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Whistling Woods International celebrates cinema with three-day virtual festival

The 9th edition of Celebrate Cinema organised by Whistling Woods International saw the participation of eminent film personalities such as Jaideep Ahlawat, Anubhav Sinha, Taapsee Pannu, Richie Mehta, Amish Tripathi and Sudip Sharma.

Our Correspondent

Whistling Woods International (WWI) held the 9th edition of its annual event, Celebrate Cinema, between 26 and 28 November. Keeping in mind the current COVID-19 restrictions, the institute took the virtual route by hosting the event digitally. The institute has also pledged to set aside all the proceeds raised from the sale for the welfare and well-being of COVID-19 warriors. 

“Since its inception, WWI has endeavoured to offer film and media enthusiasts and aspirants a platform to widen their horizons and knowledge from industry experts. Celebrate Cinema is our way of turning this vision into a reality. I am extremely grateful to all the guests for being part of this year’s event and their invaluable contribution. These three days have enriched everyone who participated, and I would also like to thank the team of students, faculty and staff for putting together such a great virtual event,” said Meghna Ghai Puri, president, WWI.

The event opened with a panel discussion entitled ‘Campus to Career: #WWIAlumniSpeak’. Moderated by Rahul Puri, head of academics, WWI, actors Aahana Kumra and Shashank Arora, actor-director Divyang Thakkar, editor Nitin Baid, creative producer Maharrsh Shah and director Arati Kadav shared their learnings at WWI and discussed the ways in which their experience helped propel them to the heights of fame and success. Each of the panellists emphasised the importance of having a formal education in film and media, which helped them in their respective career journeys. 

The subsequent panel featured a masterclass by the cast and crew members of Paatal Lok (2020). In a discussion moderated by Anjum Rajabali, HOD, screenwriting, WWI School of Filmmaking, the series' creator Sudip Sharma, director Prosit Roy, writer Sagar Haveli, and actors Jaideep Ahlawat and Ishwak Singh delved into the crucial role of a script in crafting a strong narrative. While Sharma shared the importance of viewing a situation from every angle in order to craft a compelling story, Ahlawat encouraged aspiring actors by underlining the importance of advanced preparations to essay a character.

The second day began with a panel titled ‘Celebrate the Grand Narratives of Indian Mythology’ featuring Subhash Ghai, founder and chairman, WWI, and the award-winning author Amish Tripathi. The session was moderated by Chaitanya Chinchlikar, VP, WWI. Delving into India’s epic cultural and mythological heritage, the panel discussed how the lessons of the nation’s past rich civilisations can be applied in a modern context.

The highlight of the second day was a masterclass with the team of Thappad (2020), moderated by Anjum Rajabali. The masterclass featured director-writer Anubhav Sinha, actors Taapsee Pannu and Pavail Gulati, and writer Mrunmayee Lagoo. Important societal issues such as gender inequality and domestic violence were discussed, and valuable lessons were learned about the depiction of these issues in the media and the steps society needs to take to overcome them. They also raised the audience’s awareness of the prevalence of such issues among women from both lower and upper-class families.

The final day hosted an interesting discussion titled New Directors on Netflix, which saw the participation of newcomer directors Honey Trehan and Anvita Dutt as well as Srishti Arya, director, International Original Film, Netflix India. Over the course of this session, which was moderated by Rajabali, the audience was given deep insights into how Netflix collaborates with content creators and its role in promoting new talents. Trehan and Dutt further shared the stories of their breakthroughs as first-time directors, the struggles they faced, and their ultimate journey from script to Netflix release. Arya encapsulated Netflix’s approach, stating, “We look for stories that have something to say, something that is rigorous and diverse.”

The day also saw Richie Mehta, the creative mind behind the International Emmy winning Netflix series Delhi Crime, participate in a discussion with Rahul Puri, executive producer Kilian Kerwin and dialogue writer Sanyukta Chawla Shaikh. The conversation revolved around the making of the series: drafting the script, collecting data to form a story and maintaining a sense of realism throughout. When the question of originality in cinema arose, Kilian stated that there is plenty of new material being produced, but the true challenge lies in creating stories that are both original and compelling. Mehta concluded the session by stating, “The next generation of cinema-goers will be dependent on screenplays, which are limitless.”

The festival also saw the institute award its meritorious students with scholarships. This year Saloni Sakhardande and Akash Nayak were awarded the Shri Amitabh Bachchan Scholarship 2020 and the Sunanda Murali Manohar Scholarship 2020, respectively. Upon announcing the awards, Subhash Ghai shared the following words of wisdom, "A scholarship is not just a reward, but a responsibility on a student to do even better in life and become a thought leader to inspire younger generations.”