She could have followed exactly in her father’s footsteps, but Meghna Ghai Puri, daughter of filmmaker Subhash Ghai, chose to tread a different path. As president of Whistling Woods International, a film school set up by her father, she helps new filmmakers take sure steps into the world of cinema and media arts.
Puri helped her father set up his dream school which today is Asia’s largest film, television, animation and media arts institute, providing world-class education in all the technical and creative aspects of filmmaking and television. Below are excerpts from an interview.
How did you become the president of Whistling Woods International?
I spent most of my childhood with Dad on film sets, and then worked with him in his production company, Mukta Arts. People tried to persuade me to become a filmmaker like him, but I’d seen Dad working very passionately and realised this was not for me
When my mother encouraged me to go to London to study, it was life-changing. Living there for seven years helped me view the world differently.
Starting and running an institution like WWI has been a challenging and exciting task. My position involves great responsibility. It demands patience, leadership, compassion and constant micro-management. We now have a team of over 150 faculty and professionals and 700 students on campus.
How did WWI come into being?
Whistling Woods International was established in 2006 and for me, it’s the way to be associated with the film industry, and yet not be a filmmaker.
Dad and I were clueless about how to set up a school. We followed hundreds of institutes in India and abroad, visiting about 35-40 schools to gauge their curriculum and know what mistakes to avoid. Then we began work with consultants like Shekhar Kapur, Manmohan Shetty, Anand Mahindra and Shyam Benegal among others.
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Tell us about Whistling Woods International’s workshops.
Masterclasses and workshops are a welcome bonus to the WWI students’ curriculum. They get to learn from the leaders and game-changers of the industry.
To inculcate and promote art, culture and spiritual growth among the students, my father personally designed 5th Veda – a cultural hub, to help develop the skills of the students in dance, drama, music, poetry, speech, painting and all forms.
What are your company’s future plans?
Our aim is to associate with various organisations to ensure our students get hands-on experience, and also to open different centers of WWI across the country.
What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?
Our students are getting jobs in the industry, which is a matter of pride. And one of our students, Mohit Chhabra, won international awards for a short film, ‘The Rubber Band Ball’, about a child’s quest for a playground in the concrete jungle of Mumbai.
What struggles have you faced at work?
I have learnt that it is very important to stay constantly updated with what is happening in the industry in order to provide the best for the students.
What is a typical day for you?
As a full-time working woman, wife and mother of two children, I am always prioritising tasks. The day starts at 6 am to send the kids to school. I then go for my morning walk or do my yoga class and then head to work.
After office hours, I head home to dinner prep, children’s homework and quality time with my family. After the children are asleep, I quickly scan my emails and plan the next day.
What skills are necessary to succeed?
Confidence, clarity in communication, honesty, commitment and creativity make you a great leader.
What particular strengths do women bring to the work place?
Women have the intrinsic quality of nurturing, which helps them build strong relationships with their teams. And multitasking comes naturally to them. They are also masters of balance, thanks to the juggling of their personal and professional lives.
What advice would you give beginners?
Listen to your heart. Be confident and have faith in yourself.
Outro: With filmmaking in her blood, Meghna Ghai Puri, president of Asia’s largest film school, unleashes the talents of future media professionals
Fact box: Meghna Ghai Puri
Career: President, Whistling Woods International
Job: Unleashing film talent on the world
Challenge: Staying up to the minute with media advance the world over
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