LESSONS OF A LIFE­TIME

Tehelka - - MARCH OF THE LANDLESS -

Ajay Chaturvedi and Ma­hesh Bhatt nar­rate how early-life cri­sis helped them script new suc­cess sto­ries

AJAY CHATURVEDI trans­formed from a slick Citibanker to so­cial en­tre­pre­neur when he re­alised that real wealth lay in value cre­ation. He set up HarVa in 2010 and be­gan har­ness­ing hu­man cap­i­tal in ru­ral In­dia. Em­pow­er­ing change in seven states and poised to go in­ter­na­tional, he shared his suc­cess story with over 1,200 students gath­ered for the Air­cel The Power of In­spi­ra­tion lec­ture at Ma­ni­pal Univer­sity.

“Lots of students look out­side but you have to look inside. The real jour­ney is there, so dive within,” was the Whar­ton grad­u­ate’s ad­vice. “Peo­ple think money is the so­lu­tion; it is not. It is just a means to an end. I re­alised value cre­ation was most im­por­tant. So I be­gan by cre­at­ing ru­ral hubs out in the hin­ter­lands. Very ba­sic. We get In­ter­net and elec­tric­ity to these places and then train and em­ploy women in BPOs.”

HarVa aims at train­ing and em­ploy­ing 10,000 women across 20 states over the next five years. These women are “ghung­hat-clad but have the spark to work, have ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion and are far more ded­i­cated and ef­fi­cient,” he says. HarVa has also be­gun train­ing farm­ers on ef­fi­cient farm­ing tech­niques. The pi­lot project is on in Ra­j­garh, near Pi­lani. Farm­ers are be­ing taught to grow aloe vera, le­mon grass and chamomile for bet­ter re­turns, us­ing only a frac­tion of the wa­ter re­quired oth­er­wise. On top of it, their in­come has tripled, he says.

Later, amidst thun­der­ous ap­plause, Ma­hesh Bhatt stepped on to the stage and took the students through his jour­ney: his trou­bled 20s when he had a flop film to his credit, a bad mar­riage, a child and a tur­bu­lent ex­tra-mar­i­tal af­fair with Parveen Babi — all of which drove him to ask some ex­is­ten­tial ques­tions and make Arth. “From the chaos and the life burns came the so-called clas­sic,” he says, “It be­came my spring­board to suc­cess. It was some­thing I had lived through. I re­alised, when I ma- de films from ex­pe­ri­ence, I had the pulse.”

He then tran­si­tioned and made films such as Aashiqi, Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, Sadak, Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke and Naam — all hits. “I touched dizzy­ing heights. But noth­ing fails like suc­cess, be­cause af­ter the fame comes the empti­ness,” he said.

“Then some­thing be­gan to wither in me and I made one last film in 1998, sourced from my own child­hood, of a Mus­lim mother and a Brahmin fa­ther and the sec­u­lar creed of In­dia that was in tat­ters af­ter 1992-93, es­pe­cially the Mum­bai ri­ots. I dis­cov­ered what Gandhi had said was right: if you do not hold on to this core of In­dia, which is its sec­u­lar creed, there is no way you are go­ing to be able to ne­go­ti­ate the times ahead. That was a wake-up call.”

How­ever, Za­khm ran into trou­ble. It was banned and he was asked to redo parts of it be­fore it was al­lowed to be re­leased. Af­ter that, he was feted and even got an award, which he didn’t col­lect be­cause “they first make you tell your story the way they want it and then they gar­land you”.

“How do I make movies? You in­hale life, you ex­hale cinema. The game is how to get the pas­sion and the al­ge­bra right. If you have the al­ge­bra right but don’t have to pas­sion, it doesn’t work,” he said.

The re­lease of Air­cel The Power of In­spi­ra­tion book by the speak­ers and all the dig­ni­taries present and a vote of thanks by Te­helka Foun­da­tion Founder-Trustee Puneeta Roy drew the event to a close.

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