Whenever you were in thrall of Shabana Azmi’s performances or were glued to Shatrughan Sinha’s stylish dialogue delivery, each time you were mesmerised by Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s larger-than-life films or revelled in Subhash Ghai’s quintessential masala movies or Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s cerebral cinema, you can thank FTII, Pune, for it. All these alumni, and more, have played a significant role in shaping Indian cinema as we know it.
When the legendary film-maker V. Shantaram established a studio for Prabhat Films in Pune in 1933, he would not have imagined that more than 25 years later it would be the launch venue for another prabhat (dawn) in the annals of Indian film after the Indian government chose this very tract of land to set up the Film Institute of India, now known as Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), in 1960. (Prabhat Films had had a successful run for about two decades, after which it shut shop in the early 1950s and the company’s assets were auctioned off.)
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A department of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, it began organising training programmes for Doordarshan in 1971; the Television Training wing, which was earlier operating out of New Delhi, shifted to Pune in 1974. The institute formally became FTII and gained autonomous society status.
From inception the institute has been a work in progress, evolving with changing times. Students were encouraged to think differently and often had the good fortune to interact with luminaries who visited as guest faculty. Many alumni from the 1970s and 1980s went on to win laurels in both mainstream and offbeat cinema, in acting, direction, cinematography and editing, besides others, making immeasurable contributions to Indian cinema in general.
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In recent decades the institute has created an outreach department to facilitate collaboration with film schools worldwide, started courses in podcasting and new media, set up the Prabhat Museum to honour the legacy of one of India’s major film production houses, and even inaugurated a campus community radio station called Radio FTII 90.4. It also runs a film appreciation course every summer.