Vikram Gupta in his office at Metro Cinemas in Dhobi Talao. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Metro Cinemas owner Vikram Gupta is the Mumbai face behind the one and only India screening of Leonardo DiCaprio's documentary Before The Flood. But, he's yet to meet the man
Kusumita Das (MID-DAY; January 22, 2017)

It was actually a shot in the dark when Vikram Gupta wrote an email addressed to Leonardo DiCaprio on the home page of the latter's foundation. Like anyone else writing to the Hollywood star, sans insider help, Gupta drafted the mail stating his intention of wanting to screen the documentary Before The Flood in India. He also added that he owns the Metro Cinemas in Mumbai and Kolkata and that he'd ensure a red carpet release, roping in environmentalists and other notable names from across fields. But, getting through to DiCaprio is no cakewalk, as Gupta soon realised. "He must be getting ten thousand such mails and it's of course not possible to respond to each one," he says, sitting in his office on the first floor of Metro Cinemas in Dhobi Talao.

It took many long winding roads thereon to finally make the screening happen, including a random message on Facebook that his friend posted, that was literally worded as: "Does anyone in the world know DiCaprio..." Miraculously enough, that's when doors started to open.

"We actually got a few leads from there but they too didn't work. Finally, I approached Nat Geo where the film had premiered on its release date, October 21, and things started moving forward," says Gupta, who has at last made his dream come true. Tomorrow Metro Cinemas will host the only screening of the film in India, for a VIP audience of about 700. "This was never about the payback. Even the film has broken ground in many ways - premiering on world television, then running on YouTube for free for two months. Personally, I wanted to get the top names from India involved, because, they are the decision-makers. Imagine if a few principals see it and decide to include climate change in their school curriculum, or a cardinal talks about this at a mass, or a bank MD decides to ban plastic in the cafeteria! That's where change will start," Gupta says.

He got help from his own circle of common friends that included Sonam Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Imran Khan who shot videos to help spread the word. "Sonam has 8 million followers on Facebook. If even one per cent of them get inspired to see the trailer or get interested in the topic, that's major impact. My driver doesn't know DiCaprio. They know Sonam, Anushka. People are telling me, 'oh you should have got Leo for the screening' but given a choice, I'd choose Sonam. Leo would be a big name in the papers, but if I'm talking masses here, they don't know him. They know Bollywood," he says.

Gupta's own life is a strange paradox, where he balances a day job as a realtor with the Gaia Foundation, his own non-profit brainchild, that works in afforestation. "I have been contemplative about this. But, truth is, this also gives me the ability to do what I am doing in Gaia - gives me the funding, time, resources and the contacts," says the 35-year-old.

His next target is to reach DiCaprio. "Now that we have got so much traction, it's easy for me to get on a call with him. But again, it's not about the fame. I want to try and see what more we can do about climate change. I don't want to sound like a hard-core green warrior, but climate change is a reality, and we are already too late in pulling up our socks. Leo, being the global ambassador for climate change, can give us direction. As of today, I have one bullet, I need to get that bullet into the heart."