As admissions session draws close and students ready their certificates, letters and documents related to their achievements in ECA to try their luck for getting into the colleges which they couldn’t due to their cut offs, we present a story of a student who was in the same shoes at one time.
Years before, Varun Chopra was also one of them who got into Ramjas College through ECA. He is currently pursuing his masters in Film and Television at the School of Film and Television, Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. He is the youngest Indian whose film was screened at the highly popular and prestigious Cannes International Film Festival. He talks about his experience of theatre in Delhi University and his film “God on a Leash” which is woven around the story of being held on a leash to the hands of faith, heritage and poverty that explores the concept of humanism and divinity.
Q. You were a student of Mathematics at Ramjas. When did you decide for going for a masters in Films?
I was studying Mathematics (Hons.) at Ramjas College. I got my admission by the ECA quota in theatre which was a great ordeal in itself. Consequently, theatre turned into an indomitable element of my college life. Being in Shunya, one of the premier theatre societies of the University was the most fruitful experience in itself. There was a massive spirit of creativity and collaboration, it just propels one forward in terms of innovation and exposure. It was here that I directed my first play Saints and Sinners and later got involved with some exceptionally talented people who refused to sit idle. Most of us are now theatre artists and filmmakers trying to make our way up.
Q. You have been a student of DU and an active member the Delhi Theatre circuit. What is the scene of film making in DU?
As I mentioned before, the theatre scene in DU is blooming. It is very demanding but the kind of creative satiation people achieve here is unparalleled. Filmmaking however is still practiced in closed quarters and I fail to understand why DU still does not have a filmmaking course. It shows that the University has lost touch with the demands of the youth today. Students are trying to get out and organize festivals for films there, but they remain amateur since one does not have the apparatus to create something which is at par with what the 18-21 year olds in universities outside India do.
Q. What can DU do to promote these fields within its campus??
DU can organize more and more festivals which would push the status quo of the University. You should not have to spend a fortune to learn something. Get your college to get a course. Even if it is a workshop as a starter, the initiative must start.
Q. Do you think the young film makers in India have any good platform? What advice would you like to give to the Aspiring film makers of India.
The fact that we have one of the biggest film industries in the world and only a handful of institutes for film making is appalling. Those that exist aren’t even comparable to the universities abroad. What you end up doing is going to Mumbai and leading the quintessential “struggler” life, at least that is my understanding of it. All in all, one must be forced to do that. It is obvious that we are going tangential to the needs.
There is some brilliant talent but a dearth of opportunities too.
I don’t think I am qualified enough to give anyone advice, but to a hopeful person who is reading this and thinking if they stand any chance. I would like to say take the leap of faith, you’ll be surprised to see how many people would support you. If you want to be a painter, just paint. Likewise, if you want to be a filmmaker, make films.
Q. How do you feel to be the youngest Indian in Cannes International Film Festival? What would you like to say about your film which got screened at Cannes?
I am very fortunate to be able to experience Cannes at a young age. It is more of an opportunity to engage with interesting people than anything. The film is special as it took me back to the University. Parts of the film were shot in North Campus itself. With all honesty, I feel a sense of gratitude towards Shunya and the people I met there. I would want to give a big shout out to the folks there today, they are churning out some amazing stuff every year.
Through this documentary, I was able to unravel the intricacies of this culture. We followed a Madari, who sat with his macaques and their offspring near a Hanuman temple at North Campus. It seemed the baby’s future in chains was indomitable, much like the off springs of the ancestral impressionists’ community. It created a cruel euphemism about our ignorance, the way we choose to live our lives, follow our traditions and practice our faith. The film is a window to a highly embellished niche world with a contrastingly unembellished human experience.
Here is the link of the film: https://m.facebook.com/godonaleash/
Interviewed by Srivedant Kar for DU Beat