A Conversation with a widely celebrated filmmaker and an IIFT | Delhi & Kolkata Student – Amrit Mahapatra

Amrit Mahapatra is a student of MBA (International Business) of 2014-16 batch at Kolkata campus of Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. He has worked as a Senior Engineer for Adani Power Ltd. But what is truly incredible about him is that he has directed several short films and documentaries with some of them going on to win awards in International and National film festivals. The pinnacle of his amateur career came when his film ‘The Prisoner’ was appreciated by none other than Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Bannerjee, in an international film festival organized by a leading website.

Editorial Board: You have been a critically acclaimed director with your work having been appreciated by the likes of cinematic icons like Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Bannerjee etc. So how come this shift to academics and more specifically, MBA?

Amrit: Though I would love to call myself a ‘ director ‘ (my IIFT friends have a fun time pulling my leg over it), I think ‘ ex Mechanical engineer who makes short movies in his spare time ‘ would be more closer to the truth. As I never went full time into this hobby cum passion of mine, the transition to MBA-dom was not that difficult. As any engineer cum MBA would testify, the sentence ‘transition to academics’ would be pushing it a bit too far, as MBA for me till now has been everything apart from academics. On a serious note , having made films and being a person with the oft repeated, much abused phrase- ‘creative bent of mind’, has helped me in a myriad of ways- from seeing business case studies through multiple unique viewpoints to it being a good talking point in my interviews. More importantly, I feel, making a short film has more to do with the art of management than a sudden burst of imagination. You have to work under the constraints of resources and time while trying to get a number of diverse people to strive towards making that story in your head, a reality. Which is not too different from what MBAs do every day in the corporate world.

Editorial Board: How has the transition been from a filmmaker to a student?

Amrit: The biggest and the most challenging part of the transition has been waking up and reaching the 9 AM Strategic Management class taken by our Director – Dr Rangarajan, on time. Jokes apart, it has been a roller coaster ride for me, complete with some great highs, a few lows and many unforgettable moments with some unforgettable people. The fact that this would be steepest learning curve of my life, was established in the 1st few week itself in the IAP programme taken by our seniors. Sticking to a intentionally designed backbreaking schedule, surprise quizzes, completing an avalanche of assignments, all while trying to meet the much dreaded EOD deadline are all part and parcel of MBA life. This has taught me the virtues of discipline and the importance of prioritizing certain things over others. With so much to do in so little time, this comes in handy.

Editorial Board: You had final admission offers from other Top-10 MBA institutes as well. Why did you choose Kolkata campus of IIFT ?

Amrit: IIFT, with its rich 51 year old legacy, was always my dream college, right from my engineering days. The MBA in International Business programme of IIFT is the best in India. Apart from that I get the chance to major in Trade, a stream for which IIFT is acclaimed all over Asia. With a transparent and centralized admission as well as placement process, Kolkata campus of IIFT was as good a choice as Delhi Campus. The only factor which made the decision a bit difficult, was the infrastructural issues that Kolkata campus has. But with its own state of the art campus coming up from the next academic year, made all these issues moot. Before making my final decision, I talked with some of the seniors from Kolkata campus, and I am glad they gave a true and honest perspective to the whole thing instead of just giving a rosy picture, which I had come to expect. Since the that fateful day I made my decision; I have been taught by some globally renowned Professors, made some life-long friends, managed to secure an internship in a good company and have had the time of my life. Hence have got no regrets at all.

Editorial Board: How has the experience been at IIFT so far? Has the journey been fulfilling enough?

Amrit: ‘Fulfilling’ wouldn’t even began to describe the mind numbing, jaw dropping, exhilarating journey it has been so far. It hasn’t been easy, nor it has been all rosy and beautiful, but it has been worth it. As any MBA graduate would agree, these 2 years are among the busiest times of their lives, with intense pressure both external and internal. What makes the journey worthwhile is some great mentors in the form of Professors and seniors, who use their experience to give clarity to our career aspirations while creating opportunities and an environment conducive enough for us to flourish. And fellow classmates and friends who make the journey fun and enriching. In both these aspects, IIFT has given me more than I could ever ask for.

Editorial Board: IIFT has one of the most dynamic as well as diverse bunch of students. Please tell us about interactions with your fellow batch mates.

Amrit: Suffice to say, that my interactions with my fellow classmates has been and will be my most important takeaway from these 2 years that I will be spending in IIFT. The fact is, that even after doing more than 500 hours of classes and giving exams and quizzes for 27 subjects (and counting!) till now, I have learned more outside the classroom than in it. Kolkata campus of IIFT boasts of a truly diverse batch-strength. Being around a bunch of extremely smart, ambitious and motivated people, makes you pull up your own socks. At the same time, the diversity ensures that I get to learn about things and see perspectives which make for a well-rounded personality, essential to excel in this competitive world.

Editorial Board: Any message for your friends and readers, especially the IIFT aspirants?
Amrit: Well, I think I have a long way to go before I can even think of being pompous enough to give something in the vicinity of an advice. What I CAN say to IIFT aspirants though is to spend some time going through the IIFT entrance paper. The format is a bit different from the CAT which most aspirants are used to, and it requires and tests slightly different skills. The entrance exam and the admission process of IIFT is designed in such a way to let an aspirant focus on his/her strengths while giving someone with weak past academics a fair chance, which most of the other top 10 B schools don’t. As someone with 65% in his engineering graduates, I think I am in the best position to testify to that. So keep calm, work hard, don’t take yourself too seriously and get set for the best 2 years of your life. As has been the case with me, it won’t be easy, but I can assure you, it would be all worth it in the end. And that’s the most that anyone can ask for. All the best!

Abhinav Srivastava

Amazon | IIFT Kolkata | NIT Jalandhar