When Oscar-winner David Lean chided FTII teachers | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: Oscar-winning British film director David Lean visited Pune’s FTII campus in the early 1960s, watched a bunch of short films made by the students and tersely told the teachers, “Something is wrong with your teaching,” reveals a new book brought out to celebrate 60 years of the institution.
The attention-grabbing nugget is part of an article written by Hindi film director Sriram Raghavan (Johnny Gaddar, Andhadhun) following a conversation with actor-director Asrani. Both are FTII graduates. Asrani, who belonged to the first batch, was in the campus when the Oscar-winning director made his visit.
Lean (Lawrence of Arabia) made his remark after noticing that the diploma films made by the students were derivative in nature. “I can tell you which shot is from which German or Czech or French film. You should watch the films of V Shantaram and Bimal Roy too,” he said, according to the article.
For the record, FTII went on to produce many first-rate directors and actors: Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shaji Karun, Subhash Ghai, Jaya Bhaduri, Shabana Azmi, Naseeuddin Shah, Om Puri, Raj Kummar Rao, to name a few.
Raghavan further writes that Lean had come to India on a holiday with his fourth wife Leila Matkar who had relatives in Kolhapur. At that time the sets of Dr Zhivago were being erected in Madrid. “He was dressed in a bush shirt and pants and was wearing Kolhapuri chappals,” Asrani told him.
Interestingly, the British filmmaker’s name also figured in the interview of award-winning Malayalam film director Shaji Karun (Piravi). He had applied for a seat in FTII’s cinematography course and was quizzed about his views on the photography in David Lean’s films. “The simple confidence that soon I would be on the train back home gave me the audacity to openly expose my lack of knowledge of the subject,” says Karun self-deprecatingly in the book, “Being FTII: Perspectives on the Film and Television Institute of India.”
He goes on to write, “But also, I was quite baffled when one of them asked me whether I would join the Institute if I got selected. I later came to know that it was the renowned filmmaker Mrinal Sen, the then Chairman of the Selection Committee at FTII who had asked me the question. By late evening, the results were published and my name stood second in the chosen eight.”
The book, which includes articles penned by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, AK Bir, Shabana Azmi, Subhash Ghai, Raj Kummar Rao and others, is peppered with several delightful anecdotes. One of the best revolves around Assamese director Jahnu Barua’s memories of Double Ghoda, a brand of cheap liquor that students feasted on in the frugal Seventies.
The director of the national-award winning Aparoopa recalled an unnamed senior who would knock religiously on his door every week for Rs 2 to buy Double Ghoda. On July 30, 1974 — his last day at FTII — Barua found the senior lying in the middle of a road knocked out by Double Ghoda.
People tried to remove him but he wouldn’t move. Instead, he kept screaming, “First Nixon must resign…Cinema For Justice…Nixon must resign.” The incident happened at the height of the Watergate Scandal. About 10 days later, the US President Richard Nixon did resign. The book does not record the senior’s reaction.
Actor Shatrughan Sinha joined FTII in 1965. “I immediately knew that this was the place I belonged to, unlike the Patna Science College where I was an indifferent student and regularly bunked my classes,” he remembers.
The actor-cum-politician from Bihar also writes how he first met his wife. “Few people know that on the fateful night that I boarded the midnight train from Patna to join the FTII campus as a first-year student, I found a beautiful young girl with pigtails sitting in my compartment. She had attended a wedding in Patna with her aunt and was returning in the same train to Mumbai.”
“I was dazzled by her beauty! The journey to Mumbai took two days during which time I was able to speak to her and wangle her Mumbai address from her guardian aunt travelling with her! Her name was Poonam Chandiramani. She soon became Miss Young India, a budding young film star and eventually Smt Shatrughan Sinha, mother to my three wonderful children, Luv, Kush and Sonakshi Sinha! I would say that perhaps this may be the one single biggest gift that the Film Institute of Pune has given to me. It gave me both a life and a wife!”

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