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.”


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.”


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.
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.

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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WWI Masterclass with the team of Badrinath Ki Dulhania

_DSC9824Roaring applause filled our auditorium, when alumni actor-director Shashank Khaitan, actor Sahil Vaid along with Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt graced the stage for the masterclass and shared tricks of filmmaking and acting with our students. The team immediately took to answering engaging questions put across by Rahul Puri, Head of Academics, who moderated the session.

The masterclass witnessed all the three actors and the director sharing great insights about filmmaking and acting. While Varun Dhawan revealed his process to tackle a challenging character like Raghu from ‘Badlapur,’ Alia Bhatt revealed how she makes the decision to select a script. Shashank Khaitan and Sahil Vaid also stressed on the importance to keep learning something new on a daily basis.

Addressing the students, Shashank Khaitan said, “Never consider yourself to be a struggler. I have never considered myself to be a struggler because I am constantly learning. You can only be a struggler if you are not engaged in learning something new every day.”

_DSC0067Sharing acting tips with the students, Varun Dhawan said, “Never curb yourself. Let people think you are mad and crazy. This is one advice that I have received from most of the actors in the industry.”

Both the lead actors, Alia Bhatt & Varun Dhawan expressed their complete faith in Shashank Khaitan as a director. When they saw his passion for ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’, they knew it would be something magical.

During the interaction, Alia Bhatt also shared how she dealt with times when her films didn’t perform as expected. “Give failures a big hug because to appreciate sunshine, you have to face rains. After all, we only see rainbows after the rains. The joy is in falling, picking yourself up again and charging ahead”, advised Alia to the students on ways of dealing with failure.

On the occasion of coming back to his alma mater, alumnus Shashank Khaitan said, “This visit has made me very nostalgic and I want to thank all my faculty members, as I believe it is because of them that I am here today.” He further added, “Whistling Woods International, greatly helped me in exploring my talents and giving me the right resources and the perfect platform that further enhanced my talents.”

The students congratulated the team on the success of the movie and thanked them for such an informative session.


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5th Veda Session with Shabana Azmi

DSC01447“Knowing poetry is a must, to excel in acting along with life skills,” said Shabana Azmi during the 5th Veda session to our students.

An endless thunder of claps echoed through our auditorium, when ‘Padma Bhushan’ awardee, Shabana Azmi walked up the stage at the 5th Veda cultural hub to address an enthusiastic audience.

The event commenced with a spiritual AV, featuring the evolution of acting over the years in Indian cinema, followed by a series of monologues performed by the filmmaking students for the guest of honor. The session was moderated by our Founder & Chairman, Subhash Ghai.

One of the finest actors in Indian cinema, Shabana Azmi shared her acting experiences with the audiences right from her FTII days, and how studying there was an eye opener for her. With an aim to celebrate the actor’s contribution to Indian cinema, various clips were shown from her movies, right from her first to the recent National award winning movie, Neerja.

She also shared a few lines written by Javed Akhtar and threw light on the importance of poems in our lives. Being an actor, she believes that it is always beneficial if an actor is also a poet, as it gives them the required command over the language.

DSC01499Speaking about her experience at Whistling Woods International she said, “I don’t feel like I am a guest here, I feel like a family member of WWI. I have been a part of this institute since its inception, and it is always a pleasure to visit the campus. I want to congratulate each student present in the auditorium, as they have got a wonderful opportunity to study here. I would like to wish all the students good luck for their future.”

The eventful session concluded with a token of appreciation given to the evergreen veteran Shabana Azmi by our President, Meghna Puri. The five time National Award winner received a standing ovation from more than 400 filmmaking students of our institute at the 5th Veda event.


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