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IFFI 2017: Not a master, just a student, says Subhash Ghai at FTII journal launch

On the S Durga controversy, the filmmaker said content that does not hurt the sentiments of the people and goes along with the regulations rules.

Subhash Ghai at IFFI 2017. Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Sukhpreet Kahlon

The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) released a special issue of the journal Lensight on Day 2 of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa yesterday.

A new way of looking at the art of moving images, the journal includes articles and discussions on contemporary norms of cinema and aesthetics. To mark the occasion, filmmaker Subhash Ghai, an FTII alumnus, was present with the institute's director Bhupendra Kainthola and dean (films) Amit Tyagi.

Though the journal was launched in 1991, its focus was more on the technical aspects of cinema, especially new technology. It was repositioned in 2008 to include film-related articles, especially those covering the aesthetics of the medium.

The ceremony began with the release of the quarterly journal and was followed by a short address by Tyagi who spoke of how the journal was repositioned. He then welcomed Ghai to the event as a former student of acting who had gone on to become a successful screenwriter and director. He also said he does not consider Ghai’s film school Whistling Woods as a competitor of FTII but as a brother institute fostering film education. 

Ghai thanked the director and dean of his alma mater for requesting him to launch the magazine. “I cannot express my gratitude enough to FTII," the veteran filmmaker said. "I may be running Whistling Woods, but my mother institute is FTII where I learnt my craft.”

Talking about the journal's relevance, Ghai said, “I feel this is a very valuable step as students will learn about past cinema, contemporary cinema and the future as new technologies are coming in… It is a great connection between the older generation, present generation and future generation.”

Ghai described himself as an eternal student: “I am not a master, I am a student, of FTII, of Whistling Woods, of cinema and of life.”

He spoke about emerging technology and the corresponding changes in cinema viewing and practices. “Cinema is a reflection of society, as you all know," he said. "So as the generation changes and evolves, cinema evolves as well. Today, there is the invasion of visuals and knowledge, but I always tell my students, ‘be native’. Make films about your stories and there are several avenues now to tell your stories.”

Later, a reporter obliquely asked Ghai about the brouhaha surrounding the acclaimed Malayalam film S Durga, saying, “If content is king then what is the difference between S Durga and Sexy Durga?” Ghai cleverly replied that just as a king must look after his people, so the content which goes along with the rules and regulations is king. “It has to be understood that the content should not hurt the sentiments of the people," he said. "We have to produce content which raises the values, life skills, knowledge or understanding of the people.”

On the changes in content and methods of making films, he said he saw the younger generation as being very aware because of social media. So while film stories earlier were not backed by the kind of research one sees today, filmmakers cannot fictionalize too much and their stories need to be closer to life. Elaborating, he said, “This generation demands well-researched work, so we study everything about the characters.”

Expressing his appreciation for exciting content, Ghai spoke of the intent behind creating his company, Mukta Searchlight, which focuses on producing high-content, low-budget films. Citing Jogger’s Park (2003) as an example, he said he gave that script to Anant Balani to film though he had had the story since his FTII days. “I told him I was writing the story from his sensibility because I was a student of Ritwik Ghatak and learnt a lot from him about cinema and how to tell a story,” he said.

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