The Genesis of School Cinema & Story of I CAN DO IT

It all started off as a series of films that EduMedia would develop that would be part of the school system. Films that will be shown to students in school but the backbone would be learning through fun. This project was initially called Project Image internally.

When I first came up with the idea it seemed very alien for most of  the people who thought that it was interesting but not many knew what it would do in future. It was my colleagues at work Naina, Misbah, Dilip, Fathima who started believing in the idea and now the number of fools who believed in the idea increased. But we just could not figure out how and where to start from.

One of the breakthroughs that happened was a lead into NID Ahmedabad. Dr. Vidya who is the editor of my Mentor Magazine suggested that I meet up with her friend Vaibhav Kumaresh who runs Vaibhav Studios. I met up with him in his very small and messy office in Mumbai… Kandivali. But I was very impressed with the person, very genuine and very talented. He had to his credit some of the most famous cartoon characters of present TV like Channel V Simpoo & Chulbuli. He loved the idea of Project Image and suggested that I get in touch with the head of animation in NID Ahmedabad Shekar Mukherjee, I spoke to him and he referred me to Dr. Soumyajit Ghoshal. It was Ghoshal who was very enthusiastic about the project and we started talking about associating with NID in an organised manner. This was around the month of July 2008 and for the next 5/6 months things moved very slowly like it does with government projects and agencies.

In Bangalore I had several meetings with Prakash Belawadi who was heading Miditech South and a very promienent Kananda Film maker. He loved the idea of Project Image and was very keen to work with us.

I was in Delhi in early December to have a meeting with GSK for the first quarter project of Horlicks. In the past we did several projects like ‘Exams Ka Bhooth Bhagao’ which were great successes. This year the project was titled internally as Project Scholar and I suggested that we make an educational film that will help children face exams better. The film could be shown to all schools and children could benefit. The Horlicks marketing team were very impressed with the idea and I was eager to start off.

Now we hardly had any time to make the movie as it had to be ready by the first week of Jan. We started our hunt for a film maker. Prakash was travelling to Sweden and he could not work on it. Who next??? I knew that Arundati Nag was a good contact to utilise and she was very impressed with our work as she was a judge for the National Finals of Horlicks Wizkids 2008. Naina, Fathima & me met her up at RangaShankara her auditorium dedicated to theatre & culture. The meeting was very good and she referred us to Pinty.

Naina & Fathima met up with Pinty…aka Padmavati Rao at her place and were very impressed with her and her work. I called Pinty to meet up with me at my office and when I met her I was sure she will do my film. I told her to come back asap with a script and costings. The next one week went with concepts and costings. I did not even wait for Horlicks to give me a green signal I sent a contract to Pinty to start work.

The work was going on in full progress… and things were moving in the right direction. A couple of weeks later, the brand manager of Horlicks informed us that they will not be doing the film. This came as a shock to me!!! Now I had to answer a question either I stop the project or do it with comapny money. My team was all so kicked with the progress and so excited about the overall project I decided that we will invest our company money and make the film. This was a huge risk I was taking, but one that had to be taken.

It was an amazing experience to go to the shoots and sit through the editing table. The film was emerging in front of our eyes little by little, we moved from being very apprehensive and unsure of what it will be like to gaining confidence after the final edit was shown to our office team. The loved it… we had a screening for friends in our office one evening and they all loved it. I then knew we had a great project in our hands it was called I CAN DO IT…. it actually is more a story of how we did it….Visit and you will get a trailer of the film and the people behind it.

One of the days I was explaing the concept of Project Image to Dilip Patel who is a Director with The Activity and I used the term Project Cinema to describe it to him… he loved the name. That moment I realised I finally had a name for one of the most ambitious projects of my life….. SCHOOL CINEMA

Everyone like the name… it was only Vidya who thought it was not nice and she suggested another name I guess it was Cinema in School Project CSP… naaa I did not like it… stuck with School Cinema

As I write this article very few people have heard of the project and its impact. I believe that it will change the way people look at films and the way we study in school. I am really excited about the impact I can create in education with this project….

Cinema will get a new meaning and dimension …. that is what I belive…. I know someday I will visit this blog again to read this statement…. and smile at myself for being right…. Inshallah!

I CAN DO IT Premiere… New Delhi

It was a very cold Delhi morning on Jan 24th I reached India Habitat Center at about 9am.

I started the day with a workshop titled HORLICKS MISSION EXAMS for senior teachers and coordinators from various schools of Delhi. It was a very interesting group of people and I loved the keen interest they showed in the workshop. At the end of the workshop I had one of the participants who experience with schools was more than my age telling me “I thought I knew all that there was to know about schools and students, I must admit that I learnt a few new things today.” Feels great when your work is acknowledged by experienced people.

But that is not what I was excited about, I was waiting for my film premiere to begin at 330pm. We had invited about 150 schools and we were expecting about 80 people to turn up. I was very anxious as this was the first time I was making a film and the concept was very very new. At 320 hardly 30 people had showed up, it added to my anxiety. I took a walk outside the hall in the cold Delhi afternoon to calm my nerves. I returned at 340 to see that the crowd was a healthy 60 people and a few of my good friends had landed up. Now that was encouraging….

I was introduced by a good friend of mine Shalini Nambiar who heads a school called American International. I took over the show with a lot of energy and after introducing my companies and our projects I went straight into the film. The response was amazing, it was great to see the principals laughing, frowning and emotional at some of the film scenes. The film ended and there was an instantaneous applause, one principal stood up and said the work deserves a standing ovation. This was a very special moment for me, I almost had a tear in my eye. My first film was not just liked but was appreciated. That gesture gave a huge boost to my confidence. I was on top of the world…..

I was happy that my project took off very well and people appreciated the new direction of our work.

How I started my blog….

It  has been a while now that I wanted to start a blog, but it just did not happen. On the 25th of Jan 2009 I was speaking at a counseling seminar for college students in Patna. The event was organised by my good friend Khurshid Ahmad who runs several media companies in Bihar & Jharkhand. The moderator for the event was another good friend of mine Rajiv Soni who head coporate communications for Tata Steel.

The first speaker of the session was pretty boring so I was surfing the net on my Blackberry and happened to check on my Orkut profile. One of my contacts Chitranshu had sent a scrap suggesting that I start a blog of my own “we students would love to read,see your views & writings!” he said.

A while later I spoke to the students about the importance of life skills, dreaming big and constant learning. During the discussions that followed Rajiv was trying to tell the students how important it was to start a blog and how useful it would be. It just struck a chord in me, I should start a blog. But this question had crossed my mind several times. I reminded myself of the famous Kabir words… Kal karo so aaj kar, aaj karo so ab… I said to myself it had to be now.

Within the next 15 min I had exchanged 4 mails with Yogesh who gives all the web related support to me and my company. I decided it had to be an exclusive blog… and since I was writing a regular feature of my views in my magazine Mentor every month called SULTAN SPEAKS. The feature is pretty popular and I quite like the name so decided that will be my blog identity. My blog was set up in the next one hours time and here I am a couple of days later telling you all how it started.

I talk a lot but not many people know me!!! Ironic. I will share a lot of myself  and my feelings through this blog and hopefully inspire a few to dream bigger in life….

This is the first article I wrote after starting my blog. Was on my way to Bangalore from Patna on Republic Day… for Mentor Magazine Feb 2009

Its time to face exams, quite literally as it seems like the board exams are not just a test of the students who appear for it, it is also a test of the teachers and schools performance. Quite rightly one may suggest as the biggest parameter on which the schools are evaluated by society is their performance in exams. This seems to put unnecessary pressure on the schooling system which is then reflected in the stress levels of children.

Psychiatrists, medical practitioners and counselors are flooded with panic calls from nervous parents and educators unable to handle the anxieties of children. More often it is noted that the issue lies with the elders who are more anxious than the children, this complicates the situation further.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine who heads a school called me to take a suggestion on what she could do to calm the nerves of students attending board exams. I told her that the best thing to do was to make use of her position and act like a pressure value, talk to the students and parents.

It is very important to have a session with the parents and speak to them and calm them. Reassure them that you and your school have given in everything to bring up the children. Tell them to have faith on their upbringing and your experience, the children will do well not just in the boards but also in their lives. Leave them with a message that there are a lot more exams ahead for children in life, and parents should be their strengths not an additional pressure.

Schools hold valedictory functions that are very ceremonial by nature, school heads traditionally talk to their passing out students, but invariably this is done from a pedestal. What I am talking about is an intimate conversation between the principal and the students. Get the students together and talk your heart out to them. Show the love and concern you have for them openly, it is your last chance to do it. Put across your expectations to them not from the board exams perspective, but what you would like to see of them many years after they have left your school. Let them know the fact that board exams are not the biggest test of their lives, it is another step in life. The last thing you should do is tell them that the name and reputation of your schools depends on their performance in exams.

Make the occasion very personal narrate inspiring stories of your past students, how they achieved success in life inspite of all odds. Let your emotions flow, if a tear rolls down your eye don’t stop it, free yourself and talk to them. They deserve this reassurance from you, for they walked into your school many years ago with stars in their eyes,  let them walk out of your gates with dreams in their mind.