The Golden Globes, the “bolder”, “no-holds-barred” version of the Academy Awards, are a TRP riot. They give us an annual opportunity to watch America’s top satirists — be it Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Ricky Gervais, Jimmy Fallon or Seth Meyers — roast film royalty, and with them, equally, the host NGO, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). But few are familiar with what the HFPA really does. Apart from lauding the best to come out of the entertainment industry, its focus lies on promoting the arts by offering scholarships to institutions that foster them around the world. Did you know, for instance, that the HFPA has given over $30 million (over Rs 200 crore) to about 63 other global non-profits, to date? More recently, at the Cannes Film Festival 2018, it awarded $5,00,000 (Rs 3.4 crore) to The Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation.
At the helm of this philanthropic juggernaut is Mumbai’s Meher Tatna, president of the HFPA, who is steadily working towards raising the NGO’s profile to the world. The Los Angeles-based film journalist (she writes for Singapore’s The New Paper) didn’t plan a career in writing. After her early education at Mumbai’s JB Petit High School and St Xavier’s College, where she earned a degree in economics, Tatna went to Brandeis University, Massachusetts (USA), to study further. “I also wanted a minor in Theater Arts, but I graduated early and didn’t have time to finish that,” she says. “The opportunities when I left drama school weren’t as plentiful for minority actors. So, I was only working sporadically in acting. As a way to stay in the business, I started writing about it.”
When we emailed Tatna, who was soon to leave for Cannes in her capacity as HFPA president, but took time off her packed schedule to take us through her journey, and her viewing list for those looking to tally theirs:
Meher Tatna in an Anamika Khanna creation at the 75th Golden Globe Awards
ELLE: What was your favourite moment from the 75th Golden Globe Awards, this year?
Meher Tatna: It has to be Oprah’s speech. Short of declaring her candidacy for president, it couldn’t have been better. She had the crowd on its feet. I think Seth Meyers was excellent because he had the really hard job of hosting the first show after the #MeToo movement was launched, and he pulled it off beautifully.
ELLE: Do you remember the films that first sparked your love for cinema?
MT: I think for everyone, the stage of life that you watched the movie in and the circumstances that brought you to that point have everything to do with the impact it has on you. I saw Julius Caesar (1953) as a kid and that was the first time I actually thought about a movie for a long time after I left the theatre. I saw One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) with my parents and horribly embarrassed them by sobbing loudly all the way home. Wong Kar Wai’s In The Mood For Love (2000) and 2046 (2004). I’m still not sure that I understand the latter, but the artistry of it had a profound impact on me. Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education (2004). Lawrence Of Arabia (1962); I went back out, bought another ticket and watched it again right away.
ELLE: You’ve said before that reporting sexual abuse in Hollywood was uncommon, as it could cost you your job. Has that changed since the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements?
MT: There has been change, to a degree. Everyone is more mindful of their interactions. There have been strides made in giving actresses equal pay. But for everyone who has had the courage to step forward and name names, there must be countless others who still feel vulnerable and scared to do so. For a change like this to have real meaning takes time, but I am hopeful.
ELLE: As a journalist, what are your pet peeves when interviewing celebrities?
MT: Latecomers. And I’m not a fan of monosyllabic answers. Some actors instinctively understand what makes good copy — good quotes, anecdotes — and some seem to have no understanding of our jobs. Or of theirs, as salespeople of their movies.
ELLE: What’s your advice for budding film journalists?
MT: Don’t write what you can’t defend.
ELLE: And what has been the best career advice you received when you were young?
MT: Don’t lose your life in the pursuit of a career
Photograph: Courtesy of Golden Globes (Meher Tatna)