Meet Vishal Punjabi, the person behind wedding videos of Bollywood A-listers

Videographer Vishal Punjabi of The Wedding Filmer, who has shot wedding videos of Bollywood A-listers, on capturing hearts through this cameras

By Anu Prabhakar

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Published: Tue 7 Nov 2023, 1:16 PM

On February 10 this year, residents of the Internet logged into Instagram and a surprise video of Bollywood couple Kiara Advani and Sidharth Malhotra’s wedding lit up their screens. According to the online world’s own metric system, the wedding film was a hit – it’s been viewed 18 million times on YouTube, gotten 10,393,154 likes and launched a million Instagram reels. The video was short, but it showed just enough: the impossibly beautiful couple looked resplendent in their Manish Malhotra outfits, the bride danced down the aisle, and the couple was showered with petals as they put a ring on it. It was cinematic and yet, felt real.

Capturing it all was wedding videographer Vishal Punjabi. “She did a rehearsal to show me what she was doing. I didn’t change anything and just understood what she wanted and then tried to capture it the best way we could,” he says, when we chat.

Vishal, founder of The Wedding Filmer, has shot and produced between 360 to 500 wedding films. He has also shot the Anushka Sharma-Virat Kohli, Ranveer Singh- Deepika Padukone and the Ambani siblings Akash and Isha’s weddings. The company has been around for 13 years, but fans heaped fresh praise on the team last week when Padukone and Singh shared their wedding film for the first time on Bollywood director-producer Karan Johar’s popular chat show, Koffee with Karan.

It was a fun shoot, partly due to the kind of access that the wedding filmer was given to the stars and their families. “There shouldn’t be layers of bodyguards or family or, ‘No, I don’t want a camera around me’, because I only have two or three days to make that wedding film and it has to be epic. So the more time I spend with the couple, the better.” In fact, in the video, Vishal can be heard posing thoughtful questions to the family.

From Ghana to Bollywood

Vishal was raised in Ghana, where he didn’t get to attend too many big fat Indian weddings. “But I have seen all kinds of love stories. My parents divorced and remarried before eventually finding each other again at my sister’s wedding years later.” Diwali balls and Bollywood movies were his window into Indian culture. “I learnt to speak Hindi by watching movies,” he says, recalling that he was sure he wanted to become a filmmaker very early on. He shifted to the UK to study and in 2000, got the chance to work with none other than Shah Rukh Khan in his company Arclightz And Films Private Limited as a creative director - he was later shifted to Red Chillies Entertainment, where he worked on ads. He also worked with director-choreographer Farah Khan on her debut movie Main Hoon Na (as a production assistant and later with the VFX team), Farhan Akhtar on Don and Zoya Akhtar.

The first time Vishal thought of starting a company was when he got married in 2010 and planned his own wedding film. That video went viral on YouTube and those who saw it wanted a similar film for their own weddings. A few months later, he started The Wedding Filmer.

He entered the wedding industry when wedding videography wasn’t exactly a sought- after career. “People used to come in chappals, they used to be badly dressed … Earlier, fathers would tell their kids not to pick up a camera: they would be like, ‘Kya banoge? Shaadi ke photographer? (What will you become? A wedding photographer?). Now, it has become a respectable filmmaking career and I have seen lots of young people make some really good films all around the country.”

A still from Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone's wedding video
A still from Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone's wedding video

Shooting the stars

How often does one feel genuinely happy for celebrities? They are rich, beautiful and seem to have the best lives so, let’s face it, the answer is ‘almost never’. But Vishal and his team’s wedding films have a knack of drawing the viewer in and making these celestial beings seem more accessible and human by capturing personal moments, the love and longing in the looks they exchange, and their families’ beaming faces. And if there is anything better than seeing gorgeous couples, it’s seeing gorgeous couples in love.

“The idea was always to shoot with respect,” explains Vishal. “I have seen photographers who lie down on the floor, trying to get that low angle shot when the bride walks in. I feel like those spaces are sacred. The bride is walking towards the groom - don’t cross or block it. You have to be inconspicuous when you are doing this - you cannot be in their face.”

“My expertise and experience comes in being able to be at the right place at the right time, and capture the magic,” he continues. Nothing, he repeats, is scripted. “I really enjoy the realism of what I do.” Vishal also composes music for the films and has an entire team to craft the perfect background score.

The first Bollywood wedding as we know it today was the ultra-private Anushka Sharma-Virat Kohli wedding in Tuscany, Italy which had about 42 guests. Vishal and his team learnt who their clients were only once they were close to the shoot date. “But we had a certain sense because everybody was talking about it. There wasn’t much prep that we could do apart from understanding the location, the bride and groom, and spending time with their families. Only three people could film it.” They also have a few security measures in place to protect the privacy of their A-list clients. “We have codenames so that we don’t use names outright in the calendar, notes or messages.” In previous interviews, he had spoken about how he ensures that the film doesn’t leave the studio. “The hardest part is keeping your mouth shut when you are really excited about something,” he smiles.

Quick takes

The strangest experience: “Once, the groom got replaced in the middle of a wedding… There was also a celebrity couple who got married and before I could give them their wedding film, they parted ways. So I never got paid the balance of what I was owed.”

His favourite wedding: That’s a bit like asking a parent to choose a favourite child, says Vishal, but he remembers an ‘intense’ wedding in Dubai where the bride was Afghani-Pakistani and the groom a Jain. “They faced a lot of challenges due to family, religion and culture. But they persisted and love won.”

The UAE as a wedding destination: “We come to the UAE two or three times a year. My clientele tends to be Indians or of mixed race. So most of them are intercultural weddings – I did weddings where a French boy married a Malayali girl, and a Greek boy married a Pakistani girl. So you end up doing very sweet, beautiful weddings in the UAE.”

His favourite wedding ritual: “I really love the nikkah. When the maulana starts giving duas at the end of a nikkah, I tear up every single time. It’s so full of love and compassion that it moves you.”

What needs change in weddings: “Misogyny. And animals like horses with drums and fireworks – it’s not fair to the animals and there is no place for it anymore.”

How to book them: Vishal advises contacting them as soon as the wedding date is fixed. Rates start from around 10,000 pounds.

About love: “I’ve spoken to 500 brides, 500 grooms, 2000 parents and 4000 grandparents. And they’ve all talked to me about love and family… I come from a broken home and I do have a broken home myself and that has been hard to deal with. So you do learn lessons from all these weddings when you talk to people. You kind of understand how they’ve held it together and hope that one day, you’ll get the chance to hold it together too.”

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