Anecdotes Of A Bohemian Connoisseur: Waheeb Rasheed
Ever noticed a short, cute, spectacled guy wearing a baseball cap hopping around with a small go-pro camera. You might be wondering what he is up to? Be it fests, sports tournaments or a normal mundane day, this guy is always seen with that camera.
Meet Waheeb Rasheed, a sojourner, photographer, cinematographer, and a final year student of Mechanical Engineering Department. What makes him stand out in the crowd is probably the willingness to take risks to follow what he loves most: film making.
Here is an excerpt of the story Waheeb Rasheed had to tell Monday Morning on a Saturday Afternoon.
ALL BOYS SCHOOL IN SAUDI TO AN ALL BOYS SQUAD IN NIT
I come from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and had undergone schooling from this all-boys likeschool owned by the Indian Embassy of Saudi, named the IISR. This is an all boys school and had the reputation of fostering all sorts of people’s as its students. I have had schoolmates who were goons, had been arrested and locked up for days. So seeing the environment, I think, I came out pretty decent.
Thus from the transition from the badlands of IISR to the NITR wasn’t fairly rough considering I found my tribe (my people) pretty soon.
As a fresher, I was allocated the GD Birla Hall of Residence. My roommate, Abdul and I were both indolent and would sleep till about 7:55 Am for a class of 8 Am.Luckily, I had people who would knock on the door, on their way to class. Even then we would keep slacking, hoping the other one would open the door. Finally, the person used to get annoyed and reach for the latch through the ventilator himself thus opening the door and waking us up. This was a routine and this is what got me to classes.
The first year was mostly college to the hostel to football to the hostel.
MM: Everybody knows the Waheeb Rasheed with a camera, but how do you go about academics. How is Waheeb Rasheed the Mechanical Engineer?
WR: As students who get in here through SAT’s and who share classes with students who qualify through JEE, it gets a little difficult for us to cope up. I had straight 10CG’s till my 10th, it was after that, that I realised and consciously chose to take a step back and devote some time to my passion. My story is not a cliché Indian Dad story. Engineering and NITR, both were my choices. My perspective then was I necessarily need not to have to be into photography and cinematography as my profession. It was my passion, but nevertheless, I wished to pursue Engineering. Thus while coming here, I made a promise of never dropping out of it midway.
But seeing my result of 1st semester, where I flunked in 3 subjects out of 5, my parents back home were worried and questioned the integrity of the promise.
Now, looking back, I realise that, all the people who are close to me here, really bonded over in the summers. The entire gang of ours stayed back in summer. For me, summer gave me a lot of friends. I was one of those whose daily schedule revolved around football, series friends, sleep and then classes. I was not much into socializing back then. But in summer there was no institute football team and only 3 classes. So basically I had a lot of time and that is when I met these people: Sampooja, Shikha and my other DASA friends. We all bonded over the summer heat.
After the disaster that was the 1st semester, I have approached my passion and studies like walking on a tightrope. I have somehow managed this intricate act of balancing on either end of the pole, one step at a time.
I have been very lucky to have friends who would always teach me the essentials before every exam, from 1st year till date. It is in these people, that I have found a family here. No matter what, they would wake me up daily, check on me if I am missing classes and warn me when I neglected studies.
MM: What is the story of a football match before the Maths 1 end semester exam during your 1st semester?
WR:(Realises, who spilt this story and smiles as he recalls) I, Vineeth and Abdul had scored 3, 4 and 2 respectively out of 30 in Math 1 end Semester exam. Guessing the probable marks which we would fetch in our TA, we decided to give up. While the whole corridor was drenched in revising topics and studying hard, we set up a league near the tennis court and played around the matches thrice, until morning. The following day we went, sat for the exam with our minds absolutely blank. We sat there for an hour, gave the paper and came back. Vineeth was on the edge regarding whether he should study or not but I and Abdul, we insisted “Let’s play football, let’s play football”. Now when Vineeth recalls those days, he mentions “I had to stay back because of you guys” because apparently people who had scored 0s and 1s had passed.
FIRST LOVE: FOOTBALL
Anybody, who has grown up in Saudi knows the craze and hysteria, there is around football. For me, I couldn’t take it when it was UEFA or FIFA and people around me weren’t excited. I played as a left-back defence in the school football team and thus getting into the NITR football team and wearing the jersey was a must.
