"Growing up, I used to spend summer vacations at my grandmother’s. Having witnessed the birth of a nation at 11, she (unsurprisingly) had a lot of stories to tell."
Ansh Ranvir Vohra's knack of telling tremendous stories is hereditary. It's also fortuitous because as a budding filmmaker, it is very important to engage the audience with the visual canvas that is created. His description of his grandmother's stories makes you imagine it on a wide screen, with the same environment she must have endured, because it feels so natural and real.
"Since I was her favourite and most loyal audience, she narrated one story to me each night, recounting anecdotes from her childhood in Pakistan, her journey to India on foot and her teenage years in Delhi, trying to build a life from a scratch," says Ansh. When Imtiaz Ali's Tamasha hit the screens, I immediately recalled Ansh's own experiences as a passionate storyteller, right from his school days to his semi-adult life.
His formative years were also a little difficult as he used to stammer a lot during school. His only outlet then was his little piano, his dad's Yashica camera and his hyperrealistic imagination fueled by multiple Yash Raj films.
Ansh studied English for his undergraduate course and went on to pursue documentary filmmaking in Delhi, even getting the chance to interact with India's leading documentary filmmakers. He says, "I was blown away by the scope of storytelling opportunities that the documentary medium had to offer". And thus started his tryst with making movies about ordinary lives with extraordinary stories.
"Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to engage in countless meaningful conversations with people from across the country and listen to just as many stories as I’ve been able to tell," Ansh says. These conversations converted into his documentaries, namely Acting Master Laadsaheb and Babar Ali. "Today, at 23, Babar Ali has taught more than a thousand children in and around his village and runs a school of his own in Behrampore. Babar, according to the BBC, is the world’s youngest headmaster. In August of the same year, I met Laadsaheb, an eccentric acting coach from Dharavi who teaches kids how to make it big in Bollywood."
His most important work, though, is his latest venture. His Ladakh-based documentary Across, is about a small village called Turtuk. "In 1971, as a full-fledged war raged on between India and Pakistan on the Eastern front, India’s Ladakh Scouts and Nubra Guards, led by Colonel Rinchen, forayed into the subcontinent and, on 21 December, laid claim to Turtuk and its neighbouring villages. The film documents the stories of four subjects who recount their experiences from that night and its aftermath," says Ansh.
He hopes that Across ends up being the reality check for his audience that he has intended it to be. "Today, as all of us clamour for war from within our comfortable bedrooms, I feel like it’s important to examine its ramifications, a process I hope the film will initiate."
His efforts have not gone in vain, though. His vision and cinematic magic got its due when his application for a prestigious film fellowship in New York got accepted. "Every year, UnionDocs chooses six filmmakers from around the world to collaborate with six other filmmakers from the United States over 10 gruelling months of training, from amongst thousands of applications," Ansh says of the programme. This was a huge breakthrough as it would give him "the opportunity to engage with New York’s rich film culture and enable (me) to tell important stories better ."
However, resources are limited for any indie filmmaker, which is why UnionDocs have helped Ansh with a crowdfunding campaign. His target of $8000 is still some way from being realised but you can contribute your share here and together, we can help him continue to tell stories and engage in important conversations!
Updated Date: Aug 31, 2017 17:39 PM