, I needed a platform. Everybody was reinventing themselves. Comics, poets and storytellers. I was looking for a venture that would put the collective before the self.  Kommune was a word that kept coming back in my head as the domain wasn’t available with a C but a K. The design agency made the K with a sharing symbol: and it all clicked. We love to share our knowledge, our experience and opportunities. I think all of that came together and suddenly the name Kommuneity happened. 

Q.4 How has Kommune helped people grow creatively? Is there any specific success story you’d be happy to share with us? 

Roshan: I could share 100 success stories. I think Kommune is the success of so many people. But let me tell you of Megha Rao. She used to post on Instagram from a small hill station in Kerala. We were looking for new talent and loved her work. I messaged her on Instagram, asking if her poetry could be featured on our YouTube channel. She was a little hesitant in sharing her poetry with us but we told her this needs to be heard by the world. Even today she says that that the faith we had in her, made her move to Bombay. Today Poems to Calm Down to, her podcast, is amongst the top 50 on Spotify. Her second book is coming out, she writes poems and creates content, and does workshops. There are so many such stories at Kommune. For some people we are the platform believing in your talent, honing it, monetizing it, sharing it. I’m hoping to replicate the same success here and give to creators a platform where at the door it’s Amateur in and at the exit an Artist out. 

Q.5 You are a very creative businessman. Tell us about this journey. 

Roshan: Nobody in my family was ever a business person. I found a mentor in college. I got involved with professional theatre. I think that’s the time in my head, I found the key. To not just be individually creative but to learn how to make commerce from creativity. I keep saying if I don’t learn something new every day I’ll perish. If you’re willing to learn and convert passion into processes, you can build things. I believe that artists must be paid their worth. But artists very often believe that commercial consideration kills their creativity, which is not true. Know what you are worth. And then decide if you want to do it. Also a mantra I live by is: To build many things hire your replacement. Then you are free to find the new new. 

Q.6 In all of Kommune’s advertisements, what does ‘safe-space’ mean? 

Roshan: I feel that art sometimes leads to extremely intimate situations. It leads to people working in great proximity. Over the last couple of years, the creative fields have come under a bit of a cloud What is this art? Where will my poetry get me? There are already so many questions. The least we can do is to make a space where whoever is coming in that space feels safe. Safe to express what you feel, safe to be vulnerable, safe to share. It’s about respecting each other. Don’t criticize or condemn. We try to put some positive values in people and that is why safe spaces are a very positive value. 

Q.7 Are there any creative projects that you are working on? What do you think, that us, as the audience… should watch out for? 

You should watch out for some films made in Dubai, about Dubai. I really want to focus on global exposure for the creative talent here. I think there is a need for the entire creative community in the UAE to come together as one. I’m building something really big as an event, which I’m hoping can happen next year where I can bring all creators together. That is my pet project.

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