Vibhu Puri-Master Storyteller

In the city to screen his movie Chabi Wali Pocket Watch, young filmmaker Vibhu Puri talks of innovation, instinct and much more
Neha Walia

As a student filmmaker, what is your selling point? A FTII tag, an out-of-the-box concept or choosing a subject that most would pass off as alternate cinema? “All three of them,” Vibhu Puri offers a firm reply.

“And yet a Prakash Jha, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Rajkumar Hirani would not have been successful if they weren’t such powerful filmmakers. An institute opens your mind to the world outside the box while you keep your sensibilities intact,” he adds.

Before we continue discussing the finer points of filmmaking, experimentation in cinema and exploring the unknown, here’s an introduction. Vibhu Puri belongs to the cult of young and innovative (if that’s an advantage) filmmakers from FTII, Pune. In the city to interact with students and screen his movie Chabi Wali Pocket Watch, Vibhu is everything that a customised FTII tag brings along —instinctive, perceptive and innovative. Not to mention, direct.

“I never try to work too much on theories or stuff my head with thoughts. But anything that resonates with my thought process becomes a part of my story,” he says.

Sure, with two acclaimed short movies behind him now, he can afford to make such statements and trust others to believe them as well.

Chabi Wali Pocket Watch, which Vibhu made as a part of his diploma, was India’s official entry to the student Oscars in 2006 and also won the best feature award at the IBDA’s Awards in Dubai, and the Special Kodak Award at the 13th International Film School Festival in Lodz (Poland).

But the guy is humble when he says he didn’t care if he got a nomination or the Oscar itself. “I was supposed to make a presentation for my movie at the Oscars but since neither me nor my institute had the money to spend on the entire trip, we just let it go.” Different, we already mentioned that.

This and of course another award came his way when Chabi Wali Pocket Watch made it as the only official entry in the Student Filmmaker Category at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006. “I won the Emerging Filmakers of the World Award. It was the only entry from the Asia Pacific.”

If his first film brought out the comparison between art and materialism, his second Chauras Chand was an attempt to discover the romanticism in the radical poetry of legendary underground poet Paash. “I have been reading Paash since a long time now and believe his poetry is more romantic than revolutionary. When I started with the idea of a documentary, the real challenge was to make a movie on a Punjabi poet in Pune,” he says. And so he explored the underbelly of Pune, looking for comparisons in hardline revolutionaries of the two regions. “I visualised his poetry, the utopian dreams that he mentions and the actual love for his motherland. My documentary was not about interviews but Paash’s poetry resonating with practical life.”

After proving his sensibilities as a filmmaker and critical success, Vibhu’s next step was Bollywood, without doubt. Assisting Sanjay Leela Bhansali in Saanwariya and now Guzarish, and Vishal Bhardawaj in The Blue Umbrella, Vibhu doesn’t feel intimidated by the commercial interests. “My kind of cinema was Pukar, Hum, and the likes till I was introduced to Satyajit Ray at FTII. Its motivational, powerful and successful.”

And his next venture again proves the point. “I am currently working on a movie Chenab Gandhi with Amitabh Bachchan, Harman Baweja and Vidya Balan. It’s a period movie with Partition as the background and what happened with the aam aadmi amidst Nehrus, Gandhis and Jinnahs of the world,” he signs off.


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