The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) is based in Poona, now called now Pune, a city of nearly four million inhabitants and located at about one hundred and fifty kilometers from Bombay, today also called Mumbai.
Recently, the Institute was ranked by the American magazine VARIETY, as one of the most important film schools in the world. I can confirm it having myself been trained at this institute, by leading professors in film direction.
While other film schools in Europe and even in the United States were busy teaching the 9mm and 16mm formats, the Pune film school was already using the 35mm professional format. This by itself alone shows the edge this school has over many other film schools, and should have placed it on the top of the world best film schools. Of course, 9 mm and 16mm formats are very rarely used today, since the advent of video and, especially the high definition video.
Many prominent actors and actresses were trained in the very famous Method Acting by the great Russian playwright, Constantin Stanislavski, and when the students adapt and blend this method and integrate it with the indian culture and traditions the result is an overwhelming poignant piece of art.
This judicious approach was done, by none other, than the very famous and talented Professor of Acting, Mr Roshan Taneja, a very discreet, but terribly efficient man in imparting that special knowledge to his students. Countless indian and foreign actors have greatly benefitted from his training in this method.
In fact, one day he told me «Baidy, the Acting students are doing a musical show in the city, and I would like to see you participate. Here is a song taken from a popular hindi film. I would like you to rehearse it with this student» and he showed me a young Bulgarian girl. We rehearsed the song for a few days in the institute campus, and on the day of the show, when we played it on stage, at a theatre at Poona Camp, the public was just amazed, and claps were fusing from everywhere in the hall.
Professor Roshan Taneja has that particular ability to show the student, how to dig deep into his or her emotional and physical resources to interpret the role at hand. And when the student follows his guidelines, the result is just spectacular.
Although it’s a known fact that the Institute has its origin from the famous Poona Prabhat Studios owned then by the famous V. Shantaram who had produced so many beautiful and classical marathi films, and subsequently the Government of India bought it from him, and turned it into a film school, yet this aspect alone is not the sole criteria for the film and television institute of India to be a school of excellence, and enjoy such a good reputation for the nearly sixty years of its existence.
A solid infrastructure, highly competent professors with high moral integrity, great family spirit have all combined to make this film school one of its kind.
We insist on this point, because it seems important that integrity and probity when combined with competency at the teaching level can only lead to excellency when fully integrated by the students. This has been the modus operandi of the Film and Television Institute of India at Pune right from the start.
But, of course, it is also important to note, the major role, the Institute continues to play in the evolution and sustainability of the Bombay Film Industry, commonly called Bollywood.
In this way the film Institute of India acts as an efficient relay and intermediary in providing regularly artists and technicians of high caliber not only to the indian film industry, but also to the eight hundred (800) television channels of India.
This is why film and television production houses in Bombay, Madras and many other parts of the country continue to send their technicians and artists at the Institute for short term training. Busy artists also who cannot spare time for the normal academic course register also for these short training courses. These trainings help them keep pace with a medium that is in perpetual and constant evolution.
Many new such schools are springing up every now, and and then in many places, but no school can match the film and television institute of Pune for the reasons stated above which are only a portion of its inherent capacities, and experiences as the first government sponsored film school in India.
Pune where the film Institute is located is also a beautiful city with a nice weather, and is a highly reputed academic and cultural center. The few marathi words we grasped were while we traveled in a jam-packed bus from Decca Gymkhana to the Institute, and the bus conducteur used to shout “Purey chala !!!! Purey chala !!!“ meaning move forward, more forward.
The National Film Archives of India (NFAI) now located outside the campus, and within a walking distance from the Institute, gave both students and visitors the opportunity to have a glimpse of the classics of world cinema. However it is important to note that the father of the indian cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke was also born in a town not far from Pune. The Film and Television Institute of India has created a Prize in his name to reward eminent people in their respective fields.
Many prominent personalities whether in politics, arts, science and religions were born in or around Pune.
Mahatma Gandhi was also jailed in Ahmednagar Fort in the neighborhood of Pune. And more recently, Satya Nadella, the Microsoft boss is also from Pune.
For all these reasons, and so many more it is extremely important for the Government of New Delhi to maintain and preserve the Film and Television Institute of India for the jobs it provides to the hundreds of students that graduate every year who either join Bollywood or the numerous television channels in India. The demand for artists and technicians by these medias is growing day by day, and any attempt to privatise or increase the tuition fees can have an adverse effect not only on Bollywood and on the television channels, but also on the number of students seeking admission to the institute especially those from modest or low income families.
And if that happens Bollywood and the Television channels will be the first impacted, with the consequence that Bollywood may even lose its leading position before Hollywood, and the indian television channels will also no longer be able to provide up to date and valid information to the public.
Artists and technicians trained at the Pune film and television Institute that have won prestigious awards in India and overseas is too long to be enumerated.
The television section of the institute is not at rest with upto date audio-visual equipments and highly qualified professors, and has been playing a pivotal role which can be seen by the increasing number of television channels in India, and the numerous programs they broadcast every day not only in India, but also overseas.
Finally, although there is a real reason for satisfaction, to know that a highly acclaimed American entertainment magazine as VARIETY has ranked the Pune Film and Television Institute of India, as one of the best film school in the world, yet, it is important to note, that increased efforts should be made, so the Institute can continue to play more its social role, as a school of excellence, and at the same time remain an institution that participate in the solution of unemployment in India by providing to Bollywood and the indian medias the young talents they need in the world of entertainment and information.
That’s why the Government of India should not heed or support or encourage any attempt to privatise the Film and Television Institute of India, which is one of the foundation stones of the Indian film industry, and should be considered as a national heritage, for the eminent social role it has played over the years. The results of such a role can be seen today by the top position India has maintained in these domains for several years.
This has been made possible only because training costs at the Pune Film and Television Institute has been and continue to remain affordable for modest and low income families. This is what has given the Institute that edge over so many other film schools, in providing quality education at affordable fees and costs.
Alumnus, Film & Television Institute
of India (FTII) Law College Road,
Pune 4, India