A dream of building a world-class film school was the promise made by the legendary filmmaker Mr. Subhash Ghai to himself when he embarked on his journey in the industry. After a few years, when the promise was in the ideation stage, he asked his daughter to help him bring his dream to fruition. Knowing how much this dream meant to him, Meghna Ghai Puri immediately agreed and returned to India from the UK to turn the dream of her father into a reality by establishing Whistling Woods International (WWI).
As the institution’s President for over two decades, Meghna has been driven by the mission to benchmark quality, inspire innovation, encourage creativity, and mold eager minds by leading from the front as educators in film, communication, and creative arts education.
Since its inception in 2001, Whistling Woods International has seen a significant growth, starting with a batch of 80 students to over 1300+ students and 3500+ alums. WWI now has four schools catering to various aspects of film, communication and creative arts education under its umbrella. Over the years, this state-of-the-art institute and its students have been applauded for their work and received recognition worldwide.
Being the President of a reputed institution is a significant task, and Meghna carries this out with her compassionate and empathetic approach. Let us know more about how her exceptional journey.
The Early Roots
Meghna started working at her father’s office and on his film sets at a very young age. People around her always suggested Meghna to join the film industry, following in her father’s footsteps by becoming a filmmaker. However, Meghna was more inclined towards following his lead as an educationist and a dreamer.
Meghna completed her BSc. Honours in Business Management from King’s College, London, and Post Graduate Diploma in Communications, Advertising and Marketing. She also worked briefly for an e-tailing startup in the UK. She worked on International Distribution and Business Development for Mukta Arts as well.
Meghna’s work experience helped her learn and commence her journey in the field of education in media and entertainment. She firmly believes that her learnings from her previous works have immensely helped her nurture and develop WWI.
The Struggled Path
“No matter what our personal circumstances may be, if we ourselves become a source of light, then there will be no darkness in the world.” – Daisaku Ikeda.
Meghna’s journey with WWI has taught her that challenges faced in life must be accepted and dealt with courageously. She also believes that challenges always lead to opportunities. Her entrepreneurial journey of 20 years has been a testament to it. She expresses, “In an industry so dynamic as ours – keeping abreast with growing trends can be incredibly challenging. For example, not just staying in sync but staying ahead of time with technological advancements is extremely crucial. As an educational institution, we have embraced this challenge and focused on staying ahead of time.”
“Students associate with us to attain education and be able to carve their niche in the industry; hence it becomes crucial for us to stay updated regarding innovative technologies, the latest workflows, and academic advancements. This enables our students to adapt to the change they aspire to bring. So, at any given point of time, WWI is always 6-8 months ahead of the regular technological advances.”
Meghna also understands that people management also possesses its own challenges. It takes a lot to groom and retain promising talents and, most importantly, to ensure they stay passionate about their professional goals.
Cherishing the Efforts
Spearheading the operation of Asia’s premier institute of Film, Communication & Creative arts has earned Meghna some prestigious accolades and achievements.
– Awarded as one of the ‘75 at 75’ Achievers in Education, Science, and Innovation category by the NISAU and the British Council, 2023
– Conferred with the Women of the Decade in Cinema & Education by Women Economic Forum (WEF), 2022
– Featured in Women Redefining Leadership, an Outlook India Magazine Initiative, 2022
– Mid-day Powerful Women 2022 – Exemplary Contribution in Films, Media, Creative Arts & Education
– Conferred with Doctor of Philosophy, an Honorary Degree by Jharkhand Rai University, Ranchi, 2022
– Excellence in Media and Creative Arts Education, Times Leading Icons Award, 2021
– Best Social Activist for Education to Underprivileged Class of Citizens, 13th National Education Summit, May 2019
– Outstanding Contribution to Education in the Field of Cinema, The Economic Times, March 2019
– 6th World Women Leadership Congress & Awards 2019 – Superwomen Achiever, February 2019
– Iconic Inspirational Women of Nava Bharat Awards, May 2018
– Women of Substance, Inner Wheel Club of Bombay Queen’s Necklace, 2017-18
– Women’s Achievers Award, Young Environmentalist Programme Trust, 2017
– Iconic Women Leaders Award in Entertainment, Arts and Cinema, All Ladies League (ALL), May 2016
– Rising Star Awards, Indian Film Festival in Los Angeles, April 2010
Epitome of Excellence
The sole purpose of Whistling Woods International is to facilitate practical and theoretical knowledge, enabling the students to gain relevant expertise in the field they choose. Its vision will continue to be the creation and evolution of a state-of-the-art institution that sets new standards in film, communication, and creative arts. Meghna asserts, “We are proud of our ever-inspiring faculty, advanced facilities (WWI Emerging Media Lab, Sony Media Technology Centre, Foxconn Media Lab and much more. We also have exclusive industry-oriented masterclasses & workshops and dynamic programmes designed to stay abreast of changing technologies and advances in the industry.”
