OpenAxis had an insightful and engaging conversation with Vinod Kapri, a filmmaker and author, on his recent viral video about a 19 year old boy, Pradeep Mehra, who’s resilience and determination has impacted the world. Mr. Kapri was in his car, driving home from the Gold Course in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, when he spotted Mr. Mehra running outside. After conversing with him, he learnt that Mr. Mehra ran around 10 kilometres (six miles) every night to keep himself in shape to join the Indian Army. Here is the link to the podcast:
For the transcript of the talk, read below!
I just wanted to ask you a few questions about one of your recent tweets, which was a video of Pradeep Mehra which went viral all over the internet. It’s gained a lot of popularity, and a lot of positive feedback. Why do you think the video you took became viral?
To answer this actually, I am going to quote a retired marshall, who stays right next to me. His name is Air Vice marshal Mr. S.K Bhatnagar. He called me, and he said, “I would like to meet you”, and when we met, he said, “I saw that video of Pradeep running for 3 minutes, and I would like to tell you one thing, that this boy no doubt wants to become a recruit in the Indian army, but after watching this 3-minute video I think this boy has OLQ”. I then asked him what he meant by OLQ, and he said that the boy has an ‘officer life quality’, and I am willing to help him become an officer in the Indian army. I asked him how he came to this idea after watching this video, and he said that the 3-minute video is a complete depiction of his personality, his dedication, and inspiration as well as his motivation and hard work. He said that it really touched him, and so he came to the conclusion that Pradeep could become an officer in the Indian Army.
I think people like and share this video because they get some kind of inspiration from it, seeing him running against all odds, doing something we cannot imagine. Ninety-nine per cent of people complain about how things did not turn out the way they wanted them to and about life, but this boy has changed that narrative. Furthermore, the footage was completely genuine and raw, which people have never seen before. Most people have seen inspirational films and movies, like Forrest Gump and Pursuit of Happiness, and tons of people commented that this short footage is as good as a 3-hour film.
In a movie, you have a few hours worth of content and videos and points, which could really create an impact. But how does such a short raw three-minute video create almost the same impact? Do you think it’s also just the genuineness of the video, not pre-planned like a film?
It was completely unintentional. I’ll narrate the whole incident and how it all started. It was around midnight when I was going back to my home after having dinner, and I saw this boy was running and I was something around 150 or 200 meters behind. He looked between 12 to 14 years of age. I was wondering why this 14-year-old boy is running at midnight. Maybe he’s in some crisis, maybe he’s in some trouble and he needs some help and he’s not getting any taxi or help? So I thought I should help him. When I reached him, I asked him, “why are you running”, and offered him a lift. He refused and said he will continue running, and on again asking him why, he answered that he is preparing to join the Indian Army. I was taken by surprise, and this was my first 5 seconds of conversation with him. At that point in time, I didn’t know his age, so I thought he must be 14 or 15. I just loved his dedication. So I thought that I should record this and asked his permission to do so. So after starting the recording, I resumed my conversation. After that, everything went so naturally. If I had probably started recording later it would not have been as authentic and raw as this was, and the effect would be lost. Everything was so natural. So this is a reason that people are like, “how come this boy is running, against all odds, is refusing lift, refusing dinner?”. So it was spiky.
So would you say it’s that inspiration? Just hearing that he’s running at midnight, just preparing for the army made you decide that you don’t want to just stop this conversation.
Yeah, of course. Initially, when I thought that I should capture this moment, I thought about my son. He is 18 and he’s in class 12. So I thought maybe I’ll show this video to him, and he will gain some inspiration from it. So most parents always compare their children to others and say things like, “look, their daughter is studying at Columbia and the son is in St.Stephens firms and so on”. So this happens in every household, and my initial thought was I’ll record this and only show it to my son. But while talking to him, and with each question, I was only discovering more, and after a conversation of around 80 seconds, I realized that maybe if I post this video online it could go viral. I took his consent and decided to upload it.
Since you mentioned that you initially took this video just to show it to your son, you know, just to let them be inspired when he sees something like this, and it really makes a difference. Do you think the video not only helped or influenced people who want to help Pradeep in his journey, but also students or young adults, around the age of 18 to 21 to share their journey like this online, or maybe to be influenced, to work as hard? Do you think it’s made an impact in that way?
Yes, it has had a great impact. I have seen many Twitter posts, Facebook posts and Instagram posts. I’ve seen that many small teachers and schools have shown this video in their respective classes, in their respective schools. I’m part of my son’s school group and it was shared there but they were not aware it was shot by me. So I think it created a large impact.
Lastly, to wrap up this conversation, do you think that every great story starts from something so simple. You just see something as simple while driving back home, like a boy running and that becomes a three-minute video that goes viral making a world of a difference. Even with your films and with other content that you’ve shot, do you feel like this is the most natural way for a great story to begin?
Yeah, I think so. I think, you know, the most difficult part for any storyteller is to tell the story in a very simple way. That’s the toughest part. It’s the biggest challenge for every storyteller. It was honestly luck also that I got this opportunity to tell this story so simplistically. I never intended to so I would not say that it is my creation. It is completely God’s creation. But yes, last year in 2021 when I was a part of the journey with seven migrant workers, that was my decision to be a part of the journey and capture it. After capturing their journey for seven days, and eight nights, while editing it I realized it’s a very simple story that I must tell in a very simple way.
Vinod Kapri is a National award winning filmmaker. He is also an author, writer and director and was formerly a TV Journalist.
Interviewer: Maahira Jain
Podcast Editor: Shree Bhattacharyya
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