We Believe That Less Is More: Rahul Puri, WWI

Rahul Puri, Head - Academics, Whistling Woods International (WWI), speaks to BW Education in an exclusive interaction. Excerpts

Give us a glimpse of your journey

I graduated from Kings College London with a degree in business and began working at UBS Warburg, in London, as an investment banker. I relocated to Mumbai in 2002, where I worked in the Corporate Finance & Strategy industry before joining Mukta Arts, to help develop and produce Indian films and aid the expansion of the company. I was later actively involved in setting up of Whistling Woods International and have since taken over the position of Head of Academics at the institute. I regularly teach at the institute in subjects like Producing, Finance and New Media, moderate various master classes where we invite the best in the film and media industry to engage with students at WWI and offer the industry's mentorship and support to all the school's students across specialisations. I later progressed to the position of Managing Director at Mukta Arts in 2014, where I am now accountable for the company's general day-to-day operations, all its group assets, as well as the company's long-term strategy and commercial expansion. Mukta A2 Cinemas setup and expansion is my current endeavour. At this point, the corporation has opened 20 multiplex properties across the country.

You have a diverse educational background being exposed to both the Indian and British educational landscape. What differences do you find at the quality level?

In the UK, students are treated like adults and are not spoon-fed. Hence, they end up taking on more responsibility and being more proactive. Research and analysis are given a lot of attention, which enables students to expand their knowledge, improve their problem-solving abilities, and push themselves to new limits. Less number of assessments are given to the students throughout the year, which enables them to turn in excellent work at the end of the semester. At Whistling Woods International, we try to put this into practice where we believe that less is more and strive to not overwhelm our students with numerous assignments. Quality over quantity and allowing students to express their own creativity is vital to all we do at WWI.

Tell us about your experience of working on various projects for commercial movies.

I have participated in the producing, exhibiting, and marketing of various movies with small and large budgets. Overall, I've learned a lot from it. I have collaborated with some of the most talented individuals. You interact with so many people from different backgrounds every day while you work on movies. You can learn so much about collaboration and teamwork through this process. I have learnt a lot about myself and my ability to handle different types of people. Filmmaking is a social art and commerce. I have learnt to manage it in many different aspects. As I did not study film in University, I had to first learn the basics and then slowly express myself and my ideas. Best is working with alumni from WWI which has been a great source of pride for me.

Highlight the dos and don'ts for students pursuing courses in the domain of media and communications.

Students can aid their pursuit of such a course by having some prior media exposure to media. This could be creative use of social media platforms - which may include starting a YouTube channel and utilising social media to their advantage to build their personal brand or on other platforms like a page on Instagram. They could also develop writing skills by writing for school newsletters, blogs and other sources and so on. They could also have a general passion for things like photography, fashion or design. All these things are not required, at WWI we can teach students who have no background at all but have a strong passion but if they have some sense, it does help focus. Furthermore, they shouldn't let the glamour of the sector influence their decision to work in media and communications industry. In contrast to the popular misconception that media courses are heavily practical, they are a balance of both practical and academic subjects. The industry is changing every day, you need to stay up to date by reading and understanding what is going on around the world!

What is the role of short-form social video in current journalism trends?

Short-form video has the power to connect you with your target audience in a fresh, relevant way. Particularly with the younger demographic, who connect with news stories, current affairs and brands through short form videos. The majority of the major media organisations we see today use Instagram stories and reels to offer us bite-sized video content to catch our attention and encourage engagement. Additionally, a message may be swiftly shared with an audience and is simpler to prepare using short form videos.

You have been teaching at Whistling Woods International. Underline the challenges you faced as a teacher.

The students of today are more knowledgeable and have been exposed to so much information. They can access the entire corpus of knowledge with the simple push of a few buttons. The task then becomes for the teachers to expand on any insight they may have already gleaned through YouTube or Google. For example, the faculty at WWI employs creative practise and pedagogy to help students perceive editing as a profession or an art and not just another technical talent, even though an Editor might learn everything about editing by watching videos on YouTube. Students need to be encouraged to open their minds and understand as much as they can about art, aesthetics and creativity. This will help them explore and find their own individual voice amongst an increasingly cluttered space. Our job as teachers is to help them foster that voice.

Any message for students.

Follow your passions and dreams. But keep in mind that in order to be fulfilled, every dream needs Hard work, commitment and integrity.

Date: 10th October, 2022