Archive for the ‘News’ Category

The first look of Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar is out. Starring Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sen Sharma, Neeraj Kabi, Sohum Shah, Atul Kumar, and Gajraj Rao, the film has been written by Vishal Bhardwaj who has also given the music. It has Gulzar’s lyrics and has been shot by Pankaj Kumar.

Do check out the trailer.

The film is based on Aarushi Talwar murder case and looks at it from the point of investigation.

Talvar will have its world premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

11889612_1628033344103209_9087625749038085119_nSome facts about the FTII director issue.

It was not a gherao. It was a meeting between students faculty and the director. The meeting can go on for any number of hours.

The students had asked only one question that why do you think the assessment is valid? It was the director’s whim that he did not answer us for 7 to 8 hours. He kept repeating that he has orders. Let us also ask him how can it take him so long to answer the question.

Students were not carrying any guns or bombs. He could have easily gone out. He was operating his mobile in the room. Nobody had snatched the mobile from him. If he wanted to call security, if he felt so threatened he could have called the police immediately. Why did he chose to remain in the room without calling anyone to rescue him? The point to be noted here is he chose to sit there evading the question for 8 hours so that he could build a case against students.

The police got involved late. Why did he call the police only at 10 pm? And why the commotion started as soon as the police entered the room? A student was thrown on a chair so the chair got broken. A police fell on a glass door so the door broke. We have video footage to substantiate this.

Immediately after this incident the director talked to media and said that there was no case of violence and he was not mistreated. He said he will get back to the students tomorrow morning.

Then next day he did not show up at all. He went to the police and wrote an FIR stating that the students held him captive for more than 8 hours, mistreated him and vandalized the property. Why did he do that when he had already told the media day before that he was not mistreated by the students? Why is he lying?

So the police came to the campus after midnight as if terrorists are hiding there and takes away only 5 students with them who are our main spokespersons.

A. Why after midnight? They could have easily requested the registrar that these are the students and ask them to report to the police station tomorrow morning. The students could have reported to the police station on their own. Why waste 3 vans full police force?

B. when the police came why the registrar did not pick the phone, did not get up and stayed with the students after repeated knocks on his door?

C. Why only 5 students taken when the fir is against 15. All the students were present there. It is because the next day they can say that other students ran away and hiding somewhere. They do not leave any opportunity to turn students into criminals.

D. If they really came to arrest 15 students and there were names of three girl students in the fir how can they forget to bring ladies constables with them? So did they really come to arrest all the students? Or just wanted to terrorize us.

Finally after all this drama the faculty had to intervene, and Mr Kedarnath Awaty, who is the President of FTII Teachers Association wrote a letter to the Ministry saying that they were present in the meeting till the last moment and there was no incident of violence!

We also have a 5 to 6 hour long footage of the meeting. The director too has it.

So when the director of such reputed institute lies so blatantly in front of the students, faculty and the nation we know that something is terribly wrong with the government.

– Kshama Padalkar

FTII Student


The book titled ‘Baat Niklegi Toh Phir’’ by Sathya Saran attempts to give us a peek into the man who mesmerized one and all with his innovative take on Ghazals. The book quotes liberally from another book that can be found here.

The book traces Jagjit Singh’s life from his childhood days. His name change, religious beliefs, his quirks, everything is mentioned liberally and for those who are long time followers of his work, it would be a good account to go through. I don’t intend to ruin the book for you but I didn’t know he was a good hockey player too.

The book beautifully captures his journey from college days to striking it big and becoming a genre in himself. As we go along this ride, there are moments of humor, insight and pain that shaped the man. The days of struggle are detailed  particularly  well. I didn’t know he was good friends with Subhash Ghai. Of course, after reading about this friendship in the book, I quickly reminded myself that about 3:29 minutes in Subhash Ghai’s ‘Hero’, you could hear a faint ‘la pila de sharaab ae saaki’ by Jagjit Singh. May be there is a story there. Anyway, coming back to the book, it also mentions a lot about other friends which you must find out as you go along the pages. There are only 200 of them so try to not finish them up quickly. There are a lot of pictures and trust me you haven’t seen most of them!

