Filed under: Film Musings | Tags: Argo, Farrukh Dhondy, film appreciation, film education, film review, film workshop, Lincoln, oorvazi, oorvazi irani, Oscar, oscar film review, Oscar nominee, Zero Dark Thirty
Entertainment Vs Truth
A musing by Oorvazi Irani
The recent Oscar nominees and winner have got me thinking again. Do films reflect reality or a perception of reality, or is reality and the truth anywhere in the picture. A film always has an agenda and belongs to someone. So when we view a film we need to think deeper than the plot and be aware of an undercurrent ideology that the film promotes. Sometimes intentional, sometimes in the name of formula and entertainment truth is put for sale.
I would like to quote Farrukh Dhondy(from his column Cabbages and Kings that appeared in Asian Age on March 2nd 2013) in regards the film “Lincoln” and the interesting views he puts forth
“Slavery in America was not abolished by Lincoln and his civil war but by the need of the nascent capitalist industries in the North for free labour from the South.
…….The question is, quite simply, “Did Abraham Lincoln intentionally and heroically liberate the slaves?”
A child’s first view of history is mythological. Figures loom largest. Noah saved all living creatures from the flood; William conquered Britain; Ashoka united India; Aurangzeb stubbornly brought about the downfall of the Mughal empire; Lincoln freed the slaves… People dominate. They are the movers, the shakers of the earth and it makes sense.
Then comes adolescence and the awareness that history is not the story of kings but the story of the people. One embraces that doctrine with all the enthusiasm of the new republican and then follows the theory… ” ( here is the link to the full article http://www.asianage.com/columnists/revisiting-history-834)
The film “Argo” at the surface does not seem a Hollywood formula film and is based on true facts but why does the film have a climax that seems just too filmy to digest, a car chasing a plane and the heroes get away safe and sound. What is the level of creative liberties in relation to depicting facts that do not dilute the heart of the matter is an interesting exploration. As facts were omitted , different circumstances created for a more entertaining film but as a certain critic rightly questions is that really necessary to create drama, a good storyteller could extract the drama out of real life but I say would that sell is the big question, but why not, do we want it to sell and to whom. When presenting a historical fact seeing it from the American viewpoint only could be dangerously pushing Iranian stereotypes and highlighting an event itself projects the makers in a certain light. Its not about how good or bad the Iranians are but whats most important is about how great the Americans are.
“Argo” the Oscar winning film this year again highlights a supposed success story of America and the whole world starts talking about it. The film is cinematically quite good like all the films mentioned above and has a style of realism in its cinematic appeal (most of the time) but yet again the main focus of the film remains projecting the American CIA agent as the star. A popular film needs a active single strong protagonist and this character dynamics is never lost in the tale of all our Oscar films mentioned above. It just happens to be that two of those protagonists are CIA agents, isn’t it.
Reality is all perception and truth is but relative, in that web I search for my vision of discovery.
Filed under: Project Creativity | Tags: Anurag Basu, art, artist, Barfi, Bollywood, creativity, film education, film workshop, foreign language film, indian cinema, Indian film Oscar nominee, inspiration, oorvazi, oorvazi irani, originality, Oscar, plagiarism
Plagiarism , Inspiration and Beyond
By Oorvazi Irani
None of us artists are pure or not guilty of this crime in small ways and big but we need to strive to be original.
Creativity and originality are two of the biggest challenges for an artist. And consciously or subconsciously we are all copying from the past from film, literature, paintings etc. Therefore one way to help escape this is being inspired by life – the need to look within and into our own lives. Be inspired by observing life first hand rather than sit back on a chair and soak in the observations of others.
But having said that if a great artist has moved us there is no harm paying homage to the work but we need to be able to take it to another level or make it our own. And if the tribute is very strong the source needs to be acknowledged.
Sometimes our society pushes us to imitate, to plagiarize, eg a local fashion magazine has an international standard it wants to meet and be assured of success, thus is not interested in originality, but imitating a successful photographer, his image that can guarantee success. The new local fashion photographer is told to imitate that international standard image and not urged to be original. The film industry wants a success formula and its industry sometimes pushes the filmmaker to play safe and imitate successful moments rather than create them, but the artist and his conscience will not be spared. The current film “Barfi” (directed by Anurag Basu and produced by UTV) is being sent to the Oscars as an Indian nomination is a case in point.
