Anupam Kher on His Journey & Acting at Whistling Woods International

“I don’t take myself seriously and that is my biggest strength,” said Anupam Kher during the irrevocably immersive session he conducted at the 5th Veda. An iconic figure in Indian cinema, with over 500 films since he emerged in the film industry 35 years ago, Anupam Kher shared many gems of wisdom with the students of Whistling Woods International.

About six hundred students gathered to garner insight from the film maven at the inauguration of the sixth season of the 5th Veda cultural hub. “You too can become extraordinary only when you really work extra hard and differently from others and leave your audience surprised”, said the renowned actor while sharing anecdotes from his journey in the film industry. Some of his riveting anecdotes included stories about ill-fated fights with Mahesh Bhatt over the old man’s role in ‘Saaransh’ and even how his acting journey began with an opportunity to play a pivotal role in Subhash Ghai’s film ‘Karma’.

Unflinchingly candid and as forthcoming as ever, Anupam Kher had the students captivated during the entirety of the session. Being a natural teacher, it’s no surprise that the actor so effortlessly guided the aspiring actors and filmmakers in the audience within the span of one session. He shared his life’s experiences, talking about his journey from when he studied at the National School of Drama to some invaluable tips on an actor’s breathing techniques.

Subhash Ghai, the founder of Whistling Woods International, culminated the session by saying, “When an actor inspires a director, then magic is created on celluloid. It then becomes imperative for the director to highlight such immense talent. Anupam Kher inspired me to write the best lines for him in Karma and Saudagar.” Anupam Kher’s drive and charisma left the students of Whistling Woods International both invigorated and inspired, eager to learn and explore the vast expanse of cinema.

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Learning the Art of ‘Design Thinking’ with Xavier Massé

Xavier Massé has been a boundless source of inspiration to the students of Whistling Woods International School of Design in the past and this time was no different. The ‘Design Jam’ workshop was crafted to let the new students of design explore a structured but more hands-on approach to visual design over the span of three days. Xavier Massé, the dean of ECV, France’s premier design school conducted this workshop with great enthusiasm and was impressed with the student interaction from the initial stages of the workshop.

About the idea of ‘Design Jam,’ the dean said, “It’s a three-day workshop based on a methodology of work called ‘design thinking’ and it’s meant to introduce a new way of doing creative exploration; how to not only help the students find a lot of different innovative ideas, but also how to find the right one in an efficient way.”  

The ethos of ‘Design Jam’ lies in its highly interactive aspect. Divided into groups, the students were forced out of their comfort zones & had to think on their feet while working in congruence with their teammates. The purpose was to not just inspire the creativity, but also imbibe the attitude of being able to solve problems efficiently within them. “Once you start to understand how the world works, then you start to understand where the problems are,” said Xavier Massé, “Once you start to understand the problems, then you know how to fix them. You become a problem-solver. We teach designers to be problem-solvers.”

Siddharth, a School of Design student, spoke about how this workshop inspired him, saying, “For me, Mr Xavier was the first big thing which set me free in the design world. As he said, ‘Talk less and show them what you can do.’”

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WWI Masterclass with Karan Johar

_DB98556Acclaimed Indian filmmaker Karan Johar was welcomed with a loud cheer as he entered our auditorium for a film forum masterclass. The masterclass was moderated by Rahul Puri, Head of Academics, WWI, who posed questions to Karan Johar, with regards to his filmmaking and specifically about his recent film – ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.’ The director spoke at length about his approach and the processes involved in the making of his films & specifically about ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’.

He gave multiple suggestions and advice to an auditorium full of aspiring filmmakers to be better at their skills and also help them grow as unique individual professionals in the Film & Media industry. He specifically recommended a special exercise for the students of acting, in order to enhance their acting skills.

_DB98617He advised budding filmmakers, saying, “It is extremely important to be with the times. Relevance is something you can aspire, chase and acquire, if you keep your mind open to suggestions.” While interacting with the students he encouraged them to trust their instincts and make films that they believe in. He further added, “Nothing fails like success. When in failure you contemplate and strive to become better. However, success comes with a lot of baggage. When you meet success, make sure to acknowledge it and move on. Those who become arrogant with success tend to go down with it. The ability to move beyond success will come with recognising what you don’t know and not what you know.”

He shared anecdotes from his filmmaking journey, from being an assistant director in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge to writing-directing, producing & distributing blockbuster movies. He also shared his immense love for Indian film music and candidly admitted, “I am obsessed with and only listen to Indian film music.” He also mentioned that this love was the seed that enabled him to work with music directors to create the many much-loved melodies in all his movies, which bear a stamp of his love for music.