There is enough film world trivia in the book. Also, some ‘greats who had access to the industry’ and their rigidity is mentioned particularly well in the book. These days when people romanticize their ‘struggles’ on their smartphone and blame their bitterness to their ‘struggles’, it is heartening to see that the author hasn’t preached against the big bad film world. Keep in mind that Jagjit Singh was trying to make it big in the world of film music when the greats and their gatekeepers had defined what should a song sound like and no ‘exceptions’ were allowed.

The book bares all about the beginning of the relationship that Chitra Singh had with Jagjit Singh, and how it blossomed into a partnership which would go well beyond music. I don’t know about you but I always thought Chitra Singh had a prior knowledge of Urdu. I was wrong. Her Urdu diction was corrected by Jagjit Singh, and my God, was Chitra Singh a superb student or what!

What came as a surprise to me was that Jagjit Singh established himself as a live singer and then went on to cut albums when the record company gave him a green signal. This means, there should be a lot more ‘private recordings’ in the world. I wonder how to get them all. Of course the book touches upon this as well. Apparently Chitra Singh is trying hard to collect all of Jagjit Singh’s recordings and present it to the world.

What I absolutely liked is the fact that the book doesn’t try to paint the man as someone who had no human flaws. Some people might find the details of his charities quite overwhelming. Remember, all this was done when there was no internet and no one was bending over backwards to prove that they are being human. Also, we are reading about all this four years post his demise.

There are bits which I didn’t quite agree with, for example – the author feels Jagjit Singh signed on ‘any record company’ towards the later part of his career which resulted in poor quality of music from him. I feel every album had at least 3-4 ghazals which made it a worthy proposition for ghazal lovers to buy the album which is a stark contrast from Ghazal albums of today. It is a known fact that Jagjit Singh always looked for lesser known poets and showcased their work through his albums. The book makes a fleeting reference to this. It would have been great to hear from those poets about their interactions with Jagjit Singh. There are also some not so good facts about certain albums which might disturb an avid follower of his work, but then what is perfect?

Towards the end of the book, a rather touching description is given about Chitra Singh of today. Author tells us that Chitra Singh has resigned herself to a world where she treads cautiously because it is filled with old memories and the pain they bring along. She doesn’t meet anyone.

Jagjit Singh ensured ghazals reach a larger audience, and presently, Chitra singh is trying hard to bring all the recordings of the legend to listeners and she is having a tough time doing that. Irony loved Jagjit Singh in more ways than we can imagine.

Since the day he has left the world, I have heard him less. Probably because I started listening to him when I was 12, there are ghazal albums etched in my mind and that is why I don’t need to hear his work to remember how he lent a voice to millions like me, our lives, our happiness, our joys, our rhythmic claps in his concerts (and sometimes in our living room, alone) etc. The claps have long gone, the echoes remain.

For me there cannot be a bigger reward to stay alive than any new piece of information or a ‘rare and unheard’ piece from Jagjit Singh because I have lived my life with Jagjit Singh’s ghazals in the background. There can never be one definitive work that can encompass the whole life of an artist like Jagjit Singh.

This book is a ‘must-have’ for commoners and collectors, just like his ghazals were a treasure for both the breeds of music listeners.

Dear Jagjit Singh, you once said

मेरी आवाज़ ही पर्दा है मेरे चेहरे का,

मैं हूँ खामोश जहाँ मुझको वहां से सुनिए…

We are listening, we always will.

– Rohwit

(Thank you Prashant, for gifting this book well ahead of its release. Indebted)

Price : Rs 699

Pages : 200

Raam Reddy2

And the good news for the desi indies continues. This time it’s from Locarno Film Festival. Raam Reddy’s debut feature Thithi has bagged 2 top awards at the just concluded festival.

The First award is Pardo d’oro Cineasti del presente (Golden Leopard Filmmakers of The Present) – Premio Nescens worth 40,000 CHF, to be shared equally between the director and the producer. The second award is in the category of First Feature – Swatch First Feature Award (Prize for Best First Feature) 15,000 CHF to be shared equally between the director and the producer awarded to the Best First Film screened in the Piazza Grande, Concorso internazionale, Concorso Cineasti del presente, Fuori concorso or Signs of Life segment.