Each artist needs to try and find means by which he accesses his imagination and creativity to be original. Surrealism as one art movement started in the 1920’s, besides being a revolt also encouraged the artist to a more primal source of inspiration – our subconscious, and a realm beyond logic and rationality. This technique is still used by creative artists today to help them find a voice of their own.
How to be truly original – the search continues for each artist and infact each human being. To make an invention, a breakthrough, atleast strive for excellence and we will be closer to living a more authentic life and create a more authentic world. Those are moments of inspiration which we need to strive for rather than take the easy route.
Filed under: Film Musings | Tags: 26/11, asab. bombay times. hindi cinema, independent cinema, India, indian cinema, Kasab, oorvazi, oorvazi irani, short film, The K File, you tube
ASAB SPEAKS to the Filmmaker Oorvazi Irani
Asab: Oorvazi ! hi ! I was happy to read the Bombay Times headlines ‘Kasab is now Asab’. I have taken a second birth after your film and it feels nice to be in the spotlight. Tell me oh master why did you create me and why this name ?
Oorvazi: You are not Kasab but an artistic persona that represents and symbolizes Kasab. So I take out the K and with that I put you into the realm of artistic imagination and beyond real life. You are an abstraction of all terrorists who wrongly take the name of religion and strike terror. At the root of terrorism is the evil desire of greed and power. I created you to symbolize that evil.
Asab: Being your creation, I have two selves one is the artistic character that speaks to you and one is the character that has taken birth. Its interesting to be having this dual consciousness and be able to have this conversation with you. But I am sorry if I did not meet up to the expectations of some of your audiences.
Oorvazi: It’s a great pleasure to be talking to you too. Film is a subjective experience and I am sure there are enough people who appreciated your existence and understood your worth and let me tell you these are people I highly respect in that list. A dear friend once told me, its impossible to satisfy everybody, don’t even try.
Asab: But tell me Oorvazi, why did you make me one dimensional and not explore my motives my inner world. Is not having complex characters a sign of intelligent cinema, you should know better you are a film educationalist.
Oorvazi: Ha ha ! Asab you do ask intelligent questions and I see you have been reading some of my film reviews too. Agree to what you say but the danger in exploring your inner world and motives would be to put you in centre stage and give you prominence and sympathy which this film did not intend to do. I am sorry but in this film you are a means to an end and not an end in itself. Your one dimensional character was important to bring about the aspect of the ‘killing machine’ which a lot of these terrorists are with a lack of conscience. But I am sure meeting a real terrorist will make another film and reveal new realities.
Asab: Was the film about me or the Minister who was the hero and who was the villain ?
Oorvazi: Good question ! this film has no hero and no vilian in the conventional sense. If you look at it from the plot point of view, the Minister is the hero as he kills you, Asab the hated terrorist. But going deeper, the Minister is no hero himself he does not kill you for justice but for his own gain. He is equally evil as you are. For him the issue of terrorism, justice, human life is not important, what is important is his self-centered world of power and politics.
Asab: But who actually fired the bullet, this is a question that many are unclear about
Oorvazi: I am happy the way its turned out, that its got a ‘gap’ for audience interpretation but as a filmmaker I intended the Minister’s smile in the end to explain it all.
Asab: Now the character is taking over….” Sali mutton biryani kabhi khilayegi ?”
Oorvazi: If I meet you in hell I’ll treat you for that …
Watch the movie “The K File” if you have not yet done that, on the blog
Filed under: Professional Talk | Tags: acting, acting appreciation, acting techniques, cinema magazine, film appreciation. Amitava Nag, film education, Michael Chekhov, oorvazi, oorvazi irani, Silhouette
WHAT IS ACTING my article published in the cinema magazine Silhouette
What is Acting
A process of discovery !
A yearning to look within oneself and an opportunity to experience the world within your own being.
If acting as a profession, as an art form can offer you the opportunity to self discovery and knowledge what better place to be in then here. But the history of acting has not been so fortunate and it still continues till the present times. Many actors are not true artists and are not being enriched but are suffering due to a wrong approach or a limited point of view.
Tracing the history of acting , the old style of acting training laid a heavy emphasis on codified pantomime and a set of gestures which if perfected created the replication of the emotional state and it was only geniuses who in these parameters went beyond the framework and reached the soul in inspired moments of truth. Aristotle defined acting as “the right management of the voice to express the various emotions.” And Romans were famous for their oratory skills and it is from the practice of these actors ancient orators borrowed the principles governing voice and gesture in public delivery. On the other hand the power of an oratory like Hitler can be seen who controlled the masses like an actor holds sway over his audience.
