20 Aug Alumni Spotlight – Ruchi Narain ’91
Ruchi Narain is a Mumbai based film maker and has fond memories of Woodstock to share with us. Her 20 years of vast experience in the Film Industry includes films such as ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’, which won her the Filmfare Awards for best story, Calcutta Mail, KAL – Yesterday and Tomorrow, an animation film titled ‘Hanuman: Da’ Damdaar’, Television Advertisements and Web series. Her recently released film Guilty on Netfilx and her show Hundred on Disney-Hotstar, both have been extremely popular and enjoyed critical acclaim. Read about her journey, challenges and some advice for anyone aspiring to enter the Film Industry.
What are some of your most valued memories of your time at Woodstock?
Dorm life with my gang of friends, all the trouble we got into, hanging out at Cozy Corner and the last semester of Senior Year was very special as we were given so much freedom. I also have great memories of conversations with many of the faculty from Ranjit Das, Mr. Azor Smith, Monica Roberts. I feel the fact that they spoke to me like as if I was an intelligent responsible adult, helped make me one! The special things about the Woodstock Experience will always stand out like Activity Week, Initiation Week, the Weekend dances, running for French toast or ham for breakfast, even the walk up to school!!
Woodstock is really special and my heart goes out to the Class of 2020 for having to physically miss the last moments of the experience. I’m sure you all will make your own unique memories! And be sure, graduation is NOT the end of your Woodstock experience.
Till today, we are all very much in touch with the friends we were close to and have made other friends from alumni, even though we are all scattered around the globe. Not to mention our ‘Early ‘90s’ WhatsApp group which is the most interesting and entertaining group on my phone!
How did Woodstock shape your artistic vision?
I found my love of history, literature and philosophy in the WS classrooms. This led me to recognize how much I loved stories.
But more than that, artistic vision is just an expression of who you are and Woodstock really helped shape me as a person.
As you know, the school is intent on varied and rounded experiences and actively exposes students to nature, government, enterprise, community service, faith, and during my time, a real diversity of people; nationalities, religions and even economic strata. So while still ‘growing up’ we had to form and reconcile our thoughts and feelings about this huge variety of things. When opinions are formed by personal experience they are much more layered and empathetic. All an artist needs is empathy and a point of view, which is what Woodstock helped me shape.
Where does your love for storytelling stem from?
My father is a very gregarious personality. While growing up I always watched as people listened in rapt attention to my father’s stories. They didn’t care if they were true or not. They loved the WAY he told them. I think that’s the genesis of my love for storytelling. The look in their eyes’ while they were riveted. That’s what I yearn for with my audience too.
Advice for anyone interested in entering the entertainment industry?
It’s a very hard place to get into! Less so now, but definitely not a place for the faint hearted! Once you knock at that door, everyone wants to change you to suit their purpose. Try and learn from the best of what each person you meet has to offer. Learn that there are different ways of doing things. Different kinds of stories that can be told, different ways to tell them. Learn how to deal with people. But always remember why you wanted to be in this industry in the first place and work towards that. Be true to yourself and that truth will reflect in your work.
When people are trying to make sense of the world, they look to artists. They need the stories we tell, the music we create, the pictures we paint and the poetry we write. They need it for solace, for coming to terms with reality, and finally for hope. That is why whichever way the world turns, the world will always need artists.
Would you like to share something about facing challenges and overcoming them?
I’ve been working in the business for 20 years now. It has been one challenge after another for me. Breaking in, getting people to trust my vision, making a living from it, while being able to stick to my own vision. All these are battles which are fought on a daily basis, meeting to meeting. Eventually the only way to overcome is to hang in there. Perseverance is the secret.
For me the turning point came with the OTT platforms. I had written the script of Guilty 7 years ago. But finally it got made and found success because of this digital revolution. A series like HUNDRED, I feel got greenlit and lapped up because it was on a digital platform and was a fun engaging watch!
I started out 20 years ago when the only way to get the film I wrote, ‘Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi’ was to get foreign funding (French government funds). Today, I can go to Netflix/ Hotstar/ Amazon and they not only understand my sensibility, but like it!!
How do you know which stories to tell?
Every day you hear or experience things. Whatever draws you is what you should work on. Eventually, the stories which draw other people to fund or act in them are the ones which will get made!
Anything you’d like us to highlight?
I’d love for you to highlight that my film GUILTY is on NETFLIX and my Web series HUNDRED is on DISNEY-HOTSTAR. And I’d like to give two ‘TIPs’ to any aspiring artist/ creator:
1.You must have discipline to create your art. There’s no substitute for that part. That is basic. Everyone who creates any kind of art, however wild they are in life, they always are disciplined about the essential brass tacks. You’re only a creator if you create. You’re only a writer if you write.
2.Don’t fall victim to any romantic notion of a troubled artist who nobody understands. However deep or revolutionary your art is, all art has to make sense to some business model. Whether it is Michelangelo painting for the Church or Marvel making a film for the box office. It has to serve some business purpose (not always money).
How to maintain hope as an artist during times like these?
It may not be a nice or politically correct thing to say, but Artists thrive in adversity. Difficulty and tumult power an artist’s creativity. The only ‘hope’ we need to remember is that CREATIVE EXPRESSION is our NEED. Our souls cannot rest otherwise. When people are trying to make sense of the world, they look to artists. They need the stories we tell, the music we create, the pictures we paint and the poetry we write. They need it for solace, for coming to terms with reality, and finally for hope. That is why whichever way the world turns, the world will always need artists.
Veer Arya, Class of 2020