So as soon as I landed up here, I asked people around about how to get inducted into the football team. I have been brought up in a place where the craze for football remained unmatched and I expected a similar wave around here. The similar notion that football would earn you respect even prevailed here, and that is what I wanted. But here the scenario was contrary to that of what I had expected. No one actually bothered about football. I used to get mad at people around me when they would not get excited about a UEFC Championship match. It was quite annoying to see people being apathetic towards football. Yet I wanted to get into the football team anyway. We would go to football practice every day. I, Aman and Ramlal would attend the practice sessions every day from 6.30 pm to around 9 pm. We were among those for whom football was a priority and we badly wanted to get that NITR Jersey.
Sashwata Bisi (Bisi bhai) served as the captain then. The practice used to start around 6.30 pm. In case we someday failed to make it to time, and others had started their warm up by then, Bisi bhai from across the field would shout “Waheeb, Ramlal 2 extra rounds”. Out of the entire time we spend for practice sessions, only 15 minutes would be for actual “football” and the rest of the time would be devoted to warm up.
MM: You have been to a few places in India. Tell us something about your travel diaries.
WR: I love travelling. My travel friends here are probably the best thing that happened to me. As they say, there is a difference between a tourist and a traveller. We were all the same kind of travellers: going to offbeat places, meeting new people, making ourselves familiar with the streets. We have been to five-six places together and encountered many adversaries, which are all funny stories now. Anyway, for us, it all started with Puri and ended with Puri, my favourite trip was probably the one to Rajasthan. One more thing was common amongst this group of friends: we were all broke. So we looked for the cheapest options always. We travelled in general class and used to eat at offbeat cheap places and used to spend nights in parks or cheap motels. Also, none of the trips were planned, we knew the name of the place, we decided overnight and the next morning we left.
CHANGING GEARS AND FINDING MENTORS
MM: How did your passion change from Football to Filmmaking and how did Third Eye and Cinematics happen to you?
WR: I wouldn’t like to say that my passion changed. Football was and still is (points to his heart) my first love, it's just my passion needed some time from me, for it to be polished and the strict regimen of institute team players didn’t allow me to do so. As my life revolved around football, I had missed all the inductions, be it third eye or Cinematics. I remember seeing the posters of Monday Morning Inductions looking for Photographers and I thought of applying. The timing of the 1st round tests conflicted with the Institute team- selection sessions and so I went for the latter. I had thought of the test to be informal and so without knowing anything about the stature of MM I decided to skip it and take it later. Thus I called upon the numbers on the poster and explained my dilemma to the gentleman on the other end. To, my amusement, the reply was, “What are you even speaking about? It’s over. You cannot write it again.”I then said “Okay, cool” and hung up the phone.
It was in one of the parties, that Shrijan Dongol (Ex-President, Third Eye), then in his sophomore year, came to me and said, “I have seen your Instagram account. I know that you are into photography and you can be in the third eye, but then you have to make a choice”, I followed “What choice bhaiyya”? He replied, “It’s either photography or football”. I tried to convince him for almost about half an hour and then at the end, he again said “It’s either football or photography. I went for the inductions and then I got inducted into the Third Eye team. I was always perceived as the guy with the small Video Camera (GoPro) who would click pictures and it was through Third Eye that I learnt the craft of it. Srijan wanted a complete third eye person but I was more into videography. Photography is also interesting as they are based on almost the same principles.
Cinematics inductions: The same thing happened with cinematics as well because I missed inductions due to football. I then went and talked to the then president. He was like you directly come to the meetings and we will discuss. The same scenario prevailed even here. I missed all the meetings due to football. All the meetings took place after classes and after classes, we had practice sessions. I eventually got into Cinematics in my 3rd year.
MM: How has been your journey in Cinematics and how have you seen it grow?
WR: If I have to make it like what third eye and cinematics have been to me, I would say every third eye meeting I attend to, and any random person I converse even for 5 minutes, I gain some extra information. I always learn something new, purely technical related to the principles of photography. After coming into the third eye, I realized how a DSLR properly functions. I had the composition of everything but not the proper theory and hows of photography. All the meetings of the third eye would be informative and you would learn the craft in a better manner.
Cinematics is something which can’t be defined as where I learn the craft. I would better redefine it as somewhere I learn the Whys. If put in better terms it is where I learnt the art. Cinematics is more about its people and vibes.
The first and subsequent projects of Cinematics:
My first project in Cinematics was “The Guilt Factor”. Rohit had come up with a script and literally knocked at my door to narrate it. It was through this project that the current generation of Cinematics came to be.
MM: Tell us about the projects in the Institute that are close to your heart.