A major breakthrough in the history of modern acting is the “The System” introduced into the world with the great Russian actor teacher Constantan Stanislavsky in the early 20th century. He defined acting as “Living truthfully in imaginary circumstances”. What was radically different here was the shift to the focus now on the inner truthfulness of an actor and that the body would follow, it was an ‘Inside Out’ approach. However it was Lee Strasberg who was a key figure in introducing to America the Stanislavski System which he redesigned as “The Method” which emphasizes the ‘internal process’ and the use of the personal emotions of an actor to act. This method became very famous in Hollywood (and all over the world) and was popularized by the use of it by stars like Marlon Brando among others. This technique is used till date but it puts to question the inner state of an actor as a human being and is acting being used an art form in its true sense. Many actors have suffered from this method and face mental trauma when playing characters that have shades of negativity in them.
The challenges an actor faces are the demands to transform himself into other characters, to bring them to life by emoting truthfully. The point remains – Can an actor emotionally participate and remain detached? Can an actor immerse himself emotionally into playing several different characters and yet not lose his own identity? Can this process be fun instead of being painful?
Going back to the roots of ancient art forms provides the wisdom and a modern framework provides the way. Ancient artforms ranging from Japan to India (Natyashstra) view art to be treated and not naturalistic but the actor as an artist along with other artists involved in the process treat the raw emotions in their final work and elevate it to a state of being higher and above the mundane where even a negative emotion enriches the actor and audience. The personal ego is lost and the actor is operating from a universal higher self which is creative and enriching.
Michael Chekhov in the 20th century a great Russian actor, teacher, director, the nephew of Anton Chekhov the famous playwright and a student of Stanislavsky, seemed to have an interesting approach to these challenges and emphasized the art in acting. Chekhov being a student of Stanislavsky when he joined the Moscow Art Theatre owed a great deal to him but slowly developed his own theories and techniques of acting . Michael Chekhov devoted his whole life to developing and perfecting a revolutionary acting technique that did not rely on memory recall for creating emotions. At the core of the technique were the use of the actor’s ‘Imagination’ and the actor’s ‘Body’. Michael Chekhov believes that the approach to acting should be as a creative artist, that the actor’s identity is distinct from the character’s identity, and that the actor’s emotions are not to be used or confused in the creation of the character’ emotions. Chekhov used the psycho-physical approach to acting and put to powerful use the power of imagination rather logic and rationality to create artists of the true kind. Chekhov developed tools like the Psychological Gesture, The Imaginary Body, Imaginary Centre, Sensations to equip the actor to set himself free and expand his consciousness.
The actor creates an imaginary body in his imagination which is different from his own body. He collaborates with the imaginary body and then incorporates that in his own body.
The actor for the character selects a centre and determines its quality and then places that imaginary center in his own body and transforms from his limited personality to the character.
Every character has a Center. This is an area inside or outside the body where the character’s impulses for all movement originate. The impulse from this centre initiates all gestures and leads the body forward or backward, and to sit, walk, and stand etc. A proud character for instance can have his Centre in his chin or neck. The centre may be any shape or size, colour or consistency. A single character can have even more than one centre.
The Psychological Gesture can be understood as a movement that embodies the essence of a character. It gives the actor the basic structure of the character and can put the actor into the various moods required by the script.
The actor recreates the body sensation of balancing, falling and floating to effect his feelings and transform to a character.
By 1928, as head of the Second Moscow Art Theater, Chekhov’s innovative directing and teaching had provoked such severe criticism by the Communist government, he was forced to flee the country for safety. There followed ten years of wandering through Europe, with sojourns in Germany, France, Latvia, Lithuania and finally England. There, with the support of Beatrice Straight and the Elmhirst Family, Chekhov established his first acting school in English. The onset of World War II inspired the Elmhirsts to move the school to Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1938. Here and in New York, Chekhov trained numerous actors from the Group Theater and the Actors Studio before moving to Los Angeles in 1942.
In 1942 he was invited to Hollywood, where he became an acting coach to the stars, acted in many films, published his book, “To the Actor”. Prominent actors in Hollywood who studied with him were: Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood, Anthony Quinn, Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner and many more. Michael Chekhov died in Hollywood, California in 1955, before his work became widely known.
