Published: 13th November 2019
Need perspective of unheard voices: Film company launches paid internship for Dalit students
While academia and other professional fields have managed to open the doors at least slightly to members of marginalised communities, cinema has liked to believe that it doesn't have a caste problem
From the production to the direction to the actors to even character names and stories, the names that have dominated these roles have been those belonging to upper castes. Yet, when Masaan director Neeraj Ghaywan put out a tweet inviting applicants from Dalit Bahujan and Adivasi backgrounds to work on his production, Twitter lost its 'sh*t'. They accused Ghaywan of practising casteism.
When Article 15 came out, reviewers, viewers and much of the cinema world was floored by the story and 'shocked' that caste still exists. But who didn't like the film? A large section of Dalit activists and intellectuals. "I would prefer Kaala any day over an Article 15," Rahul Sonpimple, a student activist told the latter's film director during a TV debate. The film was heavily criticised for having a Brahmin protagonist and for being told from the Brahmin perspective with a highly powered Brahmin lens. When people whose stories are being told are not invited to be part of the industry, how do we know we are telling the right stories? And do we have the right to make stories on caste when the interest in educating ourselves on the subject is so minimal?
While academia and other professional fields have managed to open the doors at least slightly to members of marginalised communities, cinema has liked to believe that it doesn't have a caste problem. Which is why the introduction of a programme like the Diversity Film Training is crucial. Media production house The Future East is launching a three-month film training programme for DBA students to learn production and direction jobs and the students will also be receiving a stipend of 8000 rupees. Students will also have a potential full-time job opportunity at the company. The only requirement to apply for this course is to be a graduate and love cinema! We sat down with Niharika Singh, the Managing Director of the company to find out what drove her to come up with such a programme and how she thinks this will impact the cinematic world.
A still from the film 'Miss Lovely'
How did the idea for the programme come about? Is it the first of its kind?
With films, you are essentially making culture and culture cannot be made unless all voices are heard on an equal platform. We have a stream of Production Assistants and DAs (Directors Assistants) joining in on a regular basis and it’s essential that equal opportunity is given to all.
How do you currently view the film industries across the country with regard to diversity and inclusion?
Film industries across the country have historically been led by dominant caste groups or bourgeois interests. Since art cannot have boundaries, the film industry has managed to be relatively more diverse compared to other industries. It’s not surprising that women, LGBTQ, Muslims, Parsis have all found great success here. The Marathi and Tamil film industries have even seen Dalit success stories. Despite all of the above — the films, the politics in the films and the way most of the film industries run is still very brahminical, dynastic and not very inclusive.
Besides programmes such as these, look how do you think that film industries can become more inclusive?
Despite India being the largest film producing country in the world, film education is still a rarity. Unless there’s education, inclusivity and diversity in any industry will only be a distant dream.
A while ago, director Neeraj Ghaywan put up a status inviting people from DBA backgrounds to work with him. That received quite a bit of trolling. Since the announcement of this programme, have you faced any such reactions?
We’ve tried to reach out to specific organisations and individuals to ensure that the message gets across to concerned groups. We don’t really want this to become some kind of social media battle or content for tabloids. Fortunately, we are getting positive feedback and a sea of emails from applicants across the country. Unfortunately, we can take in only a select number of people at a time.
Can you explain what kinds of courses the programme would comprise of?
It’s a three month paid internship programme for those who are interested in direction and production roles. They will get to assist and be mentored by the brightest and the most experienced people in the business. The interns will also have a potential full-time job opportunity at Future East after the internship period is over.
Would the internships be with directors or other production houses or will it be within Future East?
Future East has a panel of some of the finest directors working in advertising and film today. The interns will get the opportunity to be a part of research, development, production, post-production and the entire filmmaking process at Future East. They will also get the right guidance, relying on our experience in every area of the changing media landscape.
What do you expect from this programme and what do you foresee?
Fresh ideas. More talent. And most importantly a new perspective from voices that have not been heard before.
Can you tell us a little bit more about Future East?
Future East was established to develop new forms of film in India. We are an artistically driven, global production company creating award-winning films and branded content. Future East thrives on the tension between art and commerce, working across platforms and media and engaging diverse formats such as Super 8 and phone cameras. Our film projects have gone on to win global accolades, premiering at major film festivals including Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, SXSW, New Directors/New Films, Rotterdam and the London Film Festival. We have exhibited work at the Tate Modern (London), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), The Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Frieze Art Fair (London) and have been involved in the first Indian installation at the 10th Venice Architecture Biennale. The company’s commercials arm has been part of many of the industry’s most successful campaigns and we continue to work with the world’s biggest brands.