WWI offers everything from Filmmaking, Acting to Media and Communication to Fashion Design, Music Production & Composition, Visual Communication Design, Animation & Game Design, Event Management & Experiential Marketing and Sports & Esports Management. WWI’s programmes are offered under an agreement with Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development (RGNIYD), an institute of National Importance.
Meghna says, “We follow the trends of tomorrow; we focus on current technology and its 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. WWI has been awarded ‘Excellence in Creative & Performing Arts’ at the 6th FICCI Higher Education Excellence Awards 2019. WWI is also a full member of CILECT (Centre International de Liaison des Ecoles de Cinéma et de Télévision) since 2010. The institute has even been recognised as a ‘Great Place to Study’ by the Skilltree Knowledge Consortium and the UK House of Commons. The accolades and honours bestowed upon us motivate us to do better and achieve more for our students and the industry.”
“But what truly makes us proud, as it would for any educator, is the success of our alumni. Their success is our most outstanding achievement. From our very first batch, the students of WWI have been making their mark in the industry. Over 3500+ alumni play a crucial role in India’s rapidly growing Film, Media, Entertainment, and Creative Arts industry. The institute’s alum body also includes highly gainful and successful professionals in the creative arts industry worldwide,” adds Meghna.
Providing a Helping Hand
Meghna is well aware of her position as the President and all the privileges it comes with; however, she is equally aware of the responsibility towards the betterment of society that comes with it. She is deeply committed to several social causes. She works dedicatedly to promoting education across various strata of society and seeking gender equality in homes, schools, and workplaces. “My position has also allowed me to carry over this attitude to Whistling Woods International, and I am immensely proud of how eagerly WWI members have embraced this mindset,” mentions Meghna.
Through its course of operation for the past 16 years, WWI has proudly associated with several NGOs, namely, Salaam Baalak Trust and VIDYA Mumbai – VIDYA Integrated Development for Youth and Adults, to offer scholarship to underprivileged students, who are incredibly passionate about making their careers in the media and entertainment industry.
The institute has also partnered with initiatives like Laadli – A Population First Initiative, creating awareness about gender equality, women empowerment, female foeticide and cherishing every child; KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, sensitizing the larger public about LGBT issues and Be The Change – Varija Life Initiative, spreading awareness about the abilities of the physically & mentally differently abled individuals and including them in the mainstream society.
WWI has been conducting various workshops, at regular intervals, for NGO children to make them well-equipped to face life at large. Apart from associating with NGOs & social initiatives, WWI has also been involved in giving back to the society and mother nature through drives like Blood & Organ Donation drives and Clean India Campaign.
Meghna asserts, “The faculty, staff, and students at WWI understand and believe in contributing towards CSR initiatives and observe it as an essential part of their lives. As Asia’s largest Film, Communication & Creative Arts institute, WWI has a key role in the city’s social welfare and an ethical responsibility towards the environment. From the very beginning, as a collaborative effort, we help our students learn, create, and be the change they aspire to make for the upliftment of society.”
A Better Future
Meghna’s biggest motivation comes from her family, who have supported her in their ways. Their constant support encourages her to do more for the people she works with, the students, and the world at large.
She says, “Most importantly, do what you love and love what you do. I genuinely believe in this mantra by Steve Jobs, and it is also the motto of WWI. Nothing is more fulfilling than doing something that makes you happy.”
Whistling Woods International constantly strives to improve the quality and scope of its educational offerings in the service of India’s film, communication, and creative arts industry. Meghna shares, “Our vision has and will always be to create leaders and professionals for the industry. We can achieve this through our versatility and state-of-the-art facilities because we focus on the industry’s future just as much as we consider the present. Our goal is to provide vocational training in film, communication, and creative arts to students of smaller towns and cities all over the country.”
With the Mumbai campus, the institute is intensely expanding in terms of programme verticals and campuses. The newest addition to the academic repertoire has been the Dept. of Event Management and Sports & Esports Management.
“My goal and dream are to build an institution that hones and promotes education from age 5 to 50. Every creative individual who wants to make a mark in this dynamic industry should be able to attain the highest quality of education and be successful in what they do,” Meghna concludes.