“As Michael’s pupil. I learned more than acting…Every time he spoke, the world seemed to become bigger and more exciting…Acting became important…an art that increased your life and mind. Acting became more than a profession to me. It became sort of a religion.”
- Marilyn Monroe
© Copyrights and all rights reserved SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd
About the Author:
Oorvazi Irani is a freelance film educationalist, acting trainer, filmmaker and director of her home production company SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd., (incorporated in 1975). She has introduced the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique to India, she conducts courses on the technique and has created and produced the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique dvd, the first of its kind in India which is a step by step guide to the technique.
Filed under: FILM REVIEW show - Talking Cinema | Tags: Agneepath, Bollywood, btjunkie, film appreciation, film education, film review ares, games, oorvazi
OORVAZI Talking Cinema – Film Review Show AGNEEPATH (2012) – Episode 6
Filed under: FILM REVIEW show - Talking Cinema | Tags: bela tarr, cinema, film, film education, film educationalist, film review, film workshop, oorvazi, The Turin Horse
OORVAZI TALKING CINEMA , A Film Review Show – EPISODE 5
“The Turin Horse” a film by Bela Tarr
Filed under: Film/Acting Family Speak | Tags: cinema, film appreciation, film education, films, harishchandrachi factory, marathi new wave, movie, oorvazi, oorvazi irani, Rasik Tirodkar, umesh Kulkarni, vihir
Marathi New wave
A Special Article by Rasik Tirodkar
Started from Shwaas…Mainly first time directors…coincided with state funding…most people from theatre background…many people from Pune…
The consistency with which quality Marathi films are being churned out in the last 7-8 years definitely deserves an identification. The significance of the films with respect to world cinema might be minuscule, but the shift from only cheap comedies and formulaic in the 80s & 90s to a cinema which has a conscience and at the same time an artistic leaning is definitely worth some attention. But there still hasn’t been a name for this renaissance of sorts. The National Centre For Performing Arts in Mumbai, being true to its reputation has been wide-eyed enough to notice this significant change in Marathi cinema. They have been organising a film festival for the past 3 years showcasing quality Marathi films made in that respective year. The name given to the wonderful event is ‘Nave Valan’ which roughly translates to ‘a new turn’ or ‘a change in tracks’. This has been the only major attempt to identify the whole lot of films with a name. But this sobriquet feels like a Marathi equivalent of the term ‘New Wave’ which the French Cinema of the late 50s and 60s was famously called. So for the time being, due to lack of ingenuity, one has to make do with the borrowed title of ‘New Wave’.
The Marathi New Wave doesn’t have a common cinematic thread like the Italian Neo-realistic movement. But a conscious effort to push boundaries is definitely visible. Gandha(The Smell) written and directed by Sachin Kundalkar is an apt example. The film has three independent stories that are not intertwined and are told in the most linear manner. The only common link being that the protagonists in each of the three stories are going through an experience deeply involving the sense of smell. Now, the sense of smell being explored through cinema is rare not only in India but in all of world cinema. Gandha succeeds handsomely in its attempt to use smell as a cinematic tool and thus becoming a landmark film in the whole of Indian cinema.
Then there are a string of films on socially relevant topics like the Vikram Gokhale directed Aaghaat which is a fine effort to portray the racket in the private health industry with some high credible performances. The most favourite social topic seems to be rural poverty mainly based in Vidarbha. Baboo Band Baaja is a unique story of Jaggu, a bandwallah in rural Vidarbha, and his family’s attempt to break the shackles of poverty. Aarambh by writer-director Akshay Datt deals with child abuse in the most sensitive manner. Satish Manwar’s brilliant Gabhricha Paus(The Damned Rain) is a tale of a cotton farmer’s struggle to grow cotton in Vidarbha and it easily stands out among the socially relevant films. Gabhricha Paus is not only beautifully shot but the grim story is masterfully interlaced with ‘dark humour’ which is again rare in Indian cinema. Gajendra Ahire’s films (around 20 of them in the last eight years) are almost always made with a social awareness.