The film is a dramatic comedy about how three generations of sons react to the death of Century Gowda, their great grandfather, who is a locally renowned, and is a highly cranky 101-year-old man. Set in a village in the Mandya District of Karnataka, the three storylines intertwine before converging at Century Gowda’s thithi, the final funeral celebration 11 days after a death.

Shot in the Mandya district of Karnataka, this was co-written and developed along with Eregowda, who spent most of his childhood in the same village that the film was shot in. The cast of the film comprises of completely non-professional actors.

Filmmaker Raam Reddy is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and Prague Film School. Previously, he directed a critically-acclaimed short film called Ika (Feather). He has also published a novel titled It’s Raining in Maya.



On the 14th of July, 2015, the first thing in the morning, I found myself staring at a Times of India report that stated that The Government of India spends Rs. 12,00,000 per student per year at the Film and TV Institute of India or The FTII. I assume that the figure relates to the year 2011, as the report also mentions that the recovery from the students, as academic fees, is about 11% for the year 2011. There were 350 students… so 350 into 12,00,000 is equal to… wait let me check with the calculator.. is equal to.. 42 and seven zeros… is it eight… no, seven… 42 and seven zeros which is Rs 42,00,00,000. In words, forty two crores for the Film Institute, I presume, for the year 2011.

It is more than what the Government spends on students of Engineering, Management and Medicine, screamed the news item.

Is it? One part of me felt elated as it boosts ones ego to know that at some point of time in your life, your worth was more than that of other wannabe professionals. Another part of me was defiant, funding a film course is of course expensive; 10 minutes of film raw stock would cost more than Rs. 10,000 and a good camera with accessories Rs 30,000 per shift. A third part in me zoomed in, with sharp focus, to the words that Times of India used, ‘What comes as a shocker..’.

Buddy, I should not let this ‘shock’ unchecked – I got determined.

A quick investigative internet search with the help of my friend Google, got me to the ‘FTII Audit Report for the year 2013-14’ pdf file. It was not of the contentious year of 2011, but so what? My newly found investigative senses decided that I should study the 2014 year ending audited ‘Balance Sheet’ and ‘Income and Expenses Account’ of FTII because it was available to me. So what if it is of 2015? If people are waiting for seven years to complete their courses at FTII, I could as well jump three years ahead.

Suspense music begins. The ‘Balance Sheet’ talks about ‘Capital Fund’, ‘Endowment Fund’, ‘Fixed Assets’, ‘Current Assets, loans’ etc. Somehow, the accountant in me ticked me off saying that these are not the figures that one needs to cross check for the statistics reported in The Times of India.

For all those of you who are uninitiated with my flash back, I was supposed to complete a course in Chartered Accountancy, like my friends Gurunandan and Shanker Narayan did. But much to the dismay of my dad, I had donated the two fat blue books that came from the Institute of Chartered Accountants weighing a minimum of two kilos each, within three months of its arrival, because I got selected at the FTII.

The next page is the ‘Income and Expenditure’ statement. Ah, this could be it.

The expenditure for the year 2014 at FTII amounted to 26,41,22,380.69. Excess of expenditure over income that was transferred to the ‘Trust Fund’ account was 4,08,23,409.68. Which meant that income for the year 2014 was 26,41,22,380.69 minus 4,08,23,409.68 which is equal to .. wait… I’ll use a calculator… ah.. it is 22,32,98,971.01.

I will take the liberty and assume that there were 350 students studying at FTII in 2014, as in 2011. So, if I divide 22,32,98,971.01 by 350, the amount the Government of India spent on each student for the year 2014 would be 6,37,997.06 – which little more than half of what the Times of India report says the Government spent in 2011.

But remember, I am an amateur Accountant and I may be wrong. The advantages of being a non professional is that one can take liberties with certain things. I will also do so, henseforth I will deal with only round figures and forget the decimals and the odd numbers. But wait.. why only expenses? Maybe I should deal with income first. Didn’t The Times of India report say that the recovery via fees etc is just 11% of the costs incurred on film students?

