Prashant Bhargava, an acclaimed filmmaker and commercial director known for revealing the extraordinary in the ordinary, died on May 15, 2015, at the age of 42.
Bhargava was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, his work grounded in its rhythms and spaces. The 1990 Kenwood Academy graduate described himself as “one of the first South Asians worldwide to emerge from the hip hop movement as a graffiti artist;” growing up in this community was his most beloved calling card.
Roger Ebert called him “masterful,” “a poet of cinema” who creates work that is “hypnotically beautiful.” His films are anthems of the underground: he made far-flung places feel close to home and revealed the humanity in all. His most recent work with composer Vijay Iyer, entitled “Radhe Radhe,” was commissioned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Showcased nationally, it is a journey of primal devotion and sexual desire set during the vibrant and searing celebrations of Holi, in Mathura, India.
Bhargava’s feature-length directorial debut, “Patang,” takes place in the old city of Ahmedabad, India. Woven through the stories of six people during India’s largest kite festival, “Patang” united a community torn apart by religious conflict and natural disaster. The film opened at the Berlin and Tribeca film festivals, garnering rave reviews, including four stars from Roger Ebert and acclaim as a New York Times Critics’ Pick and from the Los Angeles Times.
His other directorial efforts include “Sangam,” an “elegant and poetic evocation of immigrant angst, memory, and haunted spirituality,” (Village Voice); “Ammaji,” a documentary portrait of his grandmother; “Backwaters” and “Kashmir.” Bhargava’s filmmaking builds on his pioneering work as a commercial director and motion designer, on campaigns including “The Wire,” “Def Poetry Jam,” “Rome” and “OZ.”
Bhargava was on the Kenwood swim team, one of six students to represent the school at the 1990 National Scholastic Art Awards Exhibition and one of three winners at the 1990 Chicago Public Schools Science Fair. He also exhibited at the Illinois Junior Academy of Science Fair in 1987 and won a distinguished achievement award at the International Science Fair from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists.
Bhargava’s greatest triumph was his love and spirited devotion to his family: His parents, Vijay and Ranjana; his sister, Anurima; and to the countless many he encountered on his journeys with his smiling playfulness and unbounded passion, leaving them cherished and inspired.