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Meet the first woman technician trained at FTII Pune

Her autobiography ‘Freedom: My story’, published by Harper Collins India, recounts the challenges she faced as a filmmaker and ways she tackled them unflinchingly

pune Updated: Jul 01, 2017 17:32 IST
Prachi Bari
Arunaraje Patil is the first woman technician to be trained at the FTII, Pune.
Arunaraje Patil is the first woman technician to be trained at the FTII, Pune.(HT Photo)

“It will be 50 years when I will walk into the gates of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), said Arunaraje Patil (70) as she remembers her first time inside the campus. The first time was when Vasant Desai and his family took me to the Institute for an audition for acting which she didn’t do well. The Institute personnel then suggested that she try the technical courses that were offered. 

She is the first woman technician to be trained at the FTII and will be reading excerpts from her autobiography Freedom: My story at her alma mater on Saturday. Published by Harper Collins India, the book recounts the challenges she faced as a filmmaker and the ways in which she faced life’s challenges unflinchingly. 

I had it in my mind to write down my memoirs for quite some time but nothing happened until Sathya Saran, editor Harper Collins approached me to write my memoirs. It was already there, the stories, all the things I experienced, were jotted on paper, hence it took me about 3 to 4 months to put it all together.”

A lot of the stories are of Arunaraje growing up, of being a girl, during a time when there were not many career options. A first class first student, Arunaraje got into Grant Medical College and in the first year she flunked Anatomy. “I had great marks in Physiology but it was a shock for my mother too when she saw my marks in Anatomy. Somehow my mind was set on movies. I hated medicine and finally my mother realised my passion for movies and took me to the FTII,” she said.

Arunaraje’s family was in Bangalore then, and she would often go to Mumbai during vacations. She used to get many offers to act in films, and often met directors and producers while travelling in her vacations. “But my friends and family would tell me stories of young girls being exploited if you don’t have good training and thus I landed in FTII, thanks to my dynamic mother,” she said. 

Arunaraje was offered a double diploma in direction and editing and by the end of first year, she had already won a gold medal too. It was while she was at the institute that she met and fell in love with Vikas Desai whom she married later. 

Her first tryst with a feature length film was in the institute where she edited a film called Jai Jawan, Jai Makan. Arunaraje always wanted to be a director. “Direction is the ultimate expression, it is a very creative way of telling a story. It is you who decides how the story flows,” she explained. 

“It was the best period of my life where I was directing films with Vivek and was blessed with a sweet daughter Gaagi and son Hith. Life had given me everything until my daughter was diagnosed with cancer and I couldn’t do anything to save her. She was 9-years-old. There was to be another dark cloud in her life when her husband announced a day after her daughter’s death of his involvement with her best friend, asking for a divorce. This was the day that broke her. 

Describing this as the lowest point in her life, the filmmaker described her journey towards acceptance and forgiveness as she adopted the mantra, 'Let it go'. “My search was always for freedom and I realised that if you want freedom, you have to be responsible for your own life and everything that has happened,” she said, emphasising the need for compassion. 

Her exploration of the relationships between men and women in her films are seen through her come back directoral film Rihaee where she went on to create a new equation, understanding between each other and not being threatened by each other. 

She is amidst meetings for new films that she wants to begin, one in Marathi called ‘Fire brand’ and another in English cross over film ‘India Calling’.