Further down the pdf file is a page where in it is mentioned that ‘Fees and Subscription’ collected at FTII amounted to 1,22,50,000 in 2014. According to Times of India, in 2011, this figure is 11% of the total cost of running the Institute. So, what is this percentage for 2014? 100 into 1,22,50,000 divided by 26,50,00,000…. Oh my God, it is 4.62!!! The recovery of student fees of 1,22,50,000 is 4.62 % of the total expenditure of 26,50,00,000 in 2014. This is embarrassing. If it was 10 or 12, I could have understood, but 4.62? No, no… something must be wrong in my calculation or the calculator has run out of batteries.

I crack my accounting brain, as the suspense music intensifies. According to the report, of the 26,50,00,000 rupees mentioned as expenditure in 2014; 15,25,00,000 is ‘Establishment Expenditure’, 6,70,00,000 is ‘Administrative Expenditure’, ‘Subsidies to students’ is 5,50,000 and ‘Depreciation’ is 4,50,00,000. What if I calculate the percentage for 2014 minus the Depreciation? Again, for the uninitiated, Depreciation would mean a decrease in value of your property because of its usage.

Why the hell should it be passed on to the students? So, 26,50,00,000 minus the Depreciation figure of 4,50,00,000 is 22,00,00,000. Ah.. that means ‘Fees and Subscription’ collected from the students would be 5.56% of the total expenses. That is better, but still worrisome for it is far off from the dreaded 11%.

Now, hold it. Just, what is this ‘Establishment Expenditure’? It has fifteen crores of amount against it which is quite a large chunk of the total amount of twenty six crores mentioned against total expenditure; in fact it comes to 57.69%!!!. Further down the pdf file, another table shows the list of all the ‘Establishment Expenditures’. It all pertains to salary, wages, staff welfare expenses etc.

Holy shit!!! When I once went to conduct a short workshop at FTII, I was told that the pay scale of the teachers are not at par with other academic institutions in India because FTII does not come under the University Grants Commission or the UGC. And I know that UGC pay scales are damn good. And yet this salary thing is more than half of the total expenses of the institute. My investigative imagination took me to another page on the FTII web site that listed 160, as the number of employees at the institute for the year 2014. Hey, not bad man, roughly one staff for every two students.

I will now make a logic, if some of you find it bizarre I have no issues with it. If the ratio of staff and students is one is to two, the money spent on students should also be double the money spent on the staff. The money spent on staff is 15 crores, so the money spent on students should logically be 30 crores. The total expenditure in that case should be 45 crores. But we know that it is just 26 crores and more than half of it comes under the heading “Staff etc..” And the staff is actually under paid.

Now a few of you might question as to why things like the ‘Welfare activities’ to staff and ‘Provision for provident fund’ for the staff should be borne by the students and be reflected in the fees that is supposed to be calculated in a Government run Institution? After all, these are indirect expenses. Since most of the students who get admitted at FTII are from the middle class background, they can’t afford it. A few others of you could say that the students be made to pay some of the direct expenses incurred on them. That is also fair enough.

The money spent directly on the students is, I presume, under the ‘Administrative Expenses’ head located in another sheet on another page. These include ‘Production Expenses’, ‘Consumption of Raw stock’, ‘Repairs and Maintenance’, ‘Electricity and power’, ‘Conveyance’, ‘Taxes and water charges’ and the likes. Now, like it occurred to me, you can also say that some of these are not direct expenses. Let us not be mean, unreasonable, un-patriotic and reject everything.

So, adding up all the direct expenses ie.. ‘Administrative Expenses’ would come to 6,70,00,000. This is 25.28% of the total expenses incurred at the institute in 2014. But what the hell, shouldn’t it have been double, going by our ‘staff to student ratio’ logic that some of you might have called bizarre? Why is it just six point seven? Yaar, this is getting nowhere because as we all know that the pay scales of the staff at FTII is not at par with the UGC scales.

And then the moot issue – if the fees collected from the students is 1,22,50,000 and the amount spent on them is 6,70,00,000, what would be the percentage of cost recovery via fees? Wait… 100 into 1,22,50,000 divided by 6,70,00,000 which is equal to 18.28%. Then why the hell is Times of India saying 11%? Agreed, it is a 2011 figure, but shouldn’t it also be saying that there are lot of variants involved?

