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FTII films: A view of the future

Diploma films made by students of the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII) have been consistently making their presence felt in recent years. Saibal Chatterjee does a round-up of the films made by this year's students.

india Updated: May 03, 2006 18:39 IST
WIDE ANGLE | Saibal Chatterjee
WIDE ANGLE | Saibal Chatterjee

Diploma films made by students of the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII) have been consistently making their presence felt in recent years, both at the National Awards and in the Indian Panorama. The FTII authorities are now making all-out efforts to boost the outreach of these films.

As part of this strategy, the institute organised a daylong festival of 16 of its best diploma films of 2004-2005 in Mumbai in September, when a double DVD set of these short fiction works was also released. Nine of the 16 films were screened in Delhi on May Day.

Lensight, the festival of FTII diploma films, is of course only in its first year. Says Tripurari Sharan, director of the institute: “FTII is India’s premier film school and the diploma films made by our students travel to different parts of the world. They aren’t, however, seen in the national capital since IFFI moved to Goa. Hence this festival.”

Of course, more than that, Lensight is an attempt to give young filmmakers an opportunity to get noticed by the industry. What one was treated to at the Delhi festival was encouraging, to say the least.

These, says UR Ananthamurthy, Jnanpith award-winning writer and chairman of the FTII Society, “are our best young talents.” His confidence has been repaid quite handsomely by FTII latest batch of alumni.

A still from Krrish. The film is being much talked about for its specials effects, which is rare to find in Bollywood.

Will the fresh crop from the Film & Television Institute of India bring some sea changes to the film making techniques here?

In terms of thematic depth and cinematic flourishes, the nine short fiction films showed that the future of Indian cinema is in safe hands. Amit Dutta’s experimental

Kshya Tra Ghya

(X Y Z) is an audaciously quirky and stylised tribute to India’s hoary storytelling traditions. He strings together stray yet related narrative vignettes with a remarkable degree of self-assurance.

Much the same could be said of Dheeraj Singh’s Aadi Aarambh, a wonderfully nuanced exploration of memories and forebodings, past and future, the forgotten and the unforgettable. Here, too, it is the control on the medium that stands out.

Shilpi Dasgupta’s Sanshodhan is an emotionally affecting study the effects of deep-rooted social prejudices on a group of women preparing for a Ram Navami performance and courageous efforts by an individual to overcome them.

Jasmine Kaur’s Saanjh presents a lonely old man on the verge of senility. Interestingly, these and the other films in the package deal with dark, sombre themes – but they are livened up by the youthful energy of the making.

Also in the screening schedule were Ganga Mukhi’s Punha, Umesh Kulkarni’s Girni, Pankaj Purandare’s Dwijaa, and Manisha Dwivedi’s Saankal.

In a year in which an Indian film student – Satyajit Ray Film & television Institute’s Anirban Dutta – has made history by breaking into the official selection of the 59th Cannes Film Festival, it is only apt that FTII has made the move to recognize the first filmic forays of its alumni.

In addition to the recent diploma films, FTII has also just released another double DVD set of 20 films made by some of the more talented students that have passed through its portals in the past 40 years. On the DVD are films featuring the likes of Jaya Bhaduri, Smita Patil and Shatrughan Sinha, among many others, in the first roles of their careers.

This DVD, titled Master Strokes, brings together diploma films made by the likes of Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Murder on Monkey Hill), Girish Kasaravalli (Awashesh), Arun Khopkar (Teevra Madhyam) and Kundan Shah (Bonga).

Says Tripurari Sharan: “We have absolutely no dearth of wonderful films to choose from. We will release more such films on DVDs in the future.”

The unique aspect of a student film is obviously its refreshing youthfulness. It is not without reason that one Ananthamurthy’s personal favourites from Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s formidable oeuvre is the diploma film that he made when he passed out of FTII in the institute’s early years. “I have seen the film. It is really great. It is full of self-deprecatory humour.”

Indeed, as aspiring filmmaker Dhiraj Meshram, whose Oadh was screened in the Lensight festival, points out, these diploma films capture the essence of “all that we have learnt at the institute and all that we are about”.

Meshram, a resident of Amravati, Maharashtra, is currently working on the script of his first feature film. Will the spirit of freedom that propelled Oadh fire his foray into the real world of moviemaking as well? That will provide the ultimate measure of the efficacy of his film education.

First Published: May 03, 2006 18:39 IST