Moody College alum brings good into the world through film
When Kovid Gupta graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2010, he had big plans. He had always known he wanted to make films in Bollywood, the cinema industry in Mumbai, India. He didn’t expect that 14 years later he’d run his own production company and have his films featured on Netflix.
Gupta graduated from UT with degrees in radio-television-film, business administration, and Asian cultures and languages. He has since wrote more than 1,000 episodes for different Hindi soap operas, worked as a director and spearheaded marketing and distribution for Bollywood films.
He also wrote two nonfiction bestsellers: “Kingdom of the Soap Queen: The Story of Balaji Telefilms,” which tells the story of Ekta Kapoor, who started the television revolution in India, and “Redrawing India: The Teach For India Story,” which chronicles Indian social activist Shaheen Mistri’s journey to provide the children of India with a quality education.
“These books were written with a goal of really motivating and inspiring people that anything is really possible if you put your mind to it,” Gupta said.
Gupta is one of four alumni who received the Texas Exes’ Outstanding Young Texas Ex Award last year, which recognizes alums under 40 for their career accomplishments and service to the University. In 2017, he was featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. A year later, he started his own independent production company, Kovid Gupta Films, with the goal of creating films that showed the goodness in the world, not just the negativity.
Gupta wants people to walk out of the theater or exit their Netflix accounts feeling uplifted and inspired to better the world and themselves.
“There’s very specific kinds of content that I like to produce,” Gupta said. “Unless I feel like it’s adding goodness to the world, I won’t put my name, face or hand on it.”
His first film, “Mind Games,” is a documentary about the realities of living with obsessive-compulsive disorder and is currently being sent to film festivals. Making a documentary is a new experience for Gupta, who said he’s learning how to capture anything and everything and discover what’s relevant to the story, rather than having a script like he’s used to.
“We are making a documentary about a very difficult topic,” Gupta said. “There’re real people talking about OCD that they’ve dealt with — the shame, the guilt, the frustrations, the stress they’ve gone through. And so there is a lot of social responsibility on our shoulders because we want to make sure we are sending the right message out, hoping this changes the world.”
The production company’s second film is about the relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Despite never meeting, Gandhi was a major influence on King’s views about nonviolent protests. The film explores how the two men had a unique thread between them without ever having a physical connection and the impact this relationship has on peaceful protests today.
“To be totally honest, I’m not doing the King and Gandhi story just for the world,” Gupta said. “I’m doing it a lot for myself also because I feel like this is a spiritual journey for me. It’s like King walked in Gandhi’s footsteps, and now I’m walking in King's footsteps.”
Gupta believes in bringing the power of goodness into the world through everything he produces and that your morals, values and work you create are the only thing you can leave behind in the world.
“I feel like you live through your art when you’re gone,” Gupta said. “Or through your mission or vision like MLK and Gandhi; they still live in the world through the beautiful movement that they left behind. So to me, I wanted to make sure I was putting out content that would live after me, that would live beyond me through the stories that they were telling.”
Gupta credits his time at Moody College for much of his success.
“I truly do believe in ‘What starts here changes the world,’” he said. “I think UT has this magical power, but I’m biased, obviously. But I feel like that has been the one thing that stayed with me after I graduated.”
Gupta said his time at UT taught him to dream big and tell life-size stories. It also gave him the friends he needed to tell them, including Rachel Immaraj, the director of “Mind Games'' and a fellow RTF graduate.
“If it weren’t for the friends that I made at UT, I don’t think I would have gone through a lot of this,” Gupta said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do the great things that I did if I didn’t have the UT friends to just be the emotional crutches for me throughout the process.”