WR: One of the closest projects to my heart is Tara. If there is a small possibility that the project will connect to the hearts of the audience, then it feels satisfying that whatever we are doing matters, even if a little. Another one was the video which was made a few months during the Kerala floods. That video got to me on a personal level. The video was made from the perspective of a Keralite who is away from Kerala while his family is facing the floods, back home. The workflow had a lot of research to do. I had to learn a lot of things, go through several footages, look at a lot of news in order to get into a person whose home is being destroyed due to some natural calamity. Tara and this video were very close. These videos take me to the very root of what got me interested in this art-form.
MM: What was the motivation behind your inclination to this art form of filmmaking?
WR: Filmmaking, for me, was always something that is done by professionals in the field. Until the Iraq war started and the city of Baghdad was suffering. Since I grew up in Saudi Arabia (which is in proximity to Iraq). It was surprising that nobody in Saudi Arabia was completely aware of it, the media wasn’t concerned enough to present the reality. My father was particularly troubled by the ignorance of the issue. He wanted to do something about it. He was a part of one organisation and there was an event going to be organised by the same organisation. My father decided to screen a video regarding the Baghdad issue in the opening of the event. Since the internet wasn't that good in those days, he would go to his office to download a few pictures, videos from the media outlets. Also, he got hold of audio of this intense poem in Malayalam about the condition of Baghdad by the poet Murugan Katakada. He screened this movie in front of a huge audience of the event. That was how I was influenced. My father did it for a cause. Film making, for me, is never about something that looks good. It's always for a bigger purpose. It is about changing the minds, it is about changing the world, one person at a time.
MM: Tell us about your very first project of your life, was it intentional or accidental?
WR: I had always been this kid who is very enthusiastic about photography. I had this Handycam in which I used to record every family function. I covered my cousin’s wedding in my Handycam. In school, I was a part of the student’s organisation. So a year after I got my DSLR, there was an event, we were told to come up with something and perform on the stage. We were all terrified with the idea of performing before a crowd. So we came up with this idea of screening a short film (I had always wanted to do it, but this was out of fright). None of us knew anything about film making, we had two weeks. Somehow, we came up with a story and went through pre-production, production (all unknowingly) and finally we screened it.
It got a huge ovation. My school kids were particularly excited. I loved the movie, the applause. It's now that I realise everything about that movie (technically) was wrong whatsoever it's still very close to my heart. (gets nostalgic). It was perhaps the first time I cried for the reception I received on my work.
The Promise: Lumiere
The idea for Lumiere came up nearly a year ago. When the announcement for post holders was done in mid-April of last year, I was given the privilege of leading Cinematics club as its president. It was right before end semester exams and we were working on the final render of The Guilt Factor. As the newly appointed office bearers, we started planning what should we do next and what our new feature would be. The exams all ended and we had our first meeting on 30th of April last year at TIIR where the idea for Lumiere was announced right before everyone left for vacation.
The idea of an event was stuck in my head and I gave it a lot of thought. I was planning on a major project that we could screen in BBA. A project that was epic, and would be the best of the best.
(“One thing I like about MM is that you guys get things done, properly, on time and it's effective”).
I wanted to see Cinematics as a club where everyone worked in sync and not just a couple of members who were passionate about it. Everyone could add to the content and would be able to experience the fulfilment of it being showcased.
Before this year, we were focused on the content we could come up with. The idea before was that Cinematics functioned as a machine that would make movies. You put in people, put in a camera and then put up movies on YouTube channel. The time I spent with Kuthum before he left had a lasting impact and the whole machine concept just went out of the window.
Initially Lumiere was about epic content and an event people could come dressed up to! However, after the vacations and my working closely with Abhishek Kuthum, we decided that whatever be the name of the event, it would be about people, the vibes and the story that would go behind making those movies. Before the vacations, we had worked together as a part of Cinematics and were known to each other in an almost exclusively professional capacity. After that, however, we had the opportunity of being acquainted with the human side of us all.
Lumiere was more about focusing on that side and on the love that we have for this particular art of filmmaking.
MM: Have you ever been involved in any freelancing project?
WR: The first freelancing project I did was while interning. (“I am getting my degree after this, right?”-chuckles) For my 3rd year internship, I did it under a company that did freight forwarding and cargo moving, relocations and things like that in Saudi. By then I was sure that I was not going forward in the mechanical engineering field. It is a constant that I won't be changing. So while looking for the internship options, I wanted to do something that would help me be better at what I do. I asked around and came across this offer, something akin to a barter system where both the parties would gain something beneficial.
