I happened to read that India’s premier film and television training related institute Film and Television Institute of India(FTII) opened itself to public for the first time in the history, over the last weekend. I did not want to loose this opportunity. I have passed by it many times wondering how it might be inside. This institute also happens to be on the place where film studios of erstwhile film company called Prabhat Film Company(प्रभात फिल्म कंपनी) used to be located way back during 1930 till 1960s. I also had learnt that it has a museum which also, which I had never managed to visit so far. This was despite the fact that I had one friend couple of years back doing a course at FTII on script writing. I also had read about its another famous program related to film appreciation, which I intend to do once I have 2 weeks in my life for that. Anyways, I wanted to share my experience with FTIIs first ever open house here.
It was a fine Sunday. It has been raining since past 3-4 days in the city, once again after a short break. It began with a pleasant surprise, as I was handed over a copy of Times Mirror newspaper supplement, and a Bisleri water bottle at a HP petrol station! This was never ever experienced before by me. We landed at the gates of FTII early morning with the intent to be part of first batch for their escorted tour inside. It was still some time, hence I strolled around the area, which one rarely gets time for. It was a fine walk indeed around the green lanes of Prabhat Road. And my surprises continued for the Sunday. I was also able to spot famous Marathi author house Vyankatesh Madgulkar’s(व्यंकटेश माडगुळकर) house named Akashar(अक्षर बंगला), about which I had read in the past and was very curious to visit. I had seen his elder brother, another famous author,film personality, Ga Di Madgulkar’s(ग दि माडगुळकर) house Panchvati(पंचवटी) near Shivajinagar. But this house Akshar was redeveloped into an apartment complex recently. I also had another surprise for me during the walk. I noticed a residence of consul of Bosnia Herzegovina, which I never expected to sight in Pune, bang opposite of National Film Archives of India(NFAI).
By the time I came back to the gates of FTII, I saw more people and also registration for batches had begun. Soon at 10 am, our tour started, I felt like I am reliving the history here. Our tour escort had announced that it would a mere 45 minute tour, and of course, wanted people to co-operate. I was not happy-only 45 minute tour! Anyways, we had to take what was offered. The FTII campus is spread over 50 acres of lands, extending all the way up to Vetal Hills with very good tree cover inside, as one can see below.
Our first stop was at a collage exhibiting history of institute, distinguished alumni, right in front of famous Widsom Tree. This tree(not sure what is tree it is though) is best known landmark of the FTII, for, it being a famous hangout place for students inside the campus, the tree having a circular sitting place. Then we walked back in time as we entered into a studio which has been there since Prabhat Film Company days, a place for many famous movies’ shootings. The guides there explained us about various nuances of the history, stage, light in that area. Our walk back in time continued as we entered the museum which is aptly titled as Prabhat Nagari(चला प्रभात नगरीकडे) where photos of 5 partners of Prabhat Film Company can be seen, along with various artifacts used during film making that time, along with film posters.
We walked behind a build into an area where a dome like structure was situated, which was used sound reverb effects. Then we went to studio like structure housing vintage Mitchell film cameras and also vintage lights boxes used by film company.
Later we were given couple of demos on sound dubbing and mixing techniques, on film editing and on a chroma key technique for background special effects shooting. Then we walked our way towards Shantaram Pond which is pond like structure amidst dense trees and vegetation, acting as a set or a location for filming. Later we visited a section meant for television shooting(especially with multi-cam arrangement, and area with very flexible lighting facilities) and it production control room.
Our tour ended at a book exhibition, which displayed old books from FTII and were also on sale. It was certainly a treasure trove for book lovers. I picked up few, along with few issues of FTII publication magazine LenSight. Our 45 minute tour, had extended to well over 2 hours, and I was not complaining. By the time, I returned back to the gates, the registration desk was overflowing with people. This was testimony of how hugely FTII is popular. Not sure why kept FTII away from opening it doors for so many years, to general public. Another reason would have been a recent controversy in FTII which had resulted in prolonged strike by students. Nonetheless, hope FTII takes cue from this and comes up with more programs involving interaction with general public and enthusiasts alike. This will only help film crazy nation which we are. I found NFAI more people oriented that FTII. I have seen many people oriented programs such film festivals, seminars, workshops being conducted routinely there(example, Shamblik Kharolika). I don’t understand, what stops FTII(or even NFAI) from selling their publications to general public at their counters(or on website), DVDs of films and documentaries at their counters, conduct once a month film appreciation club, film screening sessions, summer workshops for enthusiastic short film makers etc.