Harishchandrachi Factory, directed by Paresh Mokashi, is a film which gives a very fresh treatment to a bio-pic. Taking a cue from Roberto Benigni’s ‘Life is Beautiful’, the efforts put in by Dadasaheb Phalke to make India’s first feature film, Raja Harishchandra, have been displayed by adopting a humourous approach which is also slapstick at times. But never does the film undermine the significance of the event. Dadasaheb who was reportedly a jolly fellow couldn’t have got a better tribute.
The one kind of films Indian cinema has completely neglected until the recent past would be films for children. Pakpakpakkak starring Nana Patekar is one such lovely piece of cinema meant for children. Gautam Joglekar, the director, has beautifully included a social message that fits into the story without even a hint of being preachy.
Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni’s Vihir is probably the most celebrated film of the lot. It is an incisive exploration of the existential crisis which adolescents tend to grow through. The striking feature of the film would be making the visuals speak for themselves, a peculiar quality of cinema that was majorly unexplored by Marathi filmmakers. Great filmmakers like Satyajit Ray have felt that cinema majorly being a visual art, it is the visuals as a whole that should be used more prominently to convey a thought than only the background score or the dialogues which is usually the case with Indian films. In that context Vihir, Gabhricha Paus, Harishchandrachi Factory and Gandha can be held the most significant of the Marathi New Wave.
First time Directors
Like the youth being the heart of most movements the recent spate of Marathi films also have been made by young directors who weren’t seen in the 90s. Young minds with fresh ideas have been the face of the ‘Marathi New Wave’.
In complete contrast with the notion of jealousy and egos that is associated with a film industry, this young brigade has formed a kind of a brotherhood where cinema is worshiped. It is not unusual to find a Girish Kulkarni writing the script of Vihir and also acting in Gabhricha Paus and Gandha. Sudhir Palasane and Amalendu Chaudhary have been cinematographers for a number of these films. It is also quite common to find the names of these young men and women in the ‘special thanks’ section in the credits of each others films.
Impact of Theatre
Many people involved in making the films mentioned above like Sachin Kundalkar, Satish Manwar, Paresh Mokashi have formerly been involved in theatre. Marathi theatre has a rich history. In Maharashtra, unlike cinema, theatre has been a medium which the more thoughtful audiences have approved of. The spirited Maharashtrian youth who wanted to share their ideas with the world more often than not chose theatre as a medium over cinema. Thus in the last 50-60 years the quality of Marathi Theatre is way above the cinema during the same period. This young talent in theatre has now spilled over into cinema. Probably the modern art of cinema has caught their attention due to the exposure to cinema from across the world first through the advent of cable television and then the internet and also the film festivals which had caught on in India by the late 90s.
But the impact of theatre is most visible in the acting department. The strong performances across the board that Marathi cinema boasts of must be credited to theatre as almost all actors are the export of theatre. Of them Neena Kulkarni, Jyoti Subhash, Sonali Kulkarni, Vikram Gokhale being the most famous ones.
This is a feature which it shares with the French New Wave. Marathi films are given grants by the state government. From nearly shutting down in the 90s, today one can say that commercially Marathi Cinema is in a much better position. The policy of giving grants to Marathi films seems to have worked on this count. But it has also given way to a trend which is detrimental to its interest. It has been observed that some producers recover their money through grants and thus don’t care to promote the film resulting into very few people actually seeing it in a cinema hall and thus defeating the purpose of making the film in the first place. Vihir, for example, was inadequately promoted during its release and even after more than a year of its release there is no sight of its DVD.
Coming out of the shadow of Bollywood
Though Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra, the city of Pune can be called the cultural capital of the state. Expectedly, directors from the current lot like Umesh Kulkarni and Sachin Kundalkar and even actors like Sonali Kulkarni, Amruta Subhash hail from Pune. Also, premier film institutions like FTII and NFAI are based in the city. Some recent movies are even shot in Pune and other parts of Maharashtra like Kolhapur, indicating a shift back to the two cities which were also home to legendary production companies of the black-white and silent era like the Prabhat Film Company and Maharashtra Film Company. The presence of ‘Bollywood’ in Mumbai has always intimidated the Marathi Film Industry as it has failed to match the big budgets and nation-wide distribution of Hindi films. Also, unlike states in the southern part of India, Hindi as a language is widely understood in Maharashtra adding to the woes. With recent trend of shooting films with budgets of around 5croresin studios outside Mumbai one can say that Marathi Cinema is slowly managing to come out of the shadow of Bollywood.
