Why IIITH alumnus Mohit Dubey writes codes by day and plots at night

A software engineer by profession, Award-winning short film-maker Mohit Dubey harbored a secretive imaginary world, working on screenplays for movies and frameworks for fiction novels in his spare time. He elaborates about his IIIT Hyderabad days and the passions that drive him.

It was a bumpy ride for alumnus Mohit Dubey, a software engineer at Adobe, who was torn between a successful IT career and pursuing his creative aspirations. It was, thus, a deep sense of accomplishment when his debut short-film Adrishya won the Best Editing Award at the 6th Hollywood Shorts Reels in 2023.

The young wannabe film-maker was entranced by the Hogwartian realm, ever since he picked up his first Harry Potter novel in middle school. While coding was a part of his day job, his spare time was invested in building his celluloid dreams, writing storylines and short stories, reading up on his role models and finessing his craft. “That creative bug was incubated by J K Rowling’s and Dan Brown’s mysticism infused novels”, he states. “I knew that I would make a film or write a novel, when I was ready”.

Orientation towards Computer Science
A native of Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, Mohit pegged himself as a “regular studious guy” in school, who played cricket and football, watched movies and read fiction. In 2012, he followed his older brother Kartik to IIIT Hyderabad, joining the ECE stream.  “I was always more inclined towards computer science and the Institute provided such a great environment that I could easily develop and hone my software skills despite doing the Major in ECE, where I seriously struggled”, he recalls. “In the 3rd year, I was thrilled to bag an internship with Progress, because it was a CSE-based internship! Being away from home for the first time and hostel life in a new city was a liberating experience. There was also that sense of achievement, of having successfully combated the competitive exams and the campus experience seemed like the reward!”

Lots of bonding and some sledging
There were several bonding moments and punches of accomplishment for Mohit. Participating in the ICPC coding contest, with friends who were some of the top-coders of the batch, being a regular volunteer for the R&D Showcase, the hostel vibe and  playing cricket in the college, usually under a scorching sun made some great memories. “My brother was in the 3rd year when I joined and in one match, we were pitted against his classmates. I remember the light-hearted sledging and that we ended up defeating them”, he laughs.

Never to waste a good crisis
A few months before his final semester, Mohit’s campus placement with a US-based startup was unfortunately cancelled. It would eventually turn out to be a blessing in disguise, because he moved to Mumbai for his first job as a software developer. At Ridlr, a startup, his team designed the QR codes for commuters of Mumbai Metro. He immersed himself fully into the can-do spirit of tinsel town and into his work. It was the right place to kickstart his writing career.

When the opportunity presented itself, he moved to a bigger start-up, Bangalore-based Grab, that was Uber’s counterpart in Southeast Asia. In February 2020, he would return to Hyderabad to join Microsoft. “While I gained valuable experience working in these companies and was able to successfully navigate my Software Engineering career, I was also struggling to understand if my comforts were holding me back from pursuing my creative passion”.

After 3.5 years of work experience and living in two different cities, he had the satisfaction of catching up with his IIITH friends in Hyderabad. “Being in IIITH’s tech-driven environment, I was extremely secretive about my creative side. At last now, I am able to discuss my goals in a manner that we had not done in college”, he adds.

Software solutions and celluloid dreams
While the mindless entertainment of blockbuster movies was a  childhood favourite, Mohit started watching meaningful content  as he grew up. Hollywood flicks, good foreign cinema with like-minded movie buffs who were well versed with different genre, became the norm.

When I first moved to Bombay, I dabbled in poetry and tried my hand at writing a few short stories but was not impressed with my work”, says the film-maker who wanted to write in pristine English with an eloquent flair and knew that he was setting the bar unrealistically high. “I quickly realised that I was better at screenwriting, where it was less about the grasp of language and more about your ability to imagine a scene”. That was the background for Adrishya.

Adrishya and the Unseen talent
Shooting for Adrishya happened in 2020. The budget film was shot within one lakh rupees.  The movie is set in a suburban scenario, and the central plot revolves around dreams and a self-fulfilling prophecy. On a holiday to Jabalpur, his hometown, Mohit met  Tejas, his childhood school friend.  He and his  brother Tanay ran a videography business, and had recently shot a short film and a music video. “I was confident that they would be the best people to handle my storyboard”, he remarks. “When it came down to actually making the movie, it was a bit daunting when it dawned on me that the film director tag comes with a big weight. One must bring something exceptional to the table. I deep-dived into Anurag Kashyap’s work and a Quentin Tarantino interview, where he explains that the director’s role is to articulate his ideas to professionals who help in turning that idea into reality”.

Jabalpur has a vibrant theatre scene, having contributed plenty of talent to the Bollywood film industry. Mohit got in touch with Vivechana, a theatre production company who helped with casting the actors. Tejas and Tanay helped him with all aspects of film-making  like cinematography, screenplay and editing.

The movie was shot in a bungalow owned by Tanay’s client who was away from Jabalpur. “We had a free hand and shot over 3 days, working 14-15 hrs and time just flew”. The short film was entered into different film festivals on the Film Freeway website. “We were pleasantly surprised when our entry won at the Mokkho and Triloka international film festivals. The Hollywood Shorts Reels was a prestigious award for Best Editing that gave us a sense of validation”, says the writer-director who had tasted sweet success with his very first film.

Some ideas for the short film came from his natural inclination for suspense, thriller and mind bending movies, like Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Shutter Island.  Adrishya was a figment of his imagination but “I was inspired by a crazy theory called backward causation in quantum mechanics. My next goal is to make a second short film and focus on writing good scripts and see where that takes me”, he notes.

Daydreaming his way into an alternate career
“My first Harry Potter novel that I had borrowed from my brother’s friend, ignited my imaginary world”, observes Mohit who completed his schooling at Joy Senior Secondary School. His mother was a former teacher who fluidly moved into her role as mentor for the family, to support his father who worked with SBI. About his directorial career, Mohit says, “When you get even remotely associated with movies, it becomes a very exciting proposition and my family is very happy. My father didn’t believe that I had actually written the story”.

Mohit got married earlier this year to  Urvashi who works for Microsoft as a Product Manager, also a IIITH alumnus from the same batch. Mohit believes that she is the perfect bouncing board and her blunt feedback is priceless. Both enjoy traveling and recently returned from an African safari in Kenya and Tanzania. “Catching up with friends seems to be mostly during weddings these days”, he laughs. “My friends must have had a good time at my wedding two months back and we are now looking forward to the wedding of another batch mate”.  Playing tennis, swimming and gaming are the things that give him most joy because of the instant gratification. He loves rock and Hindi film music and non-fiction books like Homo Deus and Atomic Habit, tops his reading list.

“What’s exciting on the horizon is a short film that I have recently produced. It has done the circuit of a few festivals and has done well in one category. My hope is to get a second reel out this year. While my day job drives the routine, my writing happens on a very ad hoc basis,” he confesses. “My final destination is to make the switch completely to movie-making”, sums up Mohit.

Deepa Shailendra is a freelance writer for interior design publications; an irreverent blogger, consultant editor and author of two coffee table books. A social entrepreneur who believes that we are the harbingers of the transformation and can bring the change to better our world.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Next post