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50 years later, FTII needs more

entertainment Updated: Mar 27, 2010 15:18 IST
Serena Menon
Serena Menon
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

India’s biggest film studies institute completes half a century of churning out industry technicians this year. Names of renowned alumni from this school are seen and heard of most regularly in the media circuit today. While most celebrity graduates can’t stop raving about the excellence of the institution, some loyal members of Graftii — the alumni association of FTII — feel there is a lot that needs to be done within those walls.

“At the end of the day, it is a government-run institution,” begins Jabeen Merchant, who is an integral part of Graftii, a professional editor and a former student of the college who is also associated with FTII through her workshops. “If the institute needs to be taken forward, they need to do it with people who care about the cause and understand the nature of the need. The people who comprise of the core committees of the institute are bureaucrats. A film institute should, at least, have practising filmmakers taking those calls.”

Cinematographer Dharam Gulati also a member of Graftii, says: “No one has ever asked the alumni to be a part of the committee that is working towards bettering FTII, when we are the ones who have been actively associated with FTII even after all these years.” The issue, which over the last 10 years has escalated, is that of recruitment of teaching staff for the college. Since they are required to be permanent employees, the college does not get apt professional candidates for the vacancies.

“There is also a lot of pressure from the top to modernise the institution quickly. Today, they have increased the number of students per batch, but the facilities remain the same,” said Merchant. “Some students of one batch get to finish their diploma film in time and arrive in the city for jobs, while others lag behind because facilities on the campus are still struggling to cope.”

Though they agree that in the ’70s, FTII was cutting edge, now they need to make certain improvements and changes to maintain its premier tag.
“FTII needs people who have the vision to give direction to the new change; people who understand filmmaking, because when you change something there, as the saying goes, you can’t throw out the baby with the bath water; you have to retain the value of the place and make it better.”
As part of their celebration, this entire year will be packed with film festivals and workshops.

‘Today everyone wants instant Maggie noodles!’says Shabana Azmi

As a student at St Xavier’s College, I used to win all the Inter-Collegiate awards for acting and I knew acting was going to be my vocation. I chanced upon some diploma films made by FTII students and loved Jaya Bhaduri in Suman. Her acting was spontaneous — quite unlike the standard norms of acting in Hindi cinema prevalent at that time. That’s when I decided to join FTII. Those two years at FTII were the best years of my life.

I place training very high on value. I accept there are fine actors like Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan who have done splendidly, but training is like polishing a raw diamond. The talent has to be inherent, but training helps you to acquire technique and skill.

I would absolutely recommend this school. I find it laughable when people believe you can learn acting in three months! Today, everyone wants instant Maggie noodles! One must continue to watch, observe, store and find resources from life itself.

It was a pity that the acting course was discontinued. But we definitely need many more institutes to impart training and provide such exposure. My aesthetics have been defined by European and Japanese cinema and not the standard Hollywood stuff that is easily available. I feel film appreciation should be introduced in schools if we want cinema literate audiences. You can’t show people only Bollywood and expect them to start loving international cinema automatically at 21.

‘I was so insecure when I came out of FTII’says Mithun Chakraborty

No FTII student can ever forget those two years he or she spends there, while learning the various techniques involved in the process of filmmaking, including the technicalities and acting. I was raw when I entered the premises of the institute. I was taken aback because it was so overwhelming and empowering an experience. Back then, it took a lot of effort to make it into a premier institution. The acting course chisels your personality in a way that no other institute can. I didn’t know what was happening there. I didn’t know what would happen once I stepped out with my degree. There’s so much insecurity and ambiguity as you make your way out, but you still enjoy your life there because of the atmosphere and the teachers. It’s an enormous achievement for my institute. Hail FTII!
— As told to Rachana Dubey

Fiery Past
The current premises of the National Film Archive of India were granted to the organisation only after a fire broke out in the Film and Television Institute of India. No one knows the real reason of the fire breakout. However, there are rumours of some internal grudges between the NFAI and FTII at that time. Some also say that the accident allegedly happened since the films were not stored appropriately, and the nitrate-based prints are highly inflammable. On January 8, 2003, over 1,700 prints of films and over 250 original and only prints of films that comprise of our history were lost forever. NFAI now has been transferred to an enclosure near FTII and has been upgraded with state-of-the-art techniques of preservation.

‘I had no faith in the FTII degree’says Shatrugan Sinha

My institute has turned 50! I was someone with no film background. When I started out at a grass root level, without any backing from anywhere, all I had was my degree from FTII. I didn’t know a thing about acting when I took admission there. When I stepped out of the institution, I had no faith in the degree because I didn’t know who would give me work. I didn’t resemble a popular actor. My course taught me to be unique in my work. The quantity of work doesn’t matter. The work should be impressive. This is something that everyone who’s passed out from there would agree with. It’s a pleasure to call myself an FTII pass out.

Famous alumni
These are some of the noted artistes in several areas of film production that FTII has produced: Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Balu Mahendra, Mani Kaul, John Abraham, Shaji N. Karun, Girish Kasaravalli, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Subhash Ghai, Mahesh Bhatt, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Kumar Shahani, Shyam Benegal, Shekhar Kapoor, David Dhavan, Sriram Raghavan, Santosh Sivan, Asrani, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Mukesh Khanna, Gufi Paintal, Vijay Arora, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Mithun Chakraborty, Amrish Puri, Ramachandra Babu, Santosh Thundiyil, Rajeev Ravi, Resul Pookutty, Rajkumar Hirani, Rakesh Bedi, Prakash Jha, Kundan Shah, Govind Nihalani, Danny Denzongpa, Satish Kaushik, Rehana Sultan, Kanwerjit Paintal, Raza Murad, Tom Alter and Shatrughan Sinha, among others.