Shubh Mukherjee- Director of #TripWithMe Who travelled India in 30 Days
“I had experienced in 30 days what I had not experienced in my whole life.”
Filmmaker, actor, and producer, Shubh Mukherjee, recently took to an otherwise impossible trip to shoot his web series, #TripWithMe. It was a trip all around India in 30 days! Yes, 30 days- from Kanyakumari to Kashmir- covering the country from north to south and east to west. The purpose was to document his travel in the form of a travel series, #TripWithMe. From developed cities to the places no one even knows about, he experienced it all.
Here is what we learnt while talking to him.
The Need to Travel
Talking about the need to travel, Shubh says, “Traveling is very important to me. Since childhood, I have traveled a lot. I learn a lot of new stories, which somehow enhances me as a person”.
Asking him about his experience from his latest trip, he tells us, “There is one thing that I have understood after this trip- the world that we know and the world that really is are two very different things. Both lie on far extremes of our knowledge. But the joy of meeting complete strangers, learning through them and smiling with them is a completely different emotion. I think that is what this trip has taught me”.
Talking about his career’s beginning, Shubh tells us, “I am originally a software engineer who happened to discover theatre. The love for acting brought me to Mumbai. I was still travelling so much, sometimes for shoots, sometimes for work. Also my parents had moved to Nairobi by then. This is when I thought of making a documentary around my travels. So I filmed a documentary on the 2013 terror attack in Nairobi. Post which, I was approached by a friend of mine to make a wedding film about his marriage to this beautiful girl in Nairobi. Since I had some time on my hands, I went ahead. In return, I experienced such a fusion of different cultures. It was the first time for me with a camera away from film sets, experiencing real people, real situation and real emotions. When I put it out online, people from all over the world started flooding my mails asking me to come to Melbourne, London, New York, etc. and shoot their weddings as well. And this led me to opening up my own production house, Ipix Epic Moments. Soon, I ended up filming marriages in six more countries”.
#TripWithMe- The Idea
Talking about the idea behind #TripWithMe, he tells us, “Between 2014-2015, I ended up taking some 150 flights all over India. I started thinking what if apart from doing wedding stories about the couple’s love and their family, I capture something new and unique? Since I was already traveling so much and interacting with so many new people everyday, I thought of shooting my travel experiences. And so the idea of #TripWithMe was born; shooting a travel series in 30 days all across India. There is so much content that we have shot! In terms of editing, we are half way through. There will be 30 episodes in total. We have put all our savings into kickstarting this project”.
We were curious as to why he decided to shoot this mammoth project in just 30 days. To this he replies, “I think it just becomes more interesting and intimidating to look forward to something rather than just go with the flow. Today if I say I have to get out of here in 6 hours, I will be more focused on getting out in that stipulated time. Otherwise I will be lethargic and somewhat unfocused. That is just basic human nature. So that is why we set ourselves a target of 30 days. And then the real race began. Our crew would change every 7 days. We were always panicking thinking, ‘Shit! We are going to miss our train; Shit! We are going to miss our plane; we have so much to shoot; we have so little time’. We actually ended up missing 3 trains and 4 flights. We even lost our luggage a couple of times though we got it later. Because of this we even named one of our episodes Lost & Found. But nevertheless, we finished the shoot as planned. But all the experience that we gathered made this journey more interesting and worth it”.
Shubh also gathered some skills along the way. He shares them with us. “Farming is so hard. We just entered a farm with the idea of understanding the life of a farmer. We came back with some very shocking realities. Do you know they get mere 100/- for 9 hours of work and sometimes even less. Then there were women of 55-60 years toiling in the fields at this age. I also learnt to brew beer. Of course, I didn’t understand the entire process. I just followed the lady's instructions. Then I drank a glass of it as a part of the tradition in Nagaland. Interestingly, their one glass is bigger than our average pitcher. I also drove a truck. This happened on the highway to Jaipur. I had to blackmail my way through it. The driver was apprehensive about coming on camera. My cameraman kept rolling. I told him I won't shoot with him if he let's me drive his truck for a couple of minutes. He half-heartedly obliged and I did drive my first truck”. (he smiles)
Talking about one difficult moment in this journey, Shubh says, “We had a partner who had promised to invest some money and he backed out midway. We had boarded a train from Kolkata to Guwahati when I received his call. I had already put all my money into it. Even my other friends had pitched in. But this came as a shock. For us to raise funds halfway through the shoot, when we were already pushing our willpower to the max, was terrifying. I went and stood alone at the train’s door. I thought how did I get here. Twenty-three days of shoot already done! Do we end it now? Standing there, with the wind on my face, I recollected a lot of people throughout our journey had told me if you want to do something in life, just do it. Don’t think of other stuff. It is then that I got back to my senses and mustered up courage to keep going and finish off the shoot”.
Guerilla Style Filmmaking and Kashmir
“Everything is based on perception shaped by someone else' dispersion of information.”
The whole series was shot guerilla style. Speaking about shooting, he tells us, “I was caught by the cops three times. I was questioned 4 times; questioned to the point that I was interrogated about what I was doing and my identity”. Things would have been tougher if we had not gone the guerilla way”.
Speaking about the recent terrorist attacks and its implications on the domestic filmmakers, Shubh thinks, “Media affects not just one human being but an entire human population. Everything is based on perception shaped by someone else' dispersion of information. So Kashmir is not exactly what it is purported to be. I met people who hosted me like a guest. I even came across people who were radical. I even saw people chanting anti-national slogans. But they on the other hand also offered me tea, lunch and talked to me. I am a Hindu; I am a patriot. So when people from such areas see a camera and get scared, it is because maybe someone has initially misused the camera; someone has manipulated their stories. A very easy example is how paparazzi focuses on cleavage and butts of actresses without explaining who that person really is”.
The Neglected India
Speaking about the neglected interiors of India, he says, “We as a country are to be blamed for this. We are so focused on traveling abroad that we miss out on the beauty that this country has to offer. We are also so focused on getting the bullet train to India, which is amazing. But then at the same time, we are not able to reach out to such places in the heart of India often leaving them and their people in neglect”.
International Launch of #TripWithMe
Shubh is in the process of editing a one-hour documentary with a lot of unseen footage that the series would not be having. He plans to send them out to international film festivals and also release it internationally. For now, the first 15 episodes would be coming every week online. Shubh Mukherjee tells us, "Till now we have uploaded four episodes which are available on our Youtube channel 'Ipix Indies'. We are also trying to raise funds for editing the rest of the episodes of #TripWithMe".