ScreenSavour: An Alternative Route

Tags: Films

Filmmaking workshops are increasingly meeting the demands from small towns and hinterland

<b>ScreenSavour</b>: An Alternative Route
In a country which produces the maximum number of films in different Indian languages, and where cinema supersedes all other art forms in providing ‘wholesome’ entertainment, cutting across socio-economic and cultural barriers, influencing lifestyles, thought processes, behavioural patterns and relationships, it is natural that there will be tremendous curiosity about the nature of its craft: how films are made.

But for a long time, it was only film magazines that provided an insight to this esoteric world that fascinated its audience, focusing on stars and their affairs. Its makers or the process of filmmaking hardly got any mention. But for the obstinate few who still wanted to know about filmmaking — and take it up as a career option — the only way was to assist a practicing director. But that too was tough and only a few could make it.

The Indian government set up the first film institute in Pune in 1962 — FTII — which suddenly opened the doors for the uninitiated and democratised film learning. Subsequently, other film schools opened up, mostly private and in the south. In 1996, the government set up the Satyajit Ray Film and TV Institute (SRFTI) in Kolkata while in 2006 Subhash Ghai launched his Whistling Woods International within the premises of Film City at Goregaon in Mumbai.

Sensing the huge demand for film education, private film schools have now begun to mushroom in most metropolises. They offer short-term courses in filmmaking, as opposed to premier film schools where one needs to spend two to three years. Unfortunately, many of these institutes are into it for the money, are run by incompetent faculty, and promise aspiring kids impossible dreams. But there is never any dearth of gullible people, especially the kind that seek admission to ‘acting schools’.

Urban-centric as they are, and glamour oriented, these private schools have left out from their orbit, people from the hinterland and smaller cities and towns who could be equally interested in the process of filmmaking but can’t make the long journey to the far flung cities for personal reasons, mostly economic.

To address this growing need, a few enterprising people have started conducting short-term filmmaking workshops in many parts of the country. Most of these courses range from 7 to 10 days and provide basic inputs from scriptwriting, direction, camera, editing and acting.

Samhita Acharya from Port Blair, who is the secretary of Andaman Film Society has been organising such workshops amidst the pristine surroundings of the island for the past two years, by sourcing experts from Mumbai (see picture). Participants constitute mostly employees from various government departments and high-school students who have never been exposed to any sort of filmmaking but are curious. Many of them can’t even afford the nominal amount charged, but are still allowed to participate.

Then there’s Sudarshan Juyal, an FTII and NSD alumnus who spent 20 years in Mumbai, and has shifted base to Dehradun, where he conducts filmmaking workshops in his region as well as other parts of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. He works amongst children and adults both.

There’s also Suniti Ghoshal who heads a production house called Yellow Submarine in Bangalore and has been similarly organising workshops in Bangalore and Mumbai.

Most of these workshops cater to a genuine curiosity. More than learning, it is the demystification of the filmmaking process that they provide, which goes a long way to stoke the creative impulses of the participants, providing them with an opportunity to explore a new avenue of self-expression.

One need not only make feature films; there are other formats and modes of expression beyond Bollywood to vent your creative energies into — that is the most important lesson that participants take away from such workshops.

(Ranjan Das is a Mumbai-based filmmaker, instructor and writer)

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