Published: 05th May 2021
This documentary will take you inside the IIT Kharagpur campus and into the lives of its students. Check it out
This documentary series that will soon be out on Netflix was shot for over a year at IIT Kharagpur. We spoke to its creator
Thirteen years after graduating from IIT Kharagpur with an engineering degree, Prashant Raj went back to the campus once again, in October 2017. With a film crew, he stayed there for an entire academic year, observing and documenting the life inside and outside the campus and figuring out what it takes to make an IITian an IITian. The production was wrapped up in February 2019 and now, Raj and his team are all set to release their docu-series Alma Matters: Inside The IIT Dream on Netflix. The series will premiere on May 14.
"The history of our IITs is well documented and celebrated. But to understand these campuses, it is imperative to understand the vulnerabilities and inherent struggles of the students. How will grow if we harp on past glories and do not address vulnerabilities?" asks Raj. He tells us that IIT Kharagpur will always be a part of his identity and that he doesn't regret attending the institute. "It was the best thing that has happened to me," he says and adds, "I could have used my time there better. Almost every average IIT grad would say that. I learnt the process of learning there." He also tells us that a few of his other teammates too are IIT Kharagpur graduates. The co-director of the series Pratik Patra is a drop-out of the institute. "So, when we decided to make a documentary on an IIT, IIT KGP was the most obvious choice," says Raj. The series is co-produced by Raj and his sister Anu Singh Choudhary, the founders of Dopamine Media.
While the initial plan was to capture one event in the IIT and club it with a series of interviews, Raj says that later they realised that there was more to the story. He adds that the institute was quite welcoming about the project. "There was skepticism because once we got into the campus, they thought that I was another alumnus who got nostalgic and wanted to shoot. But as time passed, they realised that it was different. A few professors were really excited because nothing like this has ever been tried around the world," says Raj. At the same time, Raj says that he still does not know how he managed to get the required permissions. "I was resilient enough and the IIT had a certain trust in us. We didn't break that. I was transparent in sharing whatever we shot," he says.
Netflix taking up the project was in fact quite serendipitous for the team. Raj tells us how. "The initial plan was to crowdfund the release by conducting campaigns around the world with the help from the alumni, but that was when we went into lockdown. At that time, I found a distribution partner in Shemaroo, who took it to Netflix. Netflix was also looking for similar content at that time," he says.