Meet Shahnaab Alam- An acclaimed independent movie producer
Shahnaab Alam is an individual who wears many hats. An acclaimed independent movie producer today, Shahnaab began his professional career as a journalist and launched into various fields of the media and entertainment industry. He is best known for his works in Yash Raj Films’ Dhoom, Dhoom 2 and Kaabul Express.
Shahnaab, who hails from Guwahati, grew up in the national capital where he studied at the Hillgrove School. After completing his schooling, Shahnaab went on to pursue three-year course in Journalism from Delhi College of Arts & Commerce, University of Delhi and began his journey in the field of media and entertainment.
Shahnaab started his journalistic career as a crime reporter with the Mid Day in Delhi. But he soon moved to political journalism and joined The Herald Times, which he left as Associate Editor when he decided to move to Mumbai in 1994. Shahnaab also learnt photography and dabbled with photo-journalism during his tenure at The Herald Times.
“During the 1990s, electronic journalism had just begun to take shape and I wanted to explore this new medium. In the case of print medium, an article takes time to get printed and reaches the audience one day after the incident has already occurred but when it comes to electronic media the information is consumed right then and there. This particular characteristic really fascinated me and I decided to give it a try,” Shahnaab recalled, while speaking to G Plus.
In Mumbai, he pursued a filmmaking course at the Xavier Institute of Communication and simultaneously joined Asian Photography, a monthly magazine, as the executive editor. Soon after completing Xavier, Shahnaab ventured into the television industry and joined Hinduja group’s IN Network as the executive producer for non-fiction content. There, he realised that the action was on the other side and the fun lay in actually making content.
Over the next few years, Shahnaab produced a lot of television content, music videos and fashion shows. During that period, he worked with the likes of John Abraham, Madhu Sapre and Noyonika Chatterjee to name a few. When Shahnaab got a chance to produce ad commercials, he quickly grabbed the opportunity and did a lot of ad campaigns for renowned companies like Crush Juice, Amul Shrikhand and Timex watches.
“The advertising world is very competitive and it’s very difficult for new individuals to independently get work in the presence of established companies. So once when I lost a very good campaign, a strange thing happened. The agency where I had pitched for the ad-campaign and lost, instead offered me a chance to co-direct the Ad Club Awards in 1997 and that’s how my events career began without me even realising it,” Shahnaab told G Plus.
He went on to co-direct the first edition of the Zee Cine Awards, Sansui Movie Awards, Aye Watan Tere Liye (a tribute to the soldiers injured or killed during the Kargil War) and other major events. The highlight of Shahnaab’s event career, however, was ‘United for Gujarat’ - the first ever South Asian concert that got together four of South Asia’s most popular bands belonging to countries like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan under one roof to extend their support towards Gujarat after the earthquake hit and raise funds for the rebuilding of the state.
Due to the buzz around the event, Shahnaab was called by the United Nations to curette the UN Foundation Day event - an experience he continues to cherish and considers to be one of his greatest achievements.
After returning from USA, Shahnaab was planning to take a break of six months, and head back to journalism in Delhi, where the electronic media had taken roots in form of several television news companies, but he got veered into Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Socha Na Tha’ as an Executive Producer. His next movies were with Yash Raj Films’ Dhoom, Dhoom 2 and Kaabul Express.
Then, he decided to branch out and started as an independent producer with the film Shoonya that got screened at the Museum of Modern Arts (MOMA) and other international film festivals. He also got associated with DAR Motion Pictures as the Commissioning Producer and produced 6 films in a span of three and a half years – Ugly, Monsoon Shootout, The Lunchbox, D-Day, Mickey Virus and Peddlers. A whopping four out of the six movies got selected at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, with three getting selected in the same year, breaking all records.
Shahnaab’s most recent release was the Hindi movie Omerta, directed by Hansal Mehta. He has produced, through his Easterly Entertainment, the much anticipated Assamese film ‘Bhoga Khirikee’ (Broken Window), along with Priyanka Chopra’s Purple Pebble Pictures. Directed by Jahnu Barua, the film stars Zerifa Wahid and Joy Kashyap in lead roles.
The ace filmmaker currently has two films in the pipeline in which his Easterly Entertainment has collaborated with Ivanhoe Pictures, a mainstream Hollywood film company. While the first one is set in Assam and New York, the second is set in Rajasthan. Both the movies are still in the pre-production stage.