“Filmmakers make you forget your truth and live their lies,” says FLAME alum Avinash Vasu profoundly. It’s interesting that in some ways, he is living the worlds he imagined for himself. He remembers as a kid, he wanted to be an astronaut, a detective, a scientist, a singer, an actor, and many other things. Somewhere along the way he realized that by being a filmmaker, he could live all those lives through the stories he can tell. It’s not surprising that one of his two all-time favorite films is ‘Jurassic Park’, a movie about that created a realistic world that does not exist. His second is Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’. Interestingly, while researching Avinash, we came across a photograph of him with the visionary director at Cannes film festival. If you are intrigued by this gravity-defying ascent to the top echelons of filmmaking, fasten your seatbelts and read on.
Born to writer parents, and his skills being nurtured at home, Avinash asserts that storytelling came naturally to him. But when he got his hands on a camera, he realized that he could tell his stories through pictures. His passion for the craft was taken a step further at FLAME. “The first film I made was for a class exercise. We were asked to tell a story through seven pictures. I thought, if I filled the space between the seven pictures I could tell a better story through film,” he says with enthusiasm you’d expect from a true lover of the craft.
Avinash describes himself as a Polymath, who was interested in diverse subjects and was all set to study engineering. But luckily he discovered FLAME, which encouraged him to pursue his varied interests while honing his craft as he worked on over 30 short films. “I was fortunate to be the only student with Filmmaking (Major) and Psychology (Minor). The former taught me the techniques and the rules. But Psychology is the best thing that happened to me because I can get into the head of my characters and write them better,” he claims.
But it’s not like Avinash is a stickler for rules either. In fact, it was another lesson he learned at FLAME. He remembers the words of Prof. Achyut Vaze in his very first lecture. “I will teach you all the rules, so you can break them effectively; is what he had said. Filmmaking is not learnt in the classroom, it’s something you learn behind the camera. There are hundreds of ways to shoot a lighted candle; choose one that gives your story the emotion it needs. Learn all the rules and understand where to break them to create art,” he suggests.
Those words have consistently mirrored in Avinash’s work. ‘Lost and Found’ the very first film under his Erango Media banner was chosen for the Short Film Corner at the Festival de Cannes. He admits that getting to Cannes, the biggest independent film festival in the world, was his life goal. We ask him for a quick list of the highlights of the festival and he narrates, captivating our attention instantly. “It was the 25th anniversary of the Palm d’Or for Pulp Fiction. I watched Pulp Fiction in the night, sitting on the beach, along with the cast and crew. After the red carpet screening of ‘The Rover”, I got ushered into the theatre along with the cast by mistake. I sat next to Guy Pearce, and we chatted. When we came out, the paparazzi clamored for my photograph! I had no idea who they thought I was, but I stood there smiling,” he quips, amused by the attention.
Avinash is not just rubbing shoulders with the who’s who of film business, but he is getting into the club himself. Erango Media has participated at Cannes Festival seven times and is in process of creating an industry for short films through an app for digitalization and monetization. His films have been screened at several International festivals, and he is now set to open his company’s first overseas office to go with the three existing ones in India. “To be the best in your chosen field, you have to have the best people on your team, which I do. The entrepreneurial challenges I face are common. The most irritating is when acquaintances expect you to work for free. But, every challenge is welcome, because it makes you a better professional,” says the creative mind wearing the entrepreneurial hat.
They say; true leaders see an opportunity in every difficulty. Avinash validates that statement as he tells us that the challenging times of this year gave him the opportunity to complete his book at a faster pace. ‘Ubaid Naseer: An Ordinary Man on an Extraordinary Night’ is the story of a man, who is pushed to do extraordinary things on the night of Bhopal Gas Tragedy. It took him 18 months from the idea to publishing the book, and he admits that fewer distractions during the pandemic helped speed up the process. “There are many people in the book, who did brave and heroic things without any reward. They remain unsung precisely because nobody tells their stories. My idea is to bring this story to the forefront, so common people can know them and get inspired by them. The times are tough; people need inspiration and motivation,” he ends on a poignant note. Avinash himself is serving up inspiration to others to follow; by breaking rules, telling stories of real heroes, and making you believe the imaginary world of his movies.