I’m not a filmmaker but I adore the notion of the medium. And the theory behind the art form totally fascinates me. So, I’m amused and outraged in equal measure by the ongoing Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) madness. It’s playing out like a bad Hindi movie. I don’t know if the institute is still the force it was in the 1970s and ’80s. But it is still our most prestigious cinema school. And its Pune location makes it a little haven tucked away far, far from the maddening crowd of Bollywood.
True technicians who want to learn the science of celluloid come here. They are prepared to ‘sacrifice’ five years of their adult lives to understand the craft of filmmaking, and be fully trained before they step out into the real, harsh world that awaits them.
I studied there briefly in the early ’80s. Back then, the institute ran a short course called Film Appreciation.
For six weeks, while the regular diploma students were on vacation, the part timers moved into the hostel. And learnt about world cinema, both past and present. You were exposed to movies, unscarred by time and termites. And when you were done, multiple visits to your Bombay optician were mandatory.
For those 45 days, in 1985, I was exposed to 300 classics, both feature and documentary, silent and sub-titled. German expressionist cinema, the various French movements; spearheaded by Jean Renoir, Jean Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. The mighty Japanese helmed by Kurosawa, Oshima, Ozu and Mizoguchi. The Italians, who were represented by De Sica, Fellini, Rossellini and Antonoioni. The Czech, the Spaniards, and the Russians led by Eisenstein. I saw them all, in the darkened auditorium of the FTII.
The mid-80s also saw Indian parallel cinema hit its peak. Everyone of those directors, many of them FTII alumni, swung by to show us the first cut of their new films — Vidhu Vinod Chopra showed us Khamoshi, Ketan Mehta, his shoe string budgetted Holi, and Gautam Ghosh, his Paar. Saeed Mirza, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Govind Nihalani made guest appearances.
You never sensed the presence of the government at this idyllic institute.
All that’s about to change. The new chairman, Gajendra Chauhan is probably a lovely man, at least according to his mother. But the fact that he’s a BJP gent, an RSS appointee, who has acted in C-graders titled Jungle Love and Khuli Khidki, whose biggest claim to fame is that he played Yudhisthira, will now oversee the FTII is truly spooky. Clearly, no one in our film world is happy with him. There are delegations being formed and dharnas planned. Everyone from Ranbir Kapoor to Shabana Azmi is pissed off.
And Chauhan is thinking, Man I took on the entire Kaurava army, what is one Mr Anupam Kher!
And I’m thinking, dude, being head of the Pandavas is one thing; head of the premier film institute of India, quite another.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.