LESSONS OF A LIFETIME
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.