06 Apr Alumni Spotlight – Shubhashish Bhutiani
Shubhashish Bhutiani graduated from Woodstock in 2009, having spent eight years here. After studying film at the School of Visual Arts in New York, he found himself back in India as a lost 22-year-old.
Deciding to backpack through India, he made his way from Kerala to Varanasi. It was in Varanasi that he first heard about hotels where people check in to die. Deciding to research the phenomenon further and through conversations with hotel managers and ‘patrons’, he realised these were normal people making a choice for their lives. A chance conversation with a son whose father had come to Varanasi to die, with no medical reason behind the choice, inspired Shubhashish.
Woodstock made me a global thinker – exposed me to people from all over the world at an early age.
Here was born ‘Mukti Bhawan’, his newest film. The story is inspired by the city of Varanasi – a melting pot of beauty, chaos and religion. It is the story of Dayanand Kumar (Lalit Behl), a 77-year-old poet and writer who, one fine day at the dinner table, announces to his family that his life is on its last legs. This he does as matter-of-factly as asking for another helping of rice. He then expresses the desire – again, without batting an eyelid – to be taken to Varanasi to die by the river Ganga.
The film was screened at the Venice International Film Festival and finished to a ten-minute standing ovation from the crowd! We caught up with him a day before the release of his film (in theatres on Friday 7 April) and asked him a few questions.
What brought you to Woodstock?
My father first visited Woodstock years ago when he used to play cricket for his school. Taken by the culture of the school and the environment, he left Woodstock thinking that if he had a child, he would want them to come to Woodstock. The idea of an international school in the Himalayas, where he would get a well rounded environment, in a beautiful environment with the space to grow independently, led to him coming to Woodstock in 2001.
Who did you most look up to during your time there?
I don’t think it’s fair to name one person because each person involved in your life at school has a role to play (I used to even play cricket with the kitchen staff) but Mrs Mark perhaps stands out. She was my first teacher and taught me how to navigate school. Also Ms Chander!
What do you miss the most?
I miss Char Dukan! The old hostels and being in dorms. I am envious of the gym because it was not there during my time. It was a time of no Wi-Fi but we always found a way to entertain ourselves!
You will only realise what a special place you’re in, both in terms of environment and school, when you leave – so go ahead and take it for granted now.
How did Woodstock shape who you are?
I think Woodstock made me a global thinker – exposed me to people from all over the world at an early age. It gave me an understanding of other cultures and people. I also discovered I love acting at Woodstock.
What were you involved in during your time at Woodstock?
Acting, sports – I played for the basketball, cricket, hockey and ping pong teams.
Some words of advice to children at Woodstock?
You will only realise what a special place you’re in, both in terms of environment and school, when you leave – so go ahead and take it for granted now. Oh and the real world has no good momos – enjoy them!
Interview by Tara Menon, Woodstock Alumni Office
Shubhashish’s movie ‘Mukti Bhawan’ opens in theatres on Friday 7 April. Watch the trailer here: