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The academic gateway to films

MEERA SRINIVASAN

The Oscar success of A.R. Rahman and Resul Pookutty has turned the spotlight on the rich opportunities in the entertainment industry. So what does it take to get in?


M.G.R. Film and Television Institute of Tamil Nadu, C.I.T.Campus, Chennai - 600 113. Phone: 044-22542212.

L.V.Prasad Film & TV Academy: www.prasadacademy.com

Mindscreen Film Institute ( www.mindscreen.co.in)


Photo: Special Arrangement

Expert’s touch: Rajiv Menon takes a practical class at the Mindscreen Film Institute in Chennai.

Over the years, the country’s massive entertainment industry has gradually made its way into the global area as worthy competitor, be it with regard to the use of advanced technology or technique. However, the industry, which involves huge sums of money and manpower, is increasingly looking at the art from an academic point of view.

The M.G.R. Film and Television Institute of Tamil Nadu, one of the oldest film institutes in the country, offers 3- year diploma courses in Film Technology and TV Production with specialisations in areas such as cinematography, film processing, sound recording and sound engineering, direction, screenplay writing and TV Production and film editing. Year after year, several trained and passionate youngsters produced by this institute enter the industry to realise their dreams.

Acknowledging the improvement in awareness levels, R. Sridhar, who is in-charge of academics at the institute, says even noted technicians who took the route of learning by assisting a senior technician, regret not having pursued a formal course.

“A course gives a student holistic understanding of the subject. On-the-job, training is certainly important, but a structured programme covering all the areas related to a particular skill in film-making could make a significant difference,” he says, adding that some students, who are not sure which medium to take up, go for courses such as visual communication, but those who know that cinema is where they belong, opt for specialised courses in film-making.

“A majority of our students are from rural areas and they cannot afford high fees. This is where our institute really helps, by offering quality education at an affordable fee,” Mr. Sridhar adds. Also, seminars by practising technicians are organised frequently to help students engage in discussions.

There is a significant amount of learning that happens both, inside and outside the classroom, says K. Hariharan, director, LV Prasad Film & TV Academy. The Academy offers two-year PG diploma programmes in direction and cinematography, and a one-year diploma course in editing and sound design.

“Our academy is located inside a shooting campus and students have the opportunity to see how the industry actually works. An associate director would be patiently waiting outside an actor’s vehicle with the script in his hands. Hundreds of junior artistes would be walking about... these are things that one has to see and experience. They can never be taught with books.” This ambience gives students a sense of belonging to the industry, he adds. And, of course, there are those aspects that can be taught only inside a classroom, Mr. Hariharan emphasises. “Aspects like how we need to narrate a text. We try to look at films from a political angle and a sociological perspective. For example, characters in Indian films are often given Hindu names. Are we taking a majoritarian perspective here? We can’t have these discussions on the sets, where there is a prefix or a construct according to which a unit works,” explains Mr. Hariharan.

Founder of the Mindscreen Film Institute, Rajiv Menon also feels that the need for such specific courses is being felt more than ever before. Mindscreen offers a six-month course in cinematography. Describing the current phase in Indian cinema as a junction for the transition from the analog to the digital modes, he says institutes like his have the advantage of updating the course frequently to address the latest trends in the industry. “There will be radical changes in films and our courses must quickly adapt to them.”

At his institute, students are taken through four modules. First, they tell their stories through stills and then through shots taken with a video camera. From there they graduate to be part of guided sessions and finally shoot with sophisticated equipment with special attention to lighting.

“We also find many individuals from varied disciplines interested in film-making. I have seen engineers, architects, math professors and even interior decorators get very passionate about cinema after being in some other field for a few years.” These professionals find short-term courses very valuable, he notes. “Also, we try and inculcate in students the right creative attitude. For in cinema, there is no end to learning. A course like this opens a new window for much more learning to come,” Mr. Menon adds.

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