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As FTII Fights On, There’s A Film Institute In Odisha With A Leather Engineer As Principal

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By Suraj Samal

To the Honourable HRD Minister Ms. Smriti Irani,

While the entire country has been following the protests of the FTII students against the appointment of Mr Gajendra Chauhan, away from the limelight, us students of the Biju Pattanaik Film & Television Institute of Odisha (BPFTIO), too have been protesting for our rights since the fourth of August this year.

Left with no avenues to go to so that our demands might be fairly heard, we write to you with hope that you will take some action against the injustice that is being done to our education.

For those who don’t know, BPFTIO was established in 1998, and is one of the 7 government run film institutes in the country. It provides diploma courses in Cinematography, Sound & TV Engineering, and Film & Video Editing. It is an autonomous Institute under the Odisha state government and is looked after by DTET (Directorate of Technical Education & Training) and the Memory Tree Video Production team.

While the reasons why we students have been crying hoarse against the injustice of the management are many (a library that doesn’t issue books, and faculty that doesn’t know who Goddard is), here are just a few that will tell you why we need you to act right now:

1. We don’t have a permanent principal. The current principal (in – charge) of the Institute is a Leather Engineer. The lesser said about an expert giving vision to the institute, the better.

2. Admission in the Institute is made by appearing for a DET (Diploma Entrance Test) examination. This test is conducted for admission into various ITI and Polytechnic Institutes. This test is not at all related to Filmmaking. Questions are related to Science, Maths etc and is meant for general students. Moreover no further personal interview is done.

3. There is a subject in the syllabus called ‘Computer Application’ where students are taught about the different generation of computers, what is a keyboard, mouse, monitor etc – stuff that is ridiculously out dated and useless.

4. The Institute doesn’t have a separate campus of its own. It is shared with the neighbouring engineering college – Bhubanananda Orissa School of Engineering or BOSE. BOSE has the lion’s share of the entire campus. The building where the office and the Principal’s room is located, actually belongs to BOSE. There are no sufficient indoor locations for shooting. And outdoor shooting space is confined to a small garden which again belongs to BOSE!

5. BPFTIO is a Film Institute where film screening is practically non-existent. The screening theatre is shared with (again) BOSE. Just because there is no screening, the auditorium is used for conducting Welcome/Farewell Parties by the BOSE students. Let’s not even talk about learning Film Appreciation or Film Criticism in the Institute.

6. Students shoot their diploma earning films with Ikegami HL45 video camera (you only need to Google the specifications to be astounded that became out dated in 2002-2005). Students used to shoot their diploma with Arriflex 435 Film Camera a few years back without getting sufficient time to practice as the camera was sent to the industry for IRG (Internal Revenue Generation). The students have never been taught about ‘night lighting’. The faculty usually leave the Institute as soon as the working hours get over at 5 pm.

7. There is a music studio and a dubbing studio for the Sound students. The dubbing studio is currently dysfunctional, the mixer i.e. Tascam TM D8000 is out of order, the emergency power supply may give a backup of just 10 secs and that too if God is feeling generous at that moment. Rats and bats have made a kingdom in the false ceiling of the performance area of the studio. Worn out cables run tangled from corner to corner. The music studio is properly functioning but the students don’t get ample time to practice as most of the time the studio is rented out,

8. As of now there are only 3 iMacs for the Editing students that are properly functioning. The ratio of number of setups to that of the current final year editing students is 1:5. Can you even imagine what that does to our learning and practising?

9. The final year Cinematography students have an entire subject called Film Processing without any Film Processing facility. Sound and Editing students are still being taught about Record/Erase head and how to work with video tapes. While we don’t mind learning about the past, we do think studying current and future technologies is what we need.

10. The no. of seats in each branch in the Institute is 20, so 60 seats per batch. The total strength of the current final year batch is 27. Since the admission procedure is so misleading, many uninterested students take admission into the institute unaware of what filmmaking is. Once they begin to realise that they have taken a wrong decision, they leave. Many students who do have an interest also leave as soon as they realise the miserable situation of BPFTIO.

I can keep on writing about the ills that plague my institute until my fingers begin to ache. Since the declaration of the strike, they have been trying to break the strike so that students continue to attend their normal classes. But how can the students study if there is not even a single working camera in the Institute?

Filmmaking culture hasn’t developed in the institute. There are no visiting guest faculties, no industry exposure, no study tours, no workshop/masterclasses ,and hardly any cultural programmes such as Annual Day, film festivals etc. In such a situation how will BPFTIO produce qualitative technical people or filmmakers?

BPFTIO continues to remain as one of the most ignored film institutes in India. The management thinks that the institute is unproductive and should be shut down unmindful of how the students would suffer if that were to happen.

Ours is a film institute whose budget hardly exceeds 1 crore per annum as compared to that of FTII’s 27.5 crores. We appeal to the film industry to support our cause. Our future is at stake. Our creative freedom is on the line.

Sincerely ,
Suraj Samal
Final year student, Sound & TV Engineering
On behalf of the students of BPFTIO

Editor’s note: Facts stated in the article could not be independently verified.

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