Pankhuri Priyadarshani is a gifted creative head in the business of film making. She has had a long stint with one of the topmost production house (Balaji Telefilms) of Bollywood, one of the largest cinema hubs in the world renowned for its glitz, vibrancy, and drama. Her short films have won rave reviews from viewers and her latest music video as a creative producer has touched a million views on YouTube within no time. Pankhuri is a young gutsy lady with dreams in her eyes, passion burning bright in her heart and a mind filled with imagination, creativity and resoluteness. She is a rising star, one to look-out for in the near future. Watch out, she will rewrite rules of entertainment in the days, months and years to come.
ONE MILLION YOUTUBE VIEWS
I am truly blessed that that my first music video as a creative producer hit 1 million views on YouTube and is counting. One day suddenly out of the blue I received a call from a recording company who wanted me to take charge of creating this music video. Having worked at a top Bollywood Production hose like Balaji Telefilms for such a long time, I have gained a lot of experience, all of which has created a kind of learning box in my mind. It was a new challenge for me, but I decided to go for it and use all those things I have learned over the years in creating this music video. As a creative producer I had multiple challenges to deal with – putting a team together, doing all the pre-production preparations, and most importantly thinking of a fresh concept that people can connect with. Instead of all the razzmatazz and flamboyance that these days music videos have come to be associated with, I chose to portray subtle emotions of a couple who fall in love while helping some other couple with their Valentine Day preparations. The portrayal was cute and simple. The music video was shot in one day but involved a lot of hard work of a 70 plus members of my team.
JOURNEY – FROM A CORPORATE MANAGER TO A CREATIVE PRODUCER
Rather you should I ask me how I became a business graduate. Since childhood I was obsessed with movies and music. They seem to engulf me in their world that fascinated me as a child. However, I did not know what I wanted out of life. I was quite unfocused and had no clue what I wanted out of my life. I think I learnt dancing just by watching movies. As a teen when I used to dance, people used to compliment me and call me lady Shah Rukh Khan. People around would suggest me that I should become a choreographer. But like most kids of my age, I just went with the flow and after completing my schooling, I did my graduation in commerce and then completed my master’s in business administration. I was still not focused. My mind and heart were not in the same place. Somewhere, deep withing I did not want to join the corporate world, instead immerse myself in the world of cinema and music. I joined the corporate world but never could follow a linear career path. I started with stock markets, then joined a HR consultancy, then a bank, after that a stint with insurance sector, post that worked with a FMCG company and then with a event management company. All these jobs helped me in building my network. Through the references I built, I got an opportunity in Mumbai to work on the sets of the mega series Jodha Akbar. However, I had to leave my job, for 6 months I received no salary, and I was all by myself. It was an option fraught with risk but was the only opportunity to put my foot on the door that opened into the world of my dreams. I had 15 days trial, but I grabbed them with both hands and here I am now.
BOLLYWOOD DREAMS, REALITY BITES
I think there is struggle in every career. Even when I was in bank, there was so much pressure to bring business and it was not easy during the initial days. Besides (she adds in jest) as per numerologists number 8 means struggle and my birthday falls on a 26th that adds up to 8 (smiles). On a more serious note, the struggle that experience in the field of filmmaking is extraordinary in every sense. Maybe it is the nature of the job or the time constraints that we generally work with. Compared to web or tele series, in films we have more time. But in web or tele series, the time pressure is very high. At times the next episode is to be telecasted the very next day and we are under pressure to finish the shot and post-production the previous day/night. We have to unfazed by weather conditions, be it be sun, rain or shivering cold, we have to shoot. The show must go on. Sometimes I have been unwell but have continued to work. While shooting fight sequences for a historical series that we did I used to stand in mud puddles at times. The audience will watch it at the comfort of their home with a simple click of a remote and no one will ever know how much sweat and blood is shed to make that one episode. But all that is worth, because I am living my dream. Hats-off to all the celebrity actors and to all the technician teams that I have worked with, because everyone works very hard. While actors do get some break between the shots and the shooting days, for the creatives like us it is continuous work. After the shoot, there is editing, post-production, planning for the next day of shoot and before the shoot lots of preparations.
WORKING FOR BALAJI
I was very lucky to have got my first break with Balaji Telefilms, one of the top production houses in Bollywood. Their style of working is amazing – whether it is the employee retention, or ability of the production house to provide continuous stream of work to its employees or the kind of experience you gain working for this production house. Whenever I introduce myself as a Creative working in Balaji, I get a lot of respect, simply because of the impeccable reputation of the production house. Hats-off to the promoters and founders of Balaji – Shobha Kapoor Mam, Ekta Kapoor Mam, Jeetendra Sir and Tushar Sir. As I told you before, my first break was for a historical mega opus television series – Jodha Akbar. Working in such a grand set for close to 2 years made me learn a lot of things. Thereafter I kept getting work and did many other television serials – Tere Mere Darmiyaan, Yeh Hain Mohabteein, Chandrakanta, Chandranandini and the list goes on… I worked for in different genres – historical, supernatural, family drama. Having now worked for so many years, I have gained a lot of experience and confidence as well that I can handle any kind off project.
