Whistling Woods International (WWI) is Asia’s premier Film, Communication & Creative Arts institute located in Mumbai, India. In an interview with The Knowledge Review, Meghna Ghai Puri, the President of the institute sheds light on her career, accomplishments, the institute, its various activities, future plans, and endeavors.
- Kindly brief us, in short, about you and your journey since the beginning of your career. Tell us about your academic and professional milestones; the major achievements, accolades and recognitions that you have earned in your entire career so far.
I have always endeavored to work in the space of Education as a ‘Change Catalyst’. I feel it is important for us as educationists to always re-invent ourselves and help groom the future better. My journey began working at my father’s office and on his film’s sets, when I was quite young. Being Subhash Ghai’s daughter comes with a certain amount of expectations – would I follow in his footsteps or forge my own path? I chose option three – instead of following him I walked beside him, while setting my own trail.
After completing my education in London, I stayed on in the UK for a while, managing the International Distribution & Business Development for Mukta Arts Ltd. When I returned home to India, I helped my father set-up Whistling Woods International (WWI), a world-class educational institute of Film, Communication and Creative Arts.
With Mukta Arts Ltd., thanks to my background in editing, screenwriting and direction, I had the opportunity to be part of prominent projects like ‘Taal’ and ‘Pardes’. I was also associated with key businesses in the Indian entertainment industry via projects like ‘Cinema 100’. But what I truly cherish is being part of an institute that has worked hard to garner the respect of the community, the industry and above all, the alumni. It is tremendously fulfilling to see our students do so well in the Industry and this fulfilling feeling is what I consider my biggest achievement. In 12 years, Whistling Woods International has grown from a batch of 80 to over 1100 students across seven schools under its umbrella.
My work with WWI was recognized internationally and I was awarded an honorary fellowship from Bradford College, UK for contributing to global Film & Media education. And along the way, I have had the good fortune of being the recipient of multiple awards like – The Iconic Inspirational Women of Nava Bharat, The Women of Substance, Inner Wheel Club of Bombay Queen’s Necklace, The Women’s Achievers Award and others. I am grateful to be a role model for the industry, especially for women.
- How would you describe yourself in one word?
- Being a prominent education leader, what are the most significant contributions you have made for the promotion of education in society, upliftment of the educational structure in the country and development of your institution?
Being the President of WWI, I try to leave no stone unturned in making a difference to the education industry in the country and make film & creative education inclusive. I try my best to do all I can to be able to impart knowledge in the creative fields, to all those who deserve it and want to better themselves regardless of their special needs or backgrounds. At WWI, we have offered scholarships and free education to less-privileged students (of over US$1 million) over the last 12 years. We also have vocational training courses to help and provide both full-time career education and workshops for children of several NGOs, at no charge.
- In short, tell us about Whistling Woods International, its distinct academic solutions, achievements, mission, vision, and USP.
Our mission is to benchmark quality, inspire innovation, encourage creativity, and mold eager minds by leading from the front as educators in the fields of film, media and entertainment education. The sole purpose of WWI’s establishment is to facilitate practical and theoretical knowledge, enabling our students to gain relevant expertise in the field they choose.
We are proud of our ever-inspiring faculty, advanced facilities (WWI Jio Virtual Reality Lab, YouTube Space, Sony Media Technology Centre and much more) and dynamic courses designed to stay abreast of changing technologies and advances in the industry. Our ties with Google, under which the Institute runs Asia’s only ‘YouTube Educator Lab’ makes our alumni highly sought after. We offer everything from Media and Communication (Journalism, PR, Media Distribution, Marketing, Events) to Fashion Designing, Music Production & Composition, Visual Communication Design, Animation, Game Design and every aspect of Filmmaking. All of our courses are accredited by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), our university partner.
One of our key USPs is that we follow the trends of tomorrow; we focus on current technology and it’s advancement to keep our students up-to-date and ahead of the curve. We have been included in The Hollywood Reporter’s list of ‘Ten Best Film Schools’ in the world and rated as one of the ‘Top Institutes of Influence’ globally, by Forbes.
What truly makes us proud, are our alumni. From our very first batch, the students of WWI have been making their mark in the industry across various domains. Alumni like director Shashank Khaitan, do us proud with consecutive hits like ‘Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania’, ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’ and ‘Dhadak’. Actors like Aahana Kumra (Actor -‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’), Rajshri Deshpande (Angry Indian Goddesses, Sexy Durga), Sohel Sanwari (Leading Sound Designer), Aarambhh Singh (Director) and so many others are proof of our success and we are delighted with their achievements.
- What were the major challenges that you have faced in your academic career and what are the difficulties you have faced while establishing the educational organization to promote literacy and cause educational development?
A major challenge, in an industry so dynamic as ours – keeping abreast with growing trends can be very challenging. Being an educational institution, we have embraced this challenge and are focused to stay ahead of the time. Students associate with us to attain education and be able to carve their niche in the industry; hence it becomes very crucial for us to stay in balance with new technologies, ways of working and new academic advancements as well. In this way, our budding talents can adapt to the change they aspire to bring. So, at any given point of time, WWI is always ahead of the regular technological advances.
Secondly, people management also poses its own challenges. It takes a lot to groom, foster and retain good talents and most importantly to ensure they stay passionate about professional goals.
In addition, in 2012 we also faced a major challenge that led us to being forced to vacate our campus. Fortunately, we stayed in positive spirits and continued doing our best even through the toughest times.
- How do you keep yourself motivated and how do you inspire your students to take an interesting career and be the nation’s next bright future building figures?
My family – my parents, husband and kids are my biggest supporters and motivators. Having them around me pushes me to be the best I can possibly be and do more for my students, the business and the world as a whole.
- What message would you address to the student of the nation and the rest of the world?Do What You Love and Love what you do. I truly believe in this mantra quoted by Steve Jobs and we feel it applies to every creative person out there. In addition, as they say, talent can bring you success, well it is true; but for a long-lasting success once needs to be consistent. So, a message to the youth of India, work hard, make wise choices and success will follow!
- What are the most prospering career options that you would like to suggest?
That’s a difficult question to answer precisely because WWI offers a vast gamut of education for the industry. We help our students realize their potential and build on it. We don’t only focus on what’s current, so students are merely up-to-date, we look to the future and upcoming technologies like AR, VR, 360-degree video et al. to ensure our students are well prepared for what’s next. You chose the goal; we offer you the means to achieve it.
- How do you see yourself and your organization in the future ahead?
Our vision has and will always be to create leaders and professionals in the industry. We will continue to align ourselves with reputed institutes and organizations like CILECT, Google, Reliance, TISS etc. and further our evolution by pushing the envelope of educational advancement through new courses and their dissemination to our students. Our goal is to provide vocational training in media and creative arts to students of smaller towns and cities all over the country and thanks to our partners, TISS, this will also continue to grow steadily. My aim is to take Whistling Woods International to new heights and set new standards for world-class education in film, media, and entertainment. My ultimate goal and dream is to build an institution that hones and promotes education from age 5 to 50.