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I speak through films

Rihaan Patel, an iconic self-made filmmaker, who overcame adversities to bring empathy in society.

There was a time when his father used to be a successful wedding decorator but due to his health, he retired earlier. In India, there was no pension plan that could help retired or people who are in medical crisis. This led his family to face financial setbacks. In India, your status is measured by your assent and money. Once his father helped lot of people, but he didn’t receive any support when he was in trouble. Such a lack of empathy of his own relatives towards his family made Rihaan aware of one important quality that society is lacking - Empathy.

 

From early age he understood that we all should be empathetic towards other suffering and that was only possible when people become aware about other’s situation. To achieve that, he thought, telling stories could be great way. But at that time, he didn’t have grasps on literature; however, he could think visually and was good with editing software.  And out of this combination, he discovered a storytelling tool which became his lifelong friend – Films. 

 

But to start, you need to have knowledge about filmmaking which he received from 15 days workshop. That was enough in the name of film education. In order to do filmmaking assignment, he managed to borrow a camera for couple of hours from a friend. When his film got screened in workshop, he got applauded. This motivated him to get enrolled in film school but it was not accessible financially as it was not affordable to common people.  Back in 2009, there were not any filmmaking school except couple of animation institute in Ahmedabad. And there was a government institute called NID but that didn’t come to awareness because his school didn’t give the students enough exposure about different field of study. Furthermore, studying art was not considered a status symbol. So, people only talked about engineering and doctoring. When he came to know about NID, it was too late for him to get admission. 


One thing was clear that no matter what he wanted to be a successful filmmaker. So, he got enrolled for 2 years animation and vfx diploma which included syllabus on filmmaking for six month. Although it was basic knowledge, it gave him a solid platform and encouragement to develop as a filmmaker. While he was in an institute, with the help of his father, he managed to make iron camera trolley which was used in his first short film called ‘Dust of Orphan, a story on struggle of adopted child. He sent this short film to different film festival and it won audience award in WNET Reel 13 and got telecasted in primetime New York television. He received twelve thousands rupees as a licensing fees. This gave him a gentle boost in confidence. He got covered in local newspaper. On his request, institute gave him scholarship. 


He came to know that his knowledge was not enough to become a world class filmmaker. To be a great filmmaker, he needed an education. So he downloaded pdf on filmmaking but there was a problem. It was in English. His English was very limited at that time. So he decided to improve his English daily. Since he couldn’t afford to pay tuition fees or hire private tutor, he learned English by watching movies, BBC and reading newspaper daily. His friend used to make fun of him for speaking English with wrong pronunciation. He felt insulted. Learning filmmaking along with English became his lifetime goal. 


Studying filming material was difficult but day passed by and his English improved along with his filmmaking knowledge. He applied his knowledge in every next short film. With completion of advanced diploma he managed to gain enough knowledge and experience to attract clients who wanted to make videos to promote their product or services. Afterwards, he started supporting himself and need of family by solely his filmmaking talent. But he never forgot his primary cause why he learned filmmaking that was to create empathy amongst people. 


While working on commercial projects, he started working on initiatives to cause empathy in society. One of such an initiative is ‘Lost & Found’ under which he made short films on various social issues. While he was active in Lost & Found, he mentored lots of people who wanted to make career in filmmaking but due to their weaker social and financial support, they couldn’t. He knew what it feels when you have no support. He opened the door for such a people and under his mentorship, these aspirant are now successful filmmaker who are supporting their family by their skills. Moreover, he made his filmmaking service available to those entrepreneurs, social activists, individuals or organizations who wanted to promote their product, service, cause or policy to desired target audience. Usually filmmaking is costly affair but he knew that in the age of social media if they fail to market their offering, they will not able to survive. And they are from weaker financial background. So he came up with ideas to make ad films, short film or video profile in affordable ways. He created financial opportunities for lots of freelance filmmakers associated with him. 


In span of 10 years in filmmaking career, he worked on more than 100 film projects. Won national and international awards and received millions of views on internet. He worked on feature length film which is about superstition and illiteracy. Recently he got invitation from Canadian film enthusiastic to come and make films. 


While he was in India, Rihaan faced lots of problem due to lack of empathy among people, worst education system. However, he managed to make his mark, but, he believes, not everyone have that much strength to endure. So, he opened the door to support whomever he could in his capacity because he believes how can we imagine ourselves a human being if we lack solidarity and empathy?