_Y0A8580As expected, the students had several questions for him. Karan Johar patiently answered all the questions and shared a lot of his experiences, which will greatly assist the students as filmmakers & even beyond as people. While he has been visiting Whistling Woods for masterclasses quite often, every time he visits, he wishes that there was an institute like this when he was starting out as a filmmaker and rues that he had to learn on the job. He spoke about all our alumni that he has enjoyed working with, including the writer-director of the highly successful ‘Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania’ and ‘Badrinath ki Dulhania’, Shashank Khaitan and the editor of ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’, Manik Dawar and a whole lot of WWI alumni, who are working at Dharma Productions.

Wishing the students best for all their future endeavours, he asked them to make the maximum of their time at the institute and step out to create their mark in the media and entertainment industry.

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WWI Convocation, 2017

_Y0A7687We celebrated our 10th Annual Convocation with the 18th & 19th graduating batches, at St. Andrews Auditorium, Bandra. The event witnessed a full-house with close to 1000 people; right from industry professionals, students and their families in complete attendance. The graduating students, full of excitement, were acknowledged for their achievements with awards and commendations.

_Y0A7280This year, the ace Indian director and screenwriter Shyam Benegal and legendary actor Shatrughan Sinha were conferred with the ‘Whistling Woods Maestro Award’, for their invaluable contribution to Indian cinema. Prof. S. Parasumaran, Vice Chancellor at Tata Institute of Social Science, gave an inspiring speech as the keynote speaker at the event.

The ceremony began with Subhash Ghai, Meghna Ghai Puri and Ravi Gupta along with the guests, lighting the lamp, followed by an inspiring video on the institute’s incredible journey over the last decade.

Commenting on the occasion, Subhash Ghai, our Founder & Chairman, shared, “With this graduating batch, we, at Whistling Woods International have accomplished ten successful years. It gives me immense pleasure to share that we have delivered on what we had committed, when we had set out to start the institute in 2006. With the constant efforts and support extended by Meghna, Rahul, Ravi Gupta, the faculty here have successfully shaped the institute to be what it is today. I am honoured to be a part of WWI’s journey into completing its first decade. I wish that legendary personalities like Shyam Benegal sahaab and Shatrughan ji continue to inspire us to create more well-honed industry ready professionals and thereby help students make their careers in a holistic way.”

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Commenting on the occasion, leading director Shyam Benegal shared, “It is an honour to not only be present here today, but also to be associated with an institute like Whistling Woods International. Subhash Ghai’s vision has come to fruition and the institute has made incredible contributions to the Indian cinema, by honing the talent in our country. It has been a fantastic journey so far and I look forward to the years to come.”

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Advising the students on their journey ahead, ace actor Shatrughan Sinha said, “From the time I graduated I have followed only one mantra: In this competitive world, prove yourself to be better than the best but if you fail to do then at least make sure you are different from the rest, and you will find your destination. Believe in yourself and charge ahead with confidence. You have been fortunate to have had such a strong mentor by you side, Mr. Subhash Ghai, who has also been my guide in life.”

Thanking everyone present at the annual convocation ceremony, Meghna Ghai Puri, President, Whistling Woods International, said, “It’s a wonderful feeling to see these young students walk out today in the industry as trained young professionals. Most of them already have great jobs and the others have plans to pursue further studies. Eleven years ago, on the same date we had inaugurated this institute and pledged to create a world-class institution, which will make the industry proud. There is a strong sense of accomplishment and fulfillment amongst all of us at WWI today, as we gear up to take the journey further for many more decades to come. I congratulate the students and wish them all the very best for their future.”

Whistling Woods International boasts of more than 1600 alumni successfully working in the Media and Entertainment industry, having bagged prestigious projects in filmmaking, animation and acting.

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5th Veda Session With Kommune Poet Group

It was a soulful evening as the young and popular poetic group, Kommune, arrived and performed at the 5th Veda session. The students at the institute, witnessed some amazing performance by Rabia Kapoor, Rakesh Tiwari, Nawaldeep Singh, Hussain Haidry and Shamir Reuben, who also doubled up as the host for the evening.

The session was charged with emotions when the first performance by Rakesh Tiwari, who described what it meant to have a place called home, moved the audiences and he was given a standing ovation. Equally beautiful pieces were narrated by other members of the Kommune Group. The group shared the nuances of effectively performing on stage. Commenting on the same, poet Shamir Reuben said, “It is great to use the entire stage when performing your piece. Use the complete stage, use the lighting and strong hand gestures, it always help in directing the attention back to you from your audiences.”

Few WWI students also performed on stage and shared some of their poems. The students received the loudest cheer and were appreciated by the Kommune Group for presenting their poems.