Variants are varied in nature. Like. some of you might argue as to why should students bear the cost of “Repairs and Maintenance”? So if you remove 1,70,00,000 from 6,70,00,000 the percentage would be as high as 24.5; more than double of 11%. And some others of you might say we should include only ‘Raw stock and Production’ expenses and ‘Library’ expenses. So, what would then happen to the percentage?

And there is another variant that I haven’t even looked into as a post modern investigative amateur accountant. Does this student figure of 350 mentioned in the Times of India report, include all the trainees who came to FTII to upgrade their vocational skills or does it excludes them? The FTII web site have numbers for such people in the ‘personnel trained’ chart – people who have come from Doordarshan, Films Division and the Indian Information Service Probationers from IIMC, New Delhi. All that is too much of an calculation for a person who had dropped out of his accountancy studies; but I suspect that if all that is included the percentage would figure would be different.

Maybe there should be a social audit. Maybe I am ‘massaging the data’ here, as that ‘commie’ called P Sainath referred to, albeit in another context. Or maybe, The Comptroller and Auditor General of India is the person who would know the best.

I wonder how does the Government fix the cost of a second class train ticket or the cost of making a one rupee coin or the amount spent on the production of a small post card. Hats off to those who sit and calculate, so that others can use.

Gosh!!! To borrow a Facebook phrase, ‘It’s complicated’. I wish I had not donated the two fat blue books that came to me from the Institute of Charted Accountants many years back. I am sure that Gurunandan and Shanker Narayan would break into wry smiles, if they read this piece.

Well, I will stop calculating post modern accounting figures that seem surreal and watch a Louie Bunuel film.

– Ramchandra P. N.

(Ramchandra P. N. is an award-winning filmmaker based in Mumbai. He dabbles in features, shorts, documentaries and TV programs in India. You can follow his blog here)


Rahul  Gandhi’s visit to the FTII campus has breathed new fire into the controversy with the pro-government forces accusing the students of politicizing the issue. This timing of his appearance, just in advance of the August 3 protest in Delhi, outside the parliament makes it furthermore interesting. Not only has this event escalated the issue to a different level, it has also opened up its prospect of becoming a major challenge during the monsoon session. BJP sympathizers, who had unleashed an online character assassination campaign against FTII students, are left infuriated. This event also seems to be a win-win for both parties, (Rahul and the FTII students) since not only will it give a new political boost  to the students’ demands but it will also help Rahul combat the political irrelevance he has been reduced to post election.

Before fingers are pointed towards the students, some facts must be set clear. Rahul Gandhi was not exclusively invited to the campus. The students of the institute had been constantly trying to engage the government in a dialogue process but all their appeals fell on deaf ears. The first meeting with the I&B Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley could take place only after a fortnight of agitation, and that meeting too was more of a one sided speech than a dialogue. The ministers exploited all their tools to pressurize the students into withdrawing their strike without paying any heed to their complaints. Having left with no option, the students decided to write letters to forty five members of parliament seeking their support, including three belonging to BJP (Prakash Javadkar, Vinod Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha).

Among all of them if Rahul Gandhi has decided to visit FTII, then students are in no position not to give him an audience for the sake of keeping things “apolitical”. It should be noted that the students never invited any politician to the campus exclusively. In fact, the letters sent to the MPs were for seeking support, not requesting appearance at the strike. However, if anyone chose to come and express their solidarity, the students have welcomed . In fact, some right wing organizations have also protested outside the gates of FTII. Installation work made by the students have been vandalized by unknown people the night before. The students didn’t raise any objection. Members of ABVP, including individuals who had attacked the students earlier, came to the institute and threatened them again (albeit in a veiled manner). The students showed restraint.

If the students could tolerate unruly elements from ABVP coming and threatening them at the gates of their very own campus, then in which moral universe are they supposed not to allow Rahul Gandhi in? Let us not forget that Mr. Gandhi had made his appearance on the 50th day of the strike. If anyone is responsible for awarding that opportunity to him, it is the government itself, whose constant reluctance at establishing a meaningful dialogue with the students has led the strike go on for so long. Instead of showing any sign of goodwill, the government tried out several arm twisting tactics. First, it started to pressurize the students through bureaucracy,  then it went on with a character assassination campaign calling the students freeloaders, elitist, naxalites, anti-hindus, and what not. The whole institute, its purpose and its existence was maligned and this educational enterprise (whose entire budget is loose change for the government) was evaluated  against its fiscal utility. Counter narratives based on incomplete and disingenuous interpretation of factoids were released and circulated by online bhakt network.