So the idea was that I interned under this company for the required amount of time thus getting my internship done and in return, I made a corporate video for the company.
A fair exchange it was to me and I was pretty pumped up as this would be my first commercial break. All the types of equipment were provided to me. It was a well set up company and what I did would help the company make an impact on its customers. For the two months I interned, I went to the company and understood how the company worked, went through the procedures and talked with the people there. Then I started the pre-production for the corporate video that they wanted and basically, the idea was to make their clients understand the professional side of how they do things, and how they stand out when it comes to their services compared to other competitions. And thus my internship was covered and they got their video. (sheepish grin)
MM: For your final year project, you were the pioneer of something called Waheeb's GoPro battery. Would you please elucidate?
WR: I'm proud of it, okay? (giggles ensue)
So here's what happened. The guide I was allotted was Prof. Suraj Kumar Behera from the Mechanical Engineering department. Right after the allotment, I went to him and frankly confessed that I had lost the interest for anything that was entirely mechanical. He is this amazing person and he asked me what I actually wanted to do, which is very rare here. And so I told him what I was crazy about. He gave me a couple of weeks to come up with something I really wanted to work on. I made my decision and told him that I wanted to work on video stabilization. It is essentially getting dynamic shots without electronic assistance. I got a go-ahead and started working, particularly focused on the GoPro camera. I didn't know the first thing about designing anything close to this and he guided me through the research and reading part.
Then it was time for work. I was given a deadline to submit a certain number of things on a date. We used weights to balance the camera. I came up with the idea of modifying the GoPro battery to use its weight, cause it makes more logical sense than added weight. I designed the GoPro battery which is not very complicated. It was a rectangle which I gave the 3D structure of a cuboid.
I was giving the edges a finishing touch. And then I saw this T in SolidWorks and I clicked on it to show text and I wrote Waheeb's GoPro battery on the rectangle to show what it would look like and hence the name.
This is how I made the battery, the stand and the case of the battery and I screwed it on and voila - there you have Waheeb's GoPro battery. I am still working on it - the stress analysis and so forth.
MM: If cinematography wasn't there, what else would you have pursued?
WR: As a passion, football without a doubt. But as a career choice, I would have probably been an engineer if I didn't have such a strong drive for cinematography. I would have gone down with the usual drill of sitting for placements.
MM: What do you give the utmost priority to?
WR: My number one priority is my family - that's just how it is. Coming here to NITR, I told my dad that I'd get a degree and it's been on the top of my priority list since I started. Even if Cinematics is going on, I need to pass to get to the other side. And I prioritise my academics that way. It’s a promise to my dad so there's no playing around with that. The tightrope that I have been balancing on, with my work and academics, I couldn't have done it without my friends. They know me as a person and without them, I wouldn't be able to devote so much time to cinematics. I'm blessed to have them and it speaks volumes about them as people.
MM: Is there someone whom you would call your mentor?
WR: Yes, Abhishek Kuthum. He was an amazing cinematographer, but he hadn't worked on any project that he could call his own. Before he left, I wanted him to create a movie for himself. We spent a lot of time walking around, interacting, carrying out conversation with people. We weren't completely focused on making the movie cause we got carried away with the stories that people have. There were so many stories we didn't pick up on while they were all around. The last day we brought all our resources together and shot in the 14 hours we had.
MM: What next? Now that it is the end of your four-year journey at NITR, what are you looking forward to in your personal and professional life?
WR: I'm certainly not pursuing engineering. I want to study the technical side of the craft eventually but not right now. When you're choosing cinematography as a career you need to focus and pick what you need to be paid for. I don't think I have properly gotten that feel yet. I could freelance for a while or study film properly and figure out my niche on either of this path.
It's still a question mark when it comes to the exact specifics of it. One thing that I do know, is that I'm going to keep creating things. I don't know if I will be paid for it though.
MM: What message would you give the NITR junta?
WR: I would say find something you would want to give your hundred per cent to. Most people are not aware of it and it's unsettling for them. Sometimes it requires time to figure it out. It's all the people who are passionate about something, who cannot sleep without doing it. I am able to connect to them well. They inspire me.
One thing I really care about is doing things. If you don't know how to make a good movie, make one that will probably turn out to be bad. And keep doing it.
If you keep waiting for the opportunity for the perfect thing you might never get there. The chances of that happening are like that of winning a lottery ticket. So do the things you have always wanted to do. Consistently.