Never the twain shall meet?
SANGEETHA DEVI. K
Branded as `arty,' FTII graduates, barring cinematographers, struggle to get a toehold in the Telugu film industry.
ON THEIR MARK Sudhakar Reddy
Trained in the craft by the best in the business and eager to change the way cinema works, every year a group of students graduate from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune.
A lucky few chart their course into the mainstream film industry while others remain on the fringes, wanting to mix art with commerce. The Mumbai film industry has benefited hugely from the FTII alumni. The Telugu film industry, in contrast, has largely remained cold to the tribe.
Young cinematographers Senthil Kumar (Aithe, Sye, Chatrapati and Ashok), Jayakrishna Gummadi (Okkadunnadu) and Sudhakar Reddy (Madhumasam) have been a few exceptions to the rule. As one of the former FTIIians who studied editing puts it, "The large section of this industry still labels us `arty'."
A still from `Madhumasam'
After successful runs in Mumbai, Delhi and Jaipur, the alumni of FTII unveiled the Lensight Film Festival in Hyderabad last weekend. An event that saw the screening of 16 diploma films brought back persistent questions. Bollywood is home to a battalion of FTII alumni - Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Jaya Bachchan, Saeed Mirza, Subhash Ghai, Sriram Raghavan, Irrfan Khan, cinematographer Anil Mehta and innumerable others. The Telugu film industry, meanwhile, has welcomed cinematographers and sound engineers into its fold but diligently avoided editing and direction students.
"It's an evergreen topic of discussion," laughs Parasuram, who studied editing at the FTII. "I left the institute in 1970 and found that the approach of the institute and that of the Telugu industry are different. At least today, people here know about world cinema. Back then, even popular film-makers drew a blank when films of Fellini, Hitchcock, Satyajit Ray and Rithwik Ghatak were discussed. There was little scope for FTII technicians to work independently," he recalls.
The old guard
"Technicians here work as apprentices for 20 to 25 years and then work independently. When I told a leading producer that I want to edit films independently, he told me I would have to work for at least 15 years in his production house to prove my `loyalty'. I moved away to television and then began making documentaries and corporate films," adds Parasuram.
What Parasuram and others cite is the lack of a lobby of FTII alumni in the Telugu industry unlike Mumbai. FTII alumni who have established themselves in Mumbai, they explain, is willing to help the juniors and even look out for openings in various studios. But then, Sudhakar Reddy feels it's inevitable since the number of candidates from AP at the FTII is negligible. "We might be a film crazy state but not many know about the film institute. I left FTII in 2004-2005 and we were an exception with five candidates from AP," he explains.
A still from `Okkadunnadu'
Students who've studied editing and direction face an uphill task. "There is a lot of difference in ideology. You may succeed if you strike a middle path between art and commerce rather than make boring films in the name of art," says J.V.L. Narayana, who graduated from the FTII in 1996.
Kiran Ganti, an editing student who graduated in 2005, says, "I'd love to work here but I am open to taking up work in other industries too." Having scouted for opportunities in Telugu films for a short while, he grins, "Things haven't changed much. A producer told me I could assist an editor for a few years and then work independently. Perhaps it would be better to approach younger directors who work with newer technicians. Sadly, some of the best technicians who've succeeded nationally have come from Chennai. Srikar Prasad, who edited Mani Ratnam's Guru, is working from Chennai despite being from AP. I doubt if he would have done this well if he had worked with the Telugu industry."
The luckier lot
Jayakrishna Gummadi admits it's easier for cinematographers. He says, "I got my first opportunity before I completed my course. Before Okkadunnadu, I worked for Mr and Mrs Sailaja Krishnamurthy and Ram, besides a Malayalam film. The regular commercial films are not my kind of films. But since these are the opportunities at the moment, I've taken them up. Eventually, as I am known for quality work, I'm sure there will be more freedom."
Sudhakar Reddy seconds that and adds, "There's a competitive environment emerging today and hopefully things will change."
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