Faheem and Anish Go to Hollywood
They came. They filmed. They conquered.
They are Faheem Ahmed ’09 and Anish Patel ’09, who entered the “Oscar Correspondent Contest” sponsored by MTV’s 24-hour college network and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The prize was the chance to hobnob with the stars on the red carpet while serving as special mtvU correspondents for the Academy Awards ceremony. All they had to do to win was impress film professionals and a huge, video-savvy audience.
The competition called for teams of two student journalists to submit short videos explaining why they would make great correspondents for the 81st Academy Awards. Ten semifinalist teams were selected, and online voters narrowed the list to three and finally selected Ahmed and Patel as the winners.
The duo knew they’d be up against some tough competition, so they pulled out their unconventional wisdom to create a two-minute video essay that broke the mold of typical contest entries in which hopefuls list reasons they should be chosen. Ahmed suited up in a tuxedo, grabbed a microphone and began interviewing other Rice students, who acted as celebrities.
“Most of it was improv,” Ahmed said. “Anish and I would see someone we knew on campus, grab them and explain to them quickly what we were doing. Then we’d come up with a celebrity for them to be and go from there. Everyone was happy to help.”
The finalists were then asked to do a short follow-up video about people they were looking forward to meeting at the Oscars. While the other contestants listed celebrity names, the Rice students used a Bollywood-style dance number to show their hopes of meeting the cast of “Slumdog Millionaire,” the Oscar-winning film set in Mumbai, India.
“I can’t wait to ask the directors how they take the written word and turn it into a motion picture,” Ahmed said before leaving for his assignment. “But we’re also excited to ask actress Freida Pinto if she’s single — you know, get answers to the important questions.” Pinto was lead actress in “Slumdog Millionaire.”
A trip to the 81st Academy Awards might not be a professional milestone for most premed students, but Ahmed and Patel, both members of the highly selective Rice University/Baylor College of Medicine Medical Scholars Program, are anything but conventional. Their love for medicine is matched perhaps only by their love for entertaining others. Actively involved in Rice Sketch Comedy and the South Asian Society, both students dream of going to medical school, practicing medicine and then becoming medical correspondents.
“This experience gave us a glimpse into how the media influences people,” Patel said. “We would like to use that influence to help and entertain people.”
“I don’t know if I’d say it changed my life,” Ahmed said, “but it definitely impacted my career path.”
Did they accomplish their objective of meeting the cast of “Slumdog Millionaire”?
“Interviewing them was definitely the most memorable part of the night,” Patel said. “Their story is incredible. Not just the movie, but also the people who played those characters. It’s probably the biggest transition ever seen at the Oscars — from the slums of Mumbai to the red carpet of Hollywood.”
“The kids were my favorite because they were the most genuine and were so excited to be there,” Ahmed said. “Like us, it was their first time on the red carpet. They reflected a lot of what we were feeling — that happiness and excitement, that ‘I can’t believe this is happening to me.’”
Ahmed and Patel asked the children to show them some dances, but unfortunately, that didn’t help them win the affections of Freida Pinto.
“I blurted out, ‘I’m in love with you,’” Ahmed recalled. “But then I turned to Dev Patel [the film’s male lead] and told him I felt the same way about him. You know, I had to cover my tracks.”
Among others they got to meet were Danny Boyle, Frank Langella, Danny Glover, Marisa Tomei, Anthony Hopkins, Queen Latifa and Baz Luhrmann. They also got to interview Oscar winners in the backstage pressroom and attend the Governor’s Ball.
“It was exciting to see how it feels to be a celebrity,” Patel said, “but I definitely want to do something behind the camera. My real passion is writing.”
“I love everything about the camera,” Ahmed said. “Being in front of it or behind it, I love it. This experience made me realize I can’t discount my passion for journalism. Instead, I’ll have to find an entertaining way to do both that and medicine.”
So, could the duo take to the red carpet as Oscar hopefuls themselves?
“We definitely would want to keep medicine as our focus, but who’s to say we won’t incorporate that in some way to make something Academy Award–worthy?” Patel said. “Maybe it’s not probable. But, then again, it wasn’t probable that two students from Rice — a small private school without a journalism program — would win a contest for student journalists.”