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Old Equipment, Inefficient Staff: Why Govt. Film & TV Institute Students Are Protesting

By Agin Basanth:

GFTI bangalore protest 2
Posted by Government Film and Television Institute on Facebook.

The Government Film and Television Institute (GFTI), Hesaraghatta, Bangalore, formerly known as Sri Jayachamarajendra Occupational Institute, was established by Dr M. Visveswaraya in August 1943. It is Asia’s first film institute and has produced legendary cinematographers like V.K. Murthy, Govind Nihalani, B.C. Gowrisanker, Krishna, Sathya Hegde, Rajendra Kumar Hegde, Jomon T. John, and Girish Gangadharan, as well as some of the finest sound engineers like Neelakanta, G V Somashekhar, Ms Geetha, to name a few. Lots of graduates from the institute are currently associated with the film, TV and entertainment industry.

Under a World Bank assisted program in 1996, Government of Karnataka decided to extract two departments, Cinematography and Sound Recording and Engineering from S. J. Polytechnic to form a separate film institute named as Government Film and Television Institute, with great infrastructure and was shifted to Hesaraghatta over an area of 25 acres.

However, the very existence of the institute, due to sheer ignorance by the authorities of the institute, is at stake now. GFTI is functioning under the Karnataka state’s Department of Technical Education (DTE), which has failed to address several issues. The guidelines created by DTE are inefficient to support filmmaking courses and no expert ideas were taken into consideration while designing the curriculum.

Unlike every other film institute in India, we don’t have an autonomous body to control academic and administrative affairs. The institute has not provided essential facilities like updated equipment and experienced faculty members, pertinent to the curriculum. The current governing panel failed to construct an academic structure suitable to the ethos of a film institute and in contributing any kind of valuable inputs to its fellow students.

In the past few years, GFTI authorities have not been conducting the required teaching and practical sessions as prescribed by the curriculum. Students have been forced to write semester examinations without having the opportunity to attend classes. Many students have even been pushed to repeat a year by GFTI authorities.

There are only two departments in this institute, Cinematography and Sound Recording, and Engineering, which itself exposes its half-boiled structure as a film institute. Students are not getting a chance to experience the totality of film studies or filmmaking, which demands the support of departments like Direction, Script Writing, Editing, Art Direction, Acting, Colour Grading, etc. Four out of six permanent staff members are from an electronics background. On January 1st, sixth-semester students requested the authorities to replace a faculty member with someone else to teach their subjects, as they knew of his unawareness about cinematography. No action was taken until the end of the semester and the authorities deliberately tried to hold students back by putting 0% attendance for that particular subject. Students from other semesters also experienced similar attitude from other lecturers.

For the last few years, the students of GFTI have been demanding upgradation of equipment, and funds for student projects. We are forced to buy or rent out professional audio and video equipment which costs lakhs.

We even requested for facilities before the current semester began. We realised that sufficient equipment is not available for pre-production and post-production of the Diploma Projects. Also, what is available is incapable of supporting them. We were shocked to see unlicensed software in existing post-production workstations and immediately notified the Principal about all these issues.

Distressed, disappointed and unable to start the post-production of their projects due to the unavailability of the equipment, workstations and licensed software, the students requested GFTI authorities to postpone the date of the examinations which was notified to start on 12th April. In reaction to this, on 11th April GFTI authorities issued a notification on ‘Shortage of Attendance’ stating that 18 students are not eligible to appear for their semester examinations and they would be pushed to repeat the year.

After FTII in Pune and BPFTIO in Orissa, we the students of GFTI started a protest from 12th April 2016 against a corrupt and baseless system that can kill the spirit of any lover of cinema who wishes to learn the craft. We have the full support of senior alumnus as they have faced similar difficulties during their academic period.

As the Department of Technical Education (DTE) intervened, on 13th April an Enquiry Commission consisting of 2 members held a discussion with the students. The commission collected individual reports from the students and promised us that action will be taken according to their report. Three days later, the Students Council representatives directly met the Director of DTE, H.U Talwar and we got to know that no action was being taken. Later a four-member commission came and repeated what the previous commission had done, and failed to address the real issues and their relevance.

GFTI bangalore protest 1
Posted by Government Film & TV Institute on Facebook.

After the Commission left, the Institute authorities internally tried to solve the issues by allowing all the students to appear for the exams which we did not agree to, for the benefit of the students who will join in coming years.

Later, on May 5 2016, we got an appointment to meet the minister of higher education of Karnataka, T.B Jayachandra. Eminent film personalities like Sri. Girish Kasaravalli, Sri. Rajendra Singh Babu and Sri. Sandeep Kumar also accompanied us to meet the Minister and to make him aware of the seriousness of the issues. He invited us to take part in a board meeting which included Vice-Chancellors of various universities in Karnataka, Director of Technical Education and Bharat Lal Meena, the Principal Secretary of the Dept. of Higher Education. Even in the meeting, the officials tried to suppress our voices by diverting the attention of the board members from the real issue.

In the meeting, the minister himself appointed an enquiry commission headed by the Joint Director of DTE, which we strongly opposed. We demanded an independent body headed by Sri. Girish Kasaravalli and other eminent film practitioners and film academicians to study the issues. Till date. We do not know if our demands have been accepted or rejected.

We demand:
• Practical and theory classes, workshops, master classes by film practitioners, film screenings and daily discussions.
• Upgradation of library and equipment
• Appointment of teaching faculty, staff and supporting staff who can teach and support filmmaking, Currently, we have one lecturer each for both cinematography and sound recording and engineering.
• Resignation of all those staff members who aren’t adequately qualified to teach and those who harassed the students.
• Access to students’ hostel, construction was completed last year but has still not opened up for students.
• An autonomous body with film academicians, film practitioners, alumnus, student representatives, who should have direct contact with government.
• Zero admissions until GFTI is turned into a full-fledged film institute.
• For admission criterion, the minimum age limit must be 21 with proper entrance exams like other Film Institutes in India.
• Addition of courses on Direction, Scripting, Editing, Production Design, Makeup, Acting, Production Management, Color Grading.

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