SPI Cinemas’ VP, Richard Musa, talks about luxe movie-watching experiences, traffic and spice
come April, and Richard Musa will be celebrating a year at SPI Cinemas as their executive VP operations, and a year in Chennai. In hospitality for 30 years, Cheshire-born Musa has travelled the world and calls his stint at Yemen “a surreal experience,” among all the launches of star properties he has overseen. He opened the Al Qasr in Yemen, back in 2010, and if you brush up on your history, you’ll know why he chose to leave as soon as he could. “I was surrounded by Al-Qaeda and Somali pirates,” he exclaims, as he tells us about terror attacks and armed security personnel on watch at the hotel. “You’re usually provided with a laptop on the job, but there, my head of security gave me a taser.”
Musa’s next move was to Pune, where, after a brief stint, he joined the SPI group and switched base to Chennai. “This is a boutique cinema group,” he says with some pride, pointing out why the business of hospitality plays a role here. “We deal with a wide spectrum of public and provide a five-star product at a bargain price,” he shares, adding that a similar movie experience in the UK would cost at least GBP10. Speaking of premium experiences, he chooses not to comment on when Luxe (the uber-luxury theatre by the group) is scheduled to open, but hints that the group plans to expand to more cities. Clearly amused by the movie watching experience here, Musa shares, “This is the only place in the world where you can shout and clap at the screen. The first time I heard it, I thought there was a riot going on in there,” he laughs.
While he misses the stand-alone bars in Pune, Musa is enjoying his culinary experiences in Chennai. He lights up with an “I like going out,” before listing some of his favourite restaurants in town. Not surprisingly, Musa also has a collection of about 500 cookbooks back home. “I love to try different cuisines,” he says, going on to share, “I had a kara dosa in Nellore with a chilli paste. It nearly blew my head off!” But that has not stopped him from being part of all the tasting sessions at Spice Kitchen, the restaurant in the groups theatre in Nellore. He finds it puzzling when people “reach for the pepper and chilli flakes, without even tasting what’s served.” But though he is adventurous with food, he is certain he will not touch a steering wheel in Chennai. “I felt safer in Yemen than in the traffic here,” he concludes on a light note.