Speaking about the session, Meghna Ghai Puri, our President said, “Groups like Kommune performing at the 5th Veda session is a great motivator for students who also want to follow the same path. The group members delivered brilliant performances and taught the students the finer details of delivering poems on stage.”

Towards the end of the session, token of appreciation was given to the guests amidst the thunders of applause.

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5th Veda Session with Alka Yagnik

DSC00510One of the most illustrious singers of Bollywood, Alka Yagnik entered our auditorium for the 5th Veda session amidst roar of claps, enthusiasm and excitement. The session witnessed Subhash Ghai, our Founder and Chairman, unearth details about the singer’s life and her journey spanning over 3 decades in the industry.

Alka Yagnik began by sharing, “My mother was my first guru.” Her mother was a classical singer and was quick to recognise the talent in her daughter. Her parents then encouraged her singing and supported her through the journey. As a 4 year-old she would also sit with her mother, who was training at that time, and would listen to her mother sing. She also narrated the tale of how she would often listen to Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle singing on the radio, at the time when other girls her age were busy playing with friends.

The conversation then veered towards Alka Yagnik creating her mark in Bollywood and her journey as a playback singer. She then shed light on the challenges in playback singing and shared tips with the students on exercising voice muscles.

The ace singer highlighted the importance of diction, practice and adapting to styles of different composers. Sharing her experience with students, Alka Yagnik revealed, “Playback singing is not as easy as it seems. You are singing for a character and your song should make it easy for the actor to emote and shouldn’t make it difficult for them. It is also a challenge for a playback singer to adapt to the different style of each composer. But then having achieved that, nothing compares to the happiness of a composer telling you that your singing perfectly adapts to their styles.” She also shared, “I would listen to my songs, analyse and learn from my mistakes.”

DSC00499Subhash Ghai took the opportunity to praise the singer on her one-pointed focus and dedication to her craft and advised students to follow her footsteps. Towards the end of the sessions, clipping of Alka Yagnik’s songs were played out and she revealed interesting stories behind each number. The first clip, was her popular number, ‘’Ek, Do, Teen,” picturised on Madhuri Dixit in Tezaab. She revealed that she had high fever on the day and though it would be impossible to sing such a high-energy number, but she was persuaded and finally sang the song. She was taken by surprise when she went on to win a Filmfare award for the song.

Clips of ‘Taal se Taal Mila’ (Taal), ‘I Love My India’ (Pardes), ‘Pardesi Pardesi Jana Nahi’ (Raja Hindustani) and ‘Agar Tum Saath Ho’ (Tamasha) were played. Subhash Ghai shared that she has won a Filmfare Award for each of these songs. Additionally, the celebrated singer shared more behind-the-scenes events which captivated the audiences. The session ended on a sweet note with Alga Yagnik’s melodious voice charging the ambience which made the evening that much more special.

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5th Veda with Farah Khan

553A9879The ace director-choreographer, Farah Khan shared her experiences of working for 25 years in the industry, at the 5th Veda session. Farah Khan doesn’t believe that Bollywood is discriminating against women. The popular director also addressed gender-equality and stressed that there is complete equality within the industry. She further expressed, “It’s not like if you are a boy, you will have to do more work or if you are a girl, less work will be given to you; in fact, girls within the industry are more hard-working and have surpassed the boys.”

553A9892Talking about her views on gender bias, she further added, “More so in the field of technicians, say if you are a director, you have to do the same work whether you are a man or a woman. The work requires similar skill set and knowledge, so I do not understand when someone tells me I am a woman director. I am a director! I would like to stress that we need more women DOPs in the industry, and that should be encouraged.”

The ‘powerhouse choreographer’ further regaled the students with several titbits from behind-the-scene incidents and her own foray into Bollywood. “Aamir Khan in a sense, was my first teacher for filmmaking. He used to answer my doubts on the sets of Joh Jeeta Wahi Sikander”. It’s her 25th year in the industry this year, a journey that started as an Assistant Director to Mansoor Khan with the movie, ‘Joh Jeeta Wahi Sikander’. She remembered her financial struggles during the formative years, along with performing dance gigs in the city with her troupe.
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During the session, Farah Khan constantly stressed on the importance of honing people skills and crisis management as new filmmakers. “Filmmaking is all about people management”, she advised. Working on a film set is about dealing with multiple crises on a daily basis, so one needs to be a quick decision maker. Assistant directors should be ‘problem solvers’, not ‘problem givers’, she advised the students.

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Wrapping up the session, she praised the efforts taken by WWI to create a platform for students to directly interact with the leading figures in the industry.  Meghna Puri, our President, thanked her for spending time with the students and for sharing her valuable inputs.

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