Finally, it is also necessary to understand that though good films are being made at regular intervals, the number of low quality Marathi films being made is still high. It may be because very few of the films discussed have been lapped up by the masses. The commercial fail is understandable but neither have them been acclaimed by the mainstream Marathi or even the national media. Noticeably, directors like Paresh Mokashi, Satish Manwar, Gautam Joglekar and Akshay Datt haven’t yet come up with their second films. Sachin Kundalkar’s next film is in Hindi. Marathi cinema buffs would only hope that this kind of a dream run doesn’t meet its end so soon.
Filed under: FILM REVIEW show - Talking Cinema | Tags: Cannes film festival, film appreciation, film education, film making, film review, Julie Bertucelli, oorvazi, oorvazi irani, since otar left, world cinema
Talking Cinema (A Film Review Show – Episode 3)
My pick of films from the
13th Mumbai Film Festival 2011
“Since Otar Left” (2003)
Filed under: Film/Acting Family Speak | Tags: cinema, digital academy, digital film school, film, film appreciation, film education, mumbai university, oorvazi, oorvazi irani, post graduate diploma in film and television
I fall in love all over again
With every batch there is a meeting and then a parting and each remains a cherished memory. I share with you today one such meeting and parting.
They presented me with a small token of love (the image below) and I am sharing my response to their feedback to my film appreciation 10 sessions at Digital Academy – the Post Graduate Diploma in Film and Television 2011 batch
You gave me the joy of being a teacher
‘Enlightenment with entertainment’
It was fun and learning for me too
‘Woke up to a completely different world of cinema’
Privileged to be able to open new windows and doors through which you will expand your horizons of thought and living
‘Thankyou for your rebellious film talk’
Being an artist, I feel art is very much an integral part of cinema/film and glad you found some of it rebellious and exciting
‘Changed my perception about art cinema’
Very happy that I was instrumental in being able to create a perception of art cinema which you appreciated
‘The sea of knowledge’
The world of cinema is an infinite ocean and swimming in it is very pleasurable
‘You are so pure, will miss you for sure’
The innocent child inside me wants to expresses itself and that I guess is the pure you refer to. I am glad you met that self.
‘Thankyou for the lovely class’
Every gesture, every smile, every twinkle in the eye, every whisper is still fresh in my memory. Thankyou for the lovely experience
‘Got knowledge with entertainment and master of simplification’
I feel the process of reaching the essence is an important process and so happy that it helped you and you appreciate it
‘Experienced the growing child named cinema’
Great ! A child that we hope keeps growing each passing day
‘Moonwalk with excitement’
The class is like a dance where each side (one side is the teacher, one side the student) makes their move and with each step the dance progresses and takes form
‘Expressing beauty with intelligence’
The creative, mysterious and rational, logical – a fine balance between the two worlds is important to me and nice that you perceived the two worlds with me.
Cinema is a fantasy which is a parallel reality and is very powerful
‘Passing ray of shine of which I got an opportunity to become a part of’
Hope this little ray of light reminds you of the joy and pleasure of cinema always
‘Got some meaningful information and knowledge through black and white period’
B&W is so beautiful, as an artist once said it is a canvas which takes you to a reality which is beyond the mundane
‘Ma, the concept in Japanese culture taught me a new way of watching cinema’
Ancient cultural roots and ways of perception are valuable and its an honour to be able to shed light on something deep and precious.
‘The keeda has been planted I hope it spreads’
I hope this keeda grows into a magical spirit that consumes you with the joy to create and appreciate
Filed under: Professional Talk | Tags: Film and Television Institute of India, Film Appreciation Course, ftii, indian cinema, Indranil Bhattacharya, National Film Archives of India, NFAI, NFAI and FTII Film Appreciation course, oorvazi, oorvazi irani
1.Would you like to share with the readers how did the NFAI and FTII film appreciation course come to be born
The Film Appreciation Course (FAC), in its present form, was initiated by the National Film Archive of India (NFAI), Pune in 1975, as a part of its mandate to disseminate film culture and awareness among general public. The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) was already educating filmmakers with a mission to promote ‘good cinema’, artists or ‘authors’ who will create their own unique idiom. Good cinema requires a good audience; evolved cine-goers who will appreciate and relate to the cinematic experience of New Indian Cinema and great cinema from all around the world that was increasingly available to audiences through film clubs and film festivals in the 1970s. The idea was filmmaking and film viewing cross-fertilizing each other.