My mother had a tremendous influence on me. A M.Sc. Chemistry Gold Medalist at a time in India when female education and career orientation was not very common. She went to become a Chemistry professor and head of school. Despite her extraordinary professional achievements, she always balanced her personal life immaculately. Even after her retirement, she retains the same enthusiasm and spirt of work. I just wish that I imbibe all her qualities in me.
Having worked in Balaji, Ekta Kapoor has been a big influence as well. Her ability and razor-sharp memory has always dumfounded me. She can work on 25 stories – out of which some many be television serials, some web series and few films, all at the same time.
Bollywood Superstar Shah Rukh Khan has influenced me as well. I mean his energy is simply infectious. He has been working since ages, but he still retains the same energy and enthusiasm for work.
When I was doing my MBA, you were my professor. I always saw you finding something special in each of your students. That was always very motivating. I am using the same method in my profession. I try to find out something good about a person and leverage on that strength to advice on how to improve on shortcomings. For instance, if someone has a good voice, I compliment them on that and may be advice that person to work on the looks.
THE SHORT FILMS PROJECT
I learned a lot by making a couple of short films during the Covid-19 pandemic when I had to go back to my hometown for few months. Having worked in a production house, the work is very predictable, and you have everything at your disposal that is needed for work. But when I thought of making short films, I was completely on my own. I had created this website called Spotlight Star during the pandemic and I started teaching acting, It was then when the idea of making short films struck me. I shot with my phone, with my camera. I explored different locations. The stories were all around me. The first one was influenced by how city people were treating those coming back from Mumbai during pandemic. So, it was all very realistic. The positive comments of people about these shorts have given me a different level of confidence that even when I am not working with a production house, I can do things on my own as well. I can create my own group and then make it a team. Again, I learnt the difference between groups and teams from you during my MBA years. This goes on to show that nothing goes to waste. Each experience is worth. You have a big contribution in my life. The maturity with which you approached something, the learnings that I received from you, all have helped me a lot in my professional field.
LIFE AFTER RECENT SUCCESS OF MUSIC VIDEO
I have worked for so many years as creative head. I have also done direction and now have worked as a creative producer as well, managing A to Z of everything, including budgeting. Presently, I have few web series as a creative director in the pipeline. I am also taking up some ad projects,
You have worked with a many actor of all ages and with producers and other film professionals. How have these experiences shaped you as a creative artist?
I have worked with so many actors of all age groups. In every actor, I have found something special in every actor. An actor’s life is very tough. Actor has to be disciplined throughout their life. They have to care about the food that they eat, exercising regularly, their looks etc. Keeping oneself fit for lifetime and being in public life is not an easy feat. I have learnt from each actor and having worked in almost all departments of filmmaking; I have learnt so much. But there is so much to learn still. I learn something new everyday and now with new digital media, things have changed drastically. One cannot learn enough, and the journey is never-ending.
SUCCEEDING IN BOLLYWOOD
Bollywood is not an easy place but at the same time it is not an impossible dream for those who have the passion, can put their heart and mind into their work, have courage and are willing to work very hard. I meet man youngsters who come asking for work but then shy away when they are asked to bring 5-6 auditions videos of themselves, since it requires them to work hard. Many think that just being good looking is enough, but that is a fallacy. And now with web series being more prevalent, physical appearance has become secondary. Anyone who is a good actor is in demand. People whine about not getting work yet are not resolute enough to work hard for their dreams. I remember I made 3 failed visits to Mumbai before things worked out the fourth time around. Each time I cam with some references but was turned away. But I refused to give-up on my dreams so easily. When I visited Mumbai fourth time, I had made-up my mind that if things do not work-out this time, then I will leave everything and return to my hometown. But I got a whiff of an opportunity and Mumbai became my second home.
DREAMING WITH EYES OPEN
I want to keep doing creative work, whether it is doing work with Balaji or film making. I do not kind any sort of creative work – television serials, web series or movies. My dream is to start a production house, even if it is a small one and do work that gives me satisfaction. I wish to use that production house as a way to find hidden talents and provide them the opportunity that they deserve. Starting a production house is more for creative satisfaction, less for proving anything to anyone.
Besides, this I wish to be useful for those in need. People who suffer out of hunger moves me more than anything else. I do not want anyone in this world to go to bed without having a meal. I will do whatever is in my means to ensure that in my own small way.
Finally, I wish to thank my family and friends for their unconditional support. I also wish to thank my mentors, you being one of them and to your better half for always encouraging me. I feel delighted whenever you share my work on social media. I hope I keep getting all the love and blessings that I have received in abundance all these years.
Few Links of Pankhuri’s Work
Latest Music Video (1M views)
Short Film – ‘The Pride’ https://www.facebook.com/100000425043304/posts/3899898500034280/?d=n
Short Film – ‘Apni Suraksha Apne Haath’
Short Film – ‘Ghar Ka Bada Ladka’
Author: The feature was authored by Dr. Debashish Sengupta, Asia Editor at Future of Earth.