At the extreme, an attempt to sabotage the strike was made by filing ridiculous police complaints against the students exploiting the services of some controversial staff members. None of these could deter the students. On the contrary, by indulging in such cheap tactics, the government has ended up lowering its status further. The outpourings of public support online (often consisting of bullying tweets and profane commentaries) can give the government a sense of fake achievement but in a democracy like India, living in denial can be deadly, and who else than the BJP has the taste of it? But alas, overconfidence induced amnesia is a typical BJP problem.

Instead of trying all these futile exercises, had the government spent some time trying to understand the institute and its needs, the issues might have been resolved rather amicably. Having evaded that responsibility for 50 days, the government has no moral right to accuse the students of politicizing this issue. In fact, they should be thankful to the opposition for giving them a grace period of 50 days.

But, above all, the basic premise that a democratically elected opposition leader involving himself directly with people is something politically vicious, is outright preposterous. People (and especially the BJP and its supporters) should not forget that the constitution has enshrined the concept of opposition in our democracy, not for decoration but for some real practical purpose. And leaders of opposition have every right to involve themselves with issues of the people. In fact, direct involvement with the people is something that should be appreciated and practiced by politicians of all colors. It is true that Mr. Gandhi does not have the oratory skills of Prime Minister Modi and more than often, he is referred to as incapable and mediocre. But one thing that is visibly good about him is that he actively meets people and involves himself in their issues directly, no matter whether it brings any tangible results to his party or not. You can criticize him for a million shortcomings, but the last thing you can chastise him for, is meeting people.

And the BJP should not forget that it owes its present strength to its existence as opposition party for so many years. The full majority that the BJP has in the parliament today, is not just attributed to its pre-election campaign, but to the years of hard work done by veteran leaders like  L.K. Advani, A.B. Vajpayee and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee as “opposition leaders”.  If the role of opposition were to be so trivial, so insignificant and so limited then there would be no BJP today. The 2014 elections have decimated the Congress to a paltry 44 seats. And perhaps, this is the worst phase in the history of the party. But despite that low score, it still represents the mandate of the people of this country. No matter how small it is, it is still significant and commands the respect of democracy. Now it is the responsibility of the BJP to treat its opposition with the same respect and significance, it has demanded for itself for so many decades. If the BJP tries to constrict the opposition using hard line (and often, below the belt) tactics, it will insult the legacy of its own great leaders.

Surya Samaddar, FTII Student

visaranaiThe fest news continues. After Toronto’s list, now Venice Film Festival is out with their line-up. Vetri Maaran’s Visaarani has been selected to premiere at the fest.

The film will compete in Orizzonti (international competition dedicated to films that represent the latest aesthetic and expressive trends in international cinema) section of the fest.

Titled Interrogation in English, the 106 minute long film stars Dinesh Ravi, Samuthira Kani, Murugadas Periyasamy .

Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court was in the same section last year where it bagged two top awards.

Guru Dutt’s classic Pyaasa will be screened in the ‘Venice Classics’ section of the fest.

The other Indian film is Ruchika Oberoi’s Island City. This film will be at Venice Days which is an independent section at the Venice Film Festival, and is promoted by the Italian Association of Filmmakers and authors. The idea was to develop a parallel sidebar on the lines of Directors Fortnight at Cannes.

Starring Vinay Pathak, Amruta Subhash and Tannishtha Chatterjee, the film ties together three absurd stories in a modern-day Indian city.

The first story revolves around a diligent office worker who wins the office ‘Fun Committee’ award. The second is about the domineering head of a family who suddenly falls into a coma and how his family slowly replaces him in their psyche with the seductive hero of a popular soap opera. The third is about a girl who falls in love with a man who writes her love letters. The first two stories are black comedies while the third one falls into the tragicomedy genre.

Guru Dutt’s classic Pyaasa will be screened in the Restored Classics section of the fest.