Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted lives across the world, thousands of volunteers have gone above and beyond to help the most vulnerable. They have fed the hungry, kept the elderly company, provided medicines to the needy, and stepped up in any which way they can.

Some have chosen to walk down a different path to help during the lockdown—they have tapped into their considerable creative talent to share the tricks of the trade with aspirants hoping to make it. By doing so, they have not only inspired others but also ensured that those in need are taken care of. 

Satyanshu Singh is one of them. The 36-year-old Mumbai-based filmmaker was deeply troubled when the migrant crisis began after the lockdown and wondered how he could help.

Being a filmmaker, he decided to chip in the best way he could: he began conducting online lectures on cinema to raise money for several vulnerable groups. Beneficiaries included women and children in slums, migrant workers, charitable hospitals, and animals.

The initiative attracted hundreds of students from India and abroad.  Through 40 sessions—over two months—on scriptwriting, direction, and film appreciation, he managed to raise Rs 28 lakh which was directly sent to NGOs and relief funds. 

“When the coronavirus crisis started affecting India in March, I felt restless. I felt guilty for not being able to do much. I'm not rich and hence I couldn't have helped significantly with cash. Hence, I thought of conducting online lectures on cinema,” says Satyanshu.

And that’s why Satyanshu is one of Harappa’s 10 Habit Heroes, a digital initiative to celebrate ordinary citizens with a can-do spirit who have shown resilience and grit amid the suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He and the other Habit Heroes stand out for the way they embraced change through selfless acts of courage, inspiration, and civic engagement.

“Recognition for inspiring work most certainly encourages even more people to take the initiative and act to improve the lives of others, thus compounding the cycle of goodness,” says jury member and public policy expert Radha Kulkarni.

Satyanshu wears many creative hats—screenwriter, director, poet, and teacher. With his brother Devanshu, he wrote, directed, and produced Tamaash, a 32-minute Kashmiri-language film that got a special jury mention at the National Film Awards in 2014. 

As a lyricist, he has written the songs Life Yeh Mausambi Si for the film Ferrari Ki Sawaari and Door for the independent comedy Sulemani Keeda. Most recently, he and his brother wrote and directed Chintu Ka Birthday, a heartwarming tale of an Indian family living through the Iraq War in the early 2000s. It was released on the streaming platform Zee5 last month.

Given his teaching experience, the decision to spread the knowledge of his craft to help out during the crisis came naturally to Satyanshu. In the beginning, it was only him taking lessons but soon many volunteers joined in. Some students helped with designing a website with details of upcoming lectures. Reputed filmmakers like Shoojit Sircar and Vikramaditya Motwane also took sessions. 

The response was overwhelming and was not confined to the metro cities. People from small towns like Nainital, Kota, Ludhiana, and Gorakhpur joined because they often don’t have access to quality cinema education.

Each student was given the option of deciding which NGO they wanted to help. Fittingly, one of the groups that benefited from Satyanshu’s initiative was out-of-job workers from the film industry.

“As medical health professionals and the administration are fighting the social crisis and as our fellow human beings are trying to endure this crisis, this was our way of maximizing our potential, increasing our worth and contributing an amount which is way beyond what I could do on a personal basis,” Satyanshu says.

“Personally, this kept me sane. It kept me positive,” he says.

Satyanshu Singh is one of 10 Harappa Habit Heroes. Meet all the Habit Heroes here and learn more about the work of other Habit Heroes here and here. Explore topics such as Self AwarenessCharisma and Resilience Examples from our Harappa Diaries blog section and take charge of your growth.

Sugita Katyal is an Associate Director with the Curriculum team at Harappa Education. A former journalist and history major, she loves watching crime shows.

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