The then Director of NFAI, P K Nair, sought collaboration with FTII, especially with the first teacher of Film Appreciation Prof Satish Bahadur.The idea was to form a team who will take care of the teaching and academic requirements. Moreover, FTII with its academic infrastructure was the natural choice as the partner. This was the beginning of the collaborative course which has now run for 36 years.
2. What is the difference between a film appreciation course and a filmmaking course
Filmmaking courses in FTII are comprehensive courses that not only teach hands-on filmmaking, but also aesthetics, theory and history of Cinema with a view to produce ‘rounded’ filmmakers. The pedagogy and academic philosophy of the FAC is stated in my response to your previous query. The accent in FAC is on understanding Cinema and the language of Cinema, its artistic, social and cultural contexts. Participants of FA course are not given instructions in any practical aspect of films eg. how to structure a script, how to design a shot or how to put images together in the most effective way (editing).
In FAC the stress is more on why a film script is structured, shot and edited in a certain way, the historical and cultural context in which the film was produced and received. A rudimentary history of cinema and how it evolved over the years is an important component without which a deeper understanding of Cinema is not possible. Although some participants do find these lectures ‘too academic and factual’ in nature, they are extremely important to connect Cinema to its ontological roots, both in terms of the other arts like painting, theatre, literature, while emphasizing the Cinema uniqueness as an independent art form. It is only in retrospect many participants realize how important these lectures were to their understanding of Cinema.
2. The film appreciation course has been there for many years now and is like an institution in itself, after taking charge as the Professor of Film Appreciation and current coordinator of the Film appreciation course what would you say is the special feature of the course. Have you brought any specific changes to its structure and emphasis.
I have just coordinated one course where I have followed the pattern followed by my eminent predecessors. While there is nothing essentially wrong with the basic pattern, I intend to make the course more interactive. This implies that in the future participants have to make individual presentations on films/directors, participate equally in group discussions, do a short mise-en-scene analysis of a short fiction film as a course end project etc. Those applying for the course in the future should be ready for more activities and stop taking it as a picnic at FTII as a few participants every year tend to do. You will be eligible for certificate from FTII/NFAI if you participate in all the activities. There are some basic pedagogic issues I am also thinking about but it is too early to talk about it.
3. Who is the film appreciation course designed for, could you kindly elaborate
The FAC is designed for people with a serious engagement with Cinema, it is not for people who are only looking for FTII tag. We expect them to be good communicators, so that they can take the knowledge acquired in FTII to others; through either conceiving and teaching FA courses themselves, organizing film societies or film clubs in their areas/Institutions, or if they are journalists or film reviewers we expect them to go beyond the prosaic and commonplace newspaper reviews. For practicing filmmakers without a formal training in films, this course serves to strengthen the theoretical understanding of Cinema.
An individual participant should be able to take the cause and philosophy of FAC/Cinema forward in some form or format. If the participant does not have a previous track record of ‘communicating’, he or she should be able to convey his or her conviction through the ‘statement of purpose’ in the application form. The important issue here is what do you want to do with the course – for yourself and for film culture in general.
4. What is the qualifications required to enroll for the course and how does it work
The only important qualification (apart from being 21 years of age), I can think of is the ability to understand lectures in English. We still have not found any alternative, as many people from South of India or from South Asian neighbours like Sri Lanka do not understand Hindi, which is our national language.
5. Would you like to share any information about the next course, the dates, the faculty, the duration, the timing , special guest lectures ( or is it too early to mention)
It is too early for the next course details, the timings etc are a function of FTIIs internal calendar. The course has to coincide with lean periods or vacations in FTII regular courses, now that we are almost doing away with vacations at FTII, the course timings may shift a little bit.
My final words about the course
There are now Film Appreciation Courses organized at various parts of the country by local bodies, sometimes in collaboration with FTII and NFAI. The admission in most of these courses are on ‘first-come-first-serve’ basis … there are no screening of application forms. These courses , usually week-long, are pitched at a more popular level and are really meant for general public. The summer course at FTII is more academic (FTII is after all an academic Institution) and we have our methodology of teaching Cinema. There is a certain rigour in this course , which cannot be diluted as this our strength. So it is advised that people applying for the Summer Course are not complete novices and lacking in patience and discipline necessary for a month course. It may be better if they apply for the shorter courses and then, if necessary, apply for the month-long course later.