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Date: 31st January 2018
Category: Humans of D98  

TM Santosh is from Accenture Hyderabad Toastmasters Club. An IT engineer by profession, but a filmmaker at heart.

As a 13-year-old kid, I happened to watch a highly intriguing, imploring and inspiring movie on aliens. At the end of the movie, a gigantic spaceship left the earth leaving the words ‘A Steven Spielberg film' on the screen. At that very moment, a voice from within whispered, "You should be a filmmaker! You could be anything in between, but your ultimate ambition should be to be a filmmaker."

But why did I want to be a film guy? It's because a filmmaker can live multiple lifetimes. As a passionate filmmaker, you can express emotions and feelings ranging from the fear of a child crossing a dark room to the love that a young couple express after their first kiss; to the nostalgic moments of an ageing woman. I wanted to feel the infinite spectrum of stories that can be felt, told and remembered.

But just passion was not enough and the question, ‘How would I pursue this dream?' became prevalent–I HAD NO IDEA!

Coming from a lower-middle-class family, I had neither family members nor contacts in the film industry and was not able to go to film school. But thanks to the internet, I could read books related to film crafts at home. I networked with aspiring filmmakers and did a lot of self-study.

Putting knowledge to practice, I initially started with low-budget films. The first one was a 90-minute independent English film. The second was a biography of a veteran Kuchipudi dancer I met while working as a script assistant in Hyderabad. A real opportunity came to me when my cousin asked me to be a film director in a Telugu comedy short film. This film brought me a lot of recognition! I went on to make varied films including documentaries on social subjects, a sentimental film, a comedy short film and most recently a science fiction short film which is very close to my heart.

I made a film called ‘River of Time' while working in the US and being closely associated with Toastmasters. It was a time-travel science fiction story and an amalgamation of my Spielberg induced dream and the confidence instilled in me by Toastmasters. I finished writing the initial screenplay, and with the help of my dear Toastmaster mentor Karl, we finally managed to polish the script for shooting after 5 rewrites. Despite having no formal film education, I achieved my dream of becoming the "Director!"

The film has been screened at the Pune International Film Festival and awarded "Best Innovative Film". At the Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival, it has received ‘Special Mention for Excellence Award'. The film is not available on the internet yet but I plan to screen it at a mini theatre in Hyderabad soon.

Since then, I have been able to make connections with a lot of people in the Telugu film industry, with many upcoming writing assignments and offers to write full-length film screenplays. Once I am through these, I want to write more and convince actors that my scripts are bankable to be made into entertaining, challenging films, and then my break into feature films will officially happen!

That teenager who dreamt of becoming something special years ago while watching a Spielberg film made it. I respect him, I respect his intuition to dream big, to dream different, and to pursue the road less trodden. I respect his courage to face and fight insurmountable circumstances.

I want to set an example, I want to succeed so that when somebody comes across a similar child who aspires to become big, I can proudly say "I tried, I overcame my difficulties and became successful. Be brave and follow your dreams!"

- Edited and compiled by Disha

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