This weekend saw the seventh edition of the ‘Under 25 Summit’, a youth culture festival that brings together entertainment and education. The theme for the event was ‘#TakeAStand’ and ‘#CelebrateConfusion’. Held at Jayamahal Palace Hotel, it saw over 30,000 attendees.
This year’s line-up included an impressive range of speakers and performers such as Abish Mathew, Benny Dayal, Tanmay Bhat, Ananya Pandey, Faye D’souza, Rana Daggubati, Jordindian, Shaheen Bhatt, Ritviz and The Artidote.
The topics covered included men’s sexual health, spirituality, careers, fitness, friendship, mental health and more. “Our team’s collective age is 21. We asked for their opinion on everything. Anything that they found uninteresting, we discarded,” says Shreyans Jain, co-founder of Under 25.
He also added that this is the first summit where co-founders Anto Philip and him are not the festival directors. “We have handed it over to our team. This is the first time we have been able to sit back and enjoy what we have created. Our baby has grown up,” he says.
Apart from performances and panel discussions, the festival also had gaming areas, workshops, a flea market, art showcases and more.
Big fan moment
The ‘Student of the Year 2’ actor Ananya Pandey had the opportunity to meet her actual ‘biggest fan’. A young boy who had been picked out of the audience to ask a question to the actor, needed a few moments to compose himself. The gushing fan in a red sweater could barely get his question across. However, his question seemed rather irrelevant in the face of what seemed to be a genuine expression of admiration. Ananya responded to his adoration by telling that she wanted to meet him after the session so she could give him a hug. The boy’s legs must have turned to jelly; he was seen reaching out to the chair for support. Unfortunately, the organisers who searched for the young boy after the event could not find him.
There is no indie music scene: Benny Dayal
The singer chatted with beatboxer Vineeth Vincent about music, fashion, dance, and everything in between. “There is no indie music scene, it is just music scene,” he said when he asked about whether he preferred singing with his band Funktuation or for movies. Working across different genres is not a choice he makes, he said, responding to a question from the audience.
“I am still learning about myself. I don’t want to be put in a box. Except for my name, everything is up for change,” he shared.
Even our gods used to be in drag: Sushant Divgikr
Sushant Divgikr, is a model, actor and drag queen. He talked to the audience about men’s sexual health “When I say there should be sex education in schools, I don’t mean one session with a random counsellor who doesn’t even answer questions. I want it to be a class in school,” he says. Apart from sex education, his passion is performance. He refutes that drag is a new concept in India. “We’ve had it longer than America, even our gods used to be in drag. It’s nothing but a performance. And people, even from smaller towns, have been so receptive of the art,” he says.
He adds that being a drag artist is not just about dressing up as a woman or a man, it’s about performance. “I do bingo nights, sing, dance and even do a burlesque act. You can’t command respect just because you’re a drag artist if you’re not a good performer,” he explains.
Casting is about finding real people: Mukesh Chhabra
Mukesh Chhabra’s session was the most interactive one at the Summit. The casting director called audience members on stage for an improv, and everyone jumped at the chance to impress the man who had discovered stars like Sushant Singh Rajput, Vicky Kaushal and Rajkummar Rao.
He began by assisting directors and helping them cast and manage extras and other smaller roles. “I realised that this is a job that requires a more professional structure, and that led me to set up my company,” he says.
He explains that the role of a casting director is to help a director fulfill his vision and the process changes with every script. It can take eight months or even two years to finish the casting. “Sometimes the directors have certain people in mind for the role and there are times that I have stood my ground for my choice, one such call was casting Pankaj Tripathi for Gangs of Wasseypur,” he says.
He is known for his unconventional ways of discovering talent, “I go to old-age homes to cast older people, casting is about finding real people who fit the role,” he says.
He also had an audition camp on the second day, “Places like Under 25 are a great way of finding talent and an important outlet to familiarise people with alternative career options,” he adds.
To do big things, you have to take big steps: Harshwardhansinh Zala
When Harshwardhansinh Zala was 12 years old, he watched a video of soldiers detecting landmines. This triggered him, he says. He decided to create something that would allow the military to detect landmines while removing human risk. “I approached many companies, but no one took my seriously. They asked to come after I got a college degree,” he says. Refusing to accept defeat, he decided to create the device himself. He began to teach himself programming languages, machine languages and the principles of aerodynamics. To help fund the project, at the age of 13, he began torturing Btech and Mtech students. He finished the first prototype a year later. It took him six more tries to create a drone that could detect landmines and destroy them in real time. He named the drone, ‘Eagle A7’. He then went on to start a company that now has operations in more than seven countries. To the audience, the 17-and-half-year-old said, “Learn to say no to the naysayers.”
Web stars take the stage
Day one of the event saw Yashaswini Dayama, Aisha Ahmed and Viraj Ghelani, who rose to prominence with their work with FilterCopy. In an interaction with Vineeth Vincent they spoke about having to negotiate between online space and personal life, being mistaken for other celebrities, education, pursuing dreams, and more. Taking about keeping it real of social media, Yashaswini said that she does not faking it for social media, and that he posts indicate her real life. Viraj, however, said that since he wanted this life and the attention, having to filtering out portions of his personality for the public, was understandable. Aisha seemed to agree with Viraj and said that considering her target audience is largely those between the ages of 12 to 20 years, she is always careful about what she posts.
