Friday, June 24, 2011

Call for upgrading FTII to an independent university

The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) here may get the status of an independent university if a proposal by the Group of Experts (GoE) appointed by the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting is accepted. "The GoE is strongly pushing for FTII to be made into a university. The autonomy that will come with this status is needed for the institute," GoE chairman P.K. Nair told The Hindu over telephone.

Film-maker and founder-director of the National Film Archives of India (NFAI), Mr. Nair said the recommendation for university status was one of the major demands put forth in the GoE report which would be submitted to the FTII governing council and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting at a meeting to be held on June 28.

If the recommendation is accepted, the premier institute will be able to award Bachelor's and Master's degrees along with the existing post-graduate diploma degrees, Mr. Nair said. With the proposed changes, the budget for upgrading the institute had increased fivefold, said Mr. Nair. The new budget is expected to be around Rs. 300 crore (Rs. 3 billion).

The proposal speaks about creating a "welfare fund" for the institute, to which the alumni will be persuaded to contribute. "There are a lot of ex-students who owe allegiance to their alma mater, and who are ready to contribute. Even film-makers who have benefited from the FTII talent can contribute," Mr. Nair said. The industry response, according to him, has been very positive. "We have spoken to film-makers like Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and even they feel like they owe something to the FTII." This way, the institute will not be completely dependent on the government for its development.

Such contributions should be made tax-free. "We also welcome independent funding from corporate bodies who share our cause," said Mr. Nair. The GoE also suggests that a ‘Special Officer' be appointed as a part of its ‘Outreach Programme', who will be responsible for generating funds, looking after development, and promoting the activities of the FTII.

The report, which took more than six months to be completed, chalks out the future course of action for the premier institute. "We have suggested introducing some new courses. Cinema studies, production management and marketing will be some of the new courses. “The students make the films well, but they also need to know how to sell the film, promote it, and reach it out to the audience. These are specialised skills that are needed today," Mr. Nair said.

On the issue of the backlog of students at the institute, Mr. Nair said a Rs. 50 million budget had been proposed to tackle the problem. "The issue is being dealt on a war footing. The FTII also needs a major infrastructure upgradation to meet the demands of the students." This includes a new theatre, hostel buildings and other infrastructure. The GoE has also proposed setting up of a research centre on the new FTII campus, adjacent to the existing one, in which short-term courses would be conducted for people in the film and television industry.

The GoE was appointed in November 2010 after an earlier project report prepared by the private firm Hewitt Associates was rejected by the institute following protests by students. The GoE includes National Award-winning cinematographer Shaji N. Karun; Director, Comet Media Foundation, Mumbai, Chandita Mukherjee; film director Kundan Shah; film editor Jabeen Merchant; National Award-winning short films maker Hansa Thapliyal and film director Nachiket Patwardhan.

Source: The Hindu, June 24, 2011

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