Film Education

Interview with Indranil Bhattacharya, Professor Film Appreciation – FTII

       Interview with Indranil Bhattacharya, Professor Film Appreciation – FTII

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.


8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This interaction sums up all the information that someone interested in this course might be looking for. Thanks to the Blogger

Comment by Sandeep Bhattacharjee

Sandeep! Thanks so much for your comment 🙂

Comment by oorvazi

A very well structured interview. Clarifies about a students expectation from the course and also what is expected from a student in such a course. Thank you for this article

Comment by Riddhiman Basu

Dear Riddhiman,
Thanks so much for your feedback and comments and it feels very nice to be able to introduce you to this great course.

Comment by oorvazi

Crisp and sharp focus on Film Appreciation Course jointly sponsored by NFAI and FTII. I have also applied for this prestigious Course; awaiting eagerly for positive results…

Comment by Kumaraguruparan Ramakrishnan

All the best !

Comment by oorvazi

may i know the dates of this years Film Appreciation Course…i m sincerely looking forward to do it..

thank you.

Comment by vipin

Great interview and best piece about the subject I found on Internet. Your blog is hidden gem. Lucky to stumble. Keep it up. Please do something to make your blog more visible. Such rich content shouldn’t be hidden.

Comment by Shaiwal

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