Speaking about education and the importance of college, the three agreed that ultimately whether or not one pursued a college degree is a personal choice. “Life is hard. If you do what you want, at least you could be happy about that,” said Aisha. Yashwaswini, also added that she didn’t think that the her Bachelors in Political Science helped her prepare for life. “We live in a world where we are expected to finish schooling and pursue a degree, that people are only impressed when you are pursuing a Masters. I could have been pursuing my dream much earlier, if not for this,” she explained.
They also spoke about their best fan moment, embarrassing moments and dealing with rejection. “Everything is a part of your life, it is not your life,” said Viraj, ending the session on a rather optimistic note.
The avengers of film journalism
“We wanted to be the Avengers of film journalism, said Anupama Chopra, the founder and editor of Film Companion. Chopra, who was accompanied by Baradwaj Rangan spoke about their journey as a company, the challenges and advantages of digital journalism and dealing with trolls. “Digital journalism has no rules, which is liberating. Having to unlearn everything I learnt during the course of my career was challenging. But, shedding those formalities has allowed me to be so much more authentic,” she said. Advising upcoming film writers, they said that they needed to let the writing process be an organic one.
Writing, unlike performing, is therapeutic: Megha Rao
Megha Rao started writing when she was six but was always hesitant to perform. The poet and author only took to the stage when she was urged by Roshan Abbas, the co-founder of Kommune, a performing arts collective. “I initially said no because I was scared but once I decided to give it a try, I dived in and moved to Mumbai to pursue it,” she says.
She says experience is important when writing, “I would never be able to write about something that didn’t happen to me, I feel like that’s appropriating someone else’s life. Even with matters such as CAA or NRC, I want to write about it because I feel strongly about it, but I do it in third person because the law doesn’t affect me as much as other people,” she explains. “Writing was always therapeutic, but performing was a completely different game. The latter seemed like I was walking through bad memories with people watching me and I would sometimes cry on the way back home after a performance,” she says.
Journalists should be anti-establishment: Faye D’souza
Faye D’souza was the star of day one, with a packed house at her session on journalism. She recently made the transition to an independent journalist. “Funding is a big problem,” she says, “but it’s been very refreshing because I can set my own tone.”
She sees a gap in the market for news catering to young people, and has seized platforms like Instagram and Twitter and mediums like spoken word poetry to reach out to them. “Becoming platform-agnostic is also a great advantage to leaving the television space,” she adds.
On the role of a journalist, she says that being anti-establishment is the very core of the profession. “Questioning this government, and the previous one and the one after is what keeps you neutral,” she says.
On combating fake news and the propagators, she says that the best thing you can do is stop watching them. “Punish them by withdrawing your attention. I have people who say they watch them for entertainment, watch actual entertainment instead. Adding to their views only keeps them up and running,” she adds.
When asked about advice for future journalists and young professionals, she says that one must be really picky about their editor. “You learn so much from them and they build who you become, especially your first editor. If you have an editor who has been compromised and making bad choices, you are likely to normalise that and become like that too,” she says.
She says that summits like these are an important space for open conversations on a range of things.
Surprise performance by Kanan Gill
Bengaluru’s own Kanan Gill had everyone in splits with his performance on Day one. His act touched upon relevant topics from Corona virus, shootings at Delhi protest and even some subtle and yet not-so-subtle references to the flight ban on Kunal Kamra.
He also took a trip down the memory lane when he spoke about his trysts with the cops of Bengaluru, studying Julius Caesar and the art of letter-writing. In between the set, Gill managed to make some truth bombs.
“People tell you that if you work had, you will become successful. That’s not true. If you work hard, you will have worked hard,” the comedian said. Whether one’s hard work takes them somewhere is just luck, he added.
He also took the opportunity to advice the audience to not simply chase things, while ignoring what they had, such as friends and family.
‘701-A: A Conversation About Friendship’
Writers Rega Jha, Nirali Shah and lawyer Amshula Prakash spoke about what it takes to build and maintain friendships. They spoke about the importance of having people that one didn’t have to “perform for”. They also said that the best way to deepen a friendship would be to ask questions that involve some amount of self-reflection, leading to a conversation that opened up new perspectives and avenues of one’s personality. They shared a few questions that they had asked each other at some point, and suggested that anyone who is looking to build a meaningful relationship, could use them:
1. What was your favourite outfit as a child?
2. Where in your house do you read?
3. The happiest moment of last week.
4. Favourite thing about your mom.
5. What do you and your dad have in common?
6. If you could apparate to any moment in the past, where would you go?
7. What was the kindest moment in your life?
8. What was the most selfish moment in your life?
9. Favourite food from your childhood that’s attached to a happy memory.
The outdoor stage set up was called Camp Tinder. The stage was host to a variety of performances and sessions, from rappers and dancers to motivational speakers and spoken word poets. The seating arrangement for the space was bean-bags made with sacks lending it a very informal and laid-back vibe. The outdoor space also saw experience zones and stalls like a pop-up library. An interesting stall was an ice-breaker space. Similar to speed dating, two rows of people sat facing each other and they had a set of questions they could ask in a set amount of time. When time is up the partners switch.
Food and water
Attendees were encouraged to get their own water bottles. They had stalls set up where people could fill water for free. They also partnered with Cupable who were selling reusable cups for Rs 100, of which Rs 50 would be refunded on returning it. The festival had a host of food options ranging